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.

Evening Poetry, May 15

The Clothes Pin

by Jane Kenyon

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw garbage

onto the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pins!

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

Evening Poetry, May 8

My Mother

by Jane Kenyon

My mother comes back from a trip downtown to the dime

store. She has brought me a surprise. It is still in her purse.

She is wearing her red shoes with straps across the in-

step. They fasten with small white buttons, like the eyes

of fish.

She brings back zippers and spools of thread, yellow and

green, for her work, which always takes her far away, even

though she works upstairs, in the room next to mine.

She is wearing her blue plaid full-skirted dress with the

large collar, her hair fastened up off her neck. She looks

pretty. She always dresses up when she goes downtown.

Now she opens her straw purse, which looks like a small

suitcase. She hands me a new toy: a wooden paddle with

a red rubber ball attached to it by an elastic string. Some-

times when she goes downtown, I think she will not come back.

You can find this poem and more in Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon.

Evening Poetry, May 4

Happiness

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
                     It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

You can find this poem at the Poetry Foundation and in the collection Otherwise.