Evening Poetry, January 5

Of Time

by Mary Oliver

Don’t even ask how rapidly the hummingbird

lives his life.

You can’t imagine. A thousand flowers a day,

a little sleep, then the same again, then

he vanishes.

I adore him.

Yet I adore also the drowse of mountains.

And in the human world, what is time?

In my mind there is Rumi, dancing.

There is Li Po drinking from the winter stream.

There is Hafiz strolling through Shariz, his feet

loving the dust.

You can find this poem in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, January 2

Hold Fast Your Dreams

by Louise Driscoll

Hold fast your dreams!

Within your heart

Keep one still, secret spot

Where dreams may go,

And sheltered so,

May thrive and grow–

Where doubt and fear are not.

Oh, keep a place apart

Within your heart,

For little dreams to go.

You can find this poem in Favorite Poems Old and New.

Evening Poetry, December 19

For The Unknown Self

by John O’ Donohue

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye’s affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light
Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness
And misjudge what you do and who you are.

It presides within like an evening freedom
That will often see you enchanted by twilight
Without ever recognizing the falling night,
It resembles the under-earth of your visible life:
All you do and say and think is fostered
Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.

It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.

Were it to break forth into day,
Its dark light might quench your mind,
For it knows how your primeval heart
Sisters every cell of your life
To all your known mind would avoid,

Thus it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.

At times, it will lead you strangely,
Magnetized by some resonance
That ambushes your vigilance.

It works most resolutely at night
As the poet who draws your dreams,
Creating for you many secret doors,
Decorated with pictures of your hunger;

It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want,
Where all your diverse strainings
Can come to wholesome ease.

You can find this poem in To Bless the Space Between Us.

Evening Poetry, December 13

White-Eyes

by Mary Oliver

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2002)

Evening Poetry, December 3

A Chair in Snow

By Jane Hirshfield

A chair in snow
should be
like any other object whited
& rounded

and yet a chair in snow is always sad

more than a bed
more than a hat or house
a chair is shaped for just one thing

to hold
a soul its quick and few bendable
hours

perhaps a king

not to hold snow
not to hold flowers

You can find this poem in The Beauty: Poems.

Evening Poetry, November 15

America, I Sing Back

by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Copyright © 2014 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Originally published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

You can find this poem in Streaming.

Evening Poetry, November 12

Man, Woman, Moon

by Freya Manfred

Drink in the alien eyes of this wild one

you don’t want to lose,

who doesn’t want to lose you.

Make sure he can find his way home in the dark,

when he forgets who he is, or you forget,

because even after thirty years

you don’t know what he’s thinking

when he stares out the window at the snow

falling in veils past the moon–

the same moon you’ve been watching

every month since you were born.

You can find this poem in Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle.

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, November 9

November

By Maggie Dietz

Show’s over, folks. And didn’t October do
A bang-up job? Crisp breezes, full-throated cries
Of migrating geese, low-floating coral moon.

Nothing left but fool’s gold in the trees.
Did I love it enough, the full-throttle foliage,
While it lasted? Was I dazzled? The bees

Have up and quit their last-ditch flights of forage
And gone to shiver in their winter clusters.
Field mice hit the barns, big squirrels gorge

On busted chestnuts. A sky like hardened plaster
Hovers. The pasty river, its next of kin,
Coughs up reed grass fat as feather dusters.

Even the swarms of kids have given in
To winter’s big excuse, boxed-in allure:
TVs ricochet light behind pulled curtains.

The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who’d wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door.

You can find this poem in That Kind of Happy.

Evening Poetry, November 7

The Mist and All

by Dixie Wilson

I like the fall,

The mist and all.

I like the night owl’s

Lonely call–

And wailing sound

of wind around.

I like the gray

November day,

And bare, dead boughs

That coldly sway

Against my pane.

I like the rain.

I like to sit

And laugh at it–

And tend

My cozy fire a bit.

I like the fall–

The mist and all.–

You can find this poem in Favorite Poems Old and New.