Evening Poetry, September 1

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 in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, August 31

In Late August

by Peter Campion

In a culvert by the airport
under crumbling slag
wine colored water seeps
to this pool the two does
drink from: each sipping as
the other keeps look out.
The skyline is a blur
of  barcode and microchip.
Even at home we hold
the narrowest purchase.
No arcs of tracer fire.
No caravans of fleeing
families. Only this
suspicion ripples
through our circles of lamp glow
(as you sweep the faint sweat
from your forehead and flip
another page in your novel)
this sense that all we own
is the invisible
web of our words and touches
silence and fabulation
all make believe and real
as the two does out
scavenging through rose hips
and shattered drywall:
their presence in the space
around them liveliest
just before they vanish.

This poem was featured in November 2007 edition of Poetry Magazine.

Evening Poetry, August 29

Messenger

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, August 27

Love (III)

George Herbert 1593-1633

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
            Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
            From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
            If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
            Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
            I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
            “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
            Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
            “My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
            So I did sit and eat.

You can find this in George Herbert and The Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets.

Evening Poetry, August 26

A Pretty Song

by Mary Oliver

From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?

This isn’t a play ground, this is
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods

that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, August 11

Northampton Style

By Marie Ponsot

Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer
Northampton-style, on the porch out back.
Its voice touches and parts the air of summer,

as if  it swam to time us down a river
where we dive and leave a single track
as evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer

that lets us wash our mix of dreams together.
Delicate, tacit, we engage in our act;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

When we disentangle you are not with her
I am not with him. Redress calls for tact.
Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer

still. A small breeze rises and the leaves stir
as uneasy as we, while the woods go black;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer

and lets darkness enter us; our strings go slack
though the player keeps up his plangent attack.
Evening falls. Someone’s playing a dulcimer;
its voice touches and parts the air of summer.

You can find this in Springing: New & Selected Poems.

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Evening Poetry, August 9

The Sea in You

by David Whyte

When I wake under the moon,

I do not know who I have become unless

I move closer to you, obeying the give and take

of the earth as it breathes the slender length

of your body, so that in breathing with the tide that breathes

in you, and moving with you as you come and go,

and following you, half in light and half in dark,

I feel the first firm edge of my floating palm touch

and then trace the pale light of your shoulder

to the faint, moonlit shadow of your smooth cheek

and drawing my finger through the pearl water of your skin,

I sense the breath on your lips touch and then warm

the finest, furthest, most unknown edge of my self of self,

so that I come to you under the moon as if I had

swum under the deepest arch of the ocean,

to find you living where no one could possibly live,

and to feel you breathing, where no one could

possibly breathe, and I touch your skin as I would

touch a pale whispering spirit of the tides that my arms

try to hold with the wrong kind of strength and my lips

try to speak with the wrong kind of love and I follow

you through the ocean night listening for your breath

in my helpless calling to love you as I should, and I lie

next to you in your sleep as I would next to the sea,

overwhelmed by the rest that arrives in me and by the weight

that is taken from me and what, by morning,

is left on the shore of my waking joy.

You can find this poem in The Sea in You.

Evening Poetry, May 25

The Garden by Moonlight

BY AMY LOWELL

A black cat among roses,
Phlox, lilac-misted under a first-quarter moon,
The sweet smells of heliotrope and night-scented stock.
The garden is very still,   
It is dazed with moonlight,
Contented with perfume,
Dreaming the opium dreams of its folded poppies.
Firefly lights open and vanish   
High as the tip buds of the golden glow
Low as the sweet alyssum flowers at my feet.
Moon-shimmer on leaves and trellises,
Moon-spikes shafting through the snow ball bush.   
Only the little faces of the ladies’ delight are alert and staring,
Only the cat, padding between the roses,
Shakes a branch and breaks the chequered pattern
As water is broken by the falling of a leaf.
Then you come,
And you are quiet like the garden,
And white like the alyssum flowers,   
And beautiful as the silent sparks of the fireflies.
Ah, Beloved, do you see those orange lilies?
They knew my mother,
But who belonging to me will they know
When I am gone.

You can find this poem in Amy Lowell: Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, May 14

Parable

by Richard Wilbur

I read how Quixote in his random ride

Came to a crossing once, and lest he lose

the purity of chance, would not decide

Whither to fare, but wished his horse to choose.

For glory lay wherever he might turn.

His head was light with pride, his horse’s shoes

Were heavy, and he headed for the barn.

You can find this in Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943-2004.

Evening Poetry, May 12

Vilnius

by Jane Hirshfield

For a long time

I keep the guidebooks out on the table.

In the morning, drinking coffee, I see the spines:

St. Petersburg, Vilnius, Vienna.

Choices pondered but not finally taken.

Behind them-sometimes behind thick fog-the mountain.

If you lived higher up on the mountain,

I find myself thinking, what you would see is

more of everything else, but not the mountain.

You can find this poem in After.