Evening Poetry, November 11

What Came To Me

by Jane Kenyon

I took the last

dusty piece of china

out of the barrel.

It was your gravy boat,

with a hard, brown

drop of gravy still

on the porcelain lip.

I grieved for you then

as I never had before.

You can find this poem in The Boat of Quiet Hours.

Evening Poetry, October 3

Happy National Poetry Day, readers! I know it’s only a UK thing, but since the US doesn’t have one yet (what’s up with that?), I’m celebrating anyway.

Briefly It Enters, Briefly It Speaks

by Jane Kenyon

I am the blossom pressed in a book,

found again after two hundred years….

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….

When the young girl who starves

sits down to a table

she will sit beside me….

I am food on the prisoner’s plate….

I am water rushing to the well-head,

filling the pitcher until it spills….

I am the patient gardener

of the dry and weedy garden….

I am the stone step,

the latch, and the working hinge….

I am the heart contracted by joy…

the longest hair, white

before the rest….

I am there in the basket of fruit

presented to the widow….

I am the musk rose opening

unattended, the fern on the boggy summit….

I am the one whose love

overcomes you, already with you

when you think to call my name.

You can find this poem in The Boat of Quiet Hours.

Evening Poetry, October 1

The Painters

by Jane Kenyon

A hot dry day in early fall…

The men have cut the vines

from the shutters, and scraped

the clapboards clean, and now

their heads appear all day

in all the windows…

their arms or shirtless torsos,

or a rainbow-speckled rag

swinging from a belt.

They work in earnest–

these are the last warm days.

Flies bump and buzz

between the screens and panes,

torpid from last night’s frost:

the brittle months advance…

ruts frozen in the icy drive,

and the deeply black and soundless

nights. But now the painters

lean out from their ladders, squint

against the light, and lay on

the thick white paint.

From the lawn their radio predicts rain,

then cold Canadian air….

One of them works way up

on the dormer peak,

where a few wasps levitate

near the vestige of a nest.

You can find this poem in The Boat of Quiet Hours by Jane Kenyon.

A hot dry day in early fall….

Evening Poetry, September 20

Three Songs at the End of Summer

By Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,   
parting before me like the Red Sea.   
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned   
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.   
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks   
over me. The days are bright   
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today   
for an hour, with my whole   
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,   
and a crow, hectoring from its nest   
high in the hemlock, a nest as big   
as a laundry basket …
                                    In my childhood   
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,   
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off   
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,   
and operations with numbers I did not   
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled   
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien   
I stood at the side of the road.   
It was the only life I had.

You can find this in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, August 29

Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

by Jane Kenyon

We turned into the drive,

and gravel flew up from the tires

like sparks from a fire. So much

to be done–the unpacking, the mail

and papers…the grass needed mowing….

We climbed stiffly out of the car.

The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,

the limbs so heavy with fruit

they nearly touched the ground.

We went out to the meadow; our steps

made black holes in the grass;

and we each took a pear,

and ate, and were grateful.

This poem can be found in Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, June 15

Peonies at Dusk

by Jane Kenyon

White peonies blooming along the porch

send out light

while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human

heads! They’re staggered

by their own luxuriance: I had

to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,

and the moon moves around the barn

to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening

I draw a blossom near, and bending close

search it as a woman searches

a loved one’s face.

This poem can be found in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, June 7

The Visit

by Jane Kenyon

The talkative guest has gone,

and we sit in the yard

saying nothing. The slender moon

comes over the peak of the barn.

The air is damp, and dense

with the scent of honeysuckle….

The last clever story has been told

and answered with laughter.

With my sleeping self I met

my obligations, but now I am aware

of the silence, and your affection,

and the delicate sadness of dusk.

You can find this poem in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, May 28

Ironing Grandmother’s Tablecloth

by Jane Kenyon

As a bride, you made it smooth,

pulling the edges straight, the corners square.

For years you went over the same piece

of cloth, the way Grandfather walked to work.

This morning, I move the iron across the damask,

back and forth, up and down. You are ninety-four.

Each day you dress yourself, then go back to bed

and listen to radio sermons, staring at the ceiling.

When I visit, you tell me your troubles:

how my father left poisoned grapefruit on the back

porch at Christmas, how somebody comes at night

to throw stones at the house.

The streets of your brain become smaller,

old houses torn down. Talking to me

is hard work, keeping things straight,

whose child I am, whether I have children.

You can find this poem in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, May 25

Otherwise

by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been

otherwise. I ate

cereal, sweet

milk, ripe, flawless

peach. It might

have been otherwise.

I took the dog uphill

to the birch wood.

All morning I did

the work I love.

At noon I lay down

with my mate. It might

have been otherwise.

We ate dinner together

at a table with silver

candlesticks. It might

have been otherwise.

I slept in a bed

in a room with paintings

on the walls, and

planned another day

just like this day.

But one day, I know,

it will be otherwise.

You can find this poem in the collection Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, May 23

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

This poem can be found in Otherwise by Jane Kenyon.