Evening Poetry, November 5

Lockdown Garden

By Arvind Krishna Mehrotra 

1

Close to each other,
socially undistanced,
the mulberry leaves,

uniformly green,
shall turn brown together.
It’s like a herd dying.

2

Firm to begin with,
the mud clod
could’ve injured you.
It crumbles in your hand.

3

In the heap of  dead
leaves crinkly as
brown skins, those
breathing things
foraging around
the bamboo stand
are  jungle babblers.

4

It was planted
all wrong, too
close to a wall,
under the mango
trees. There was
nowhere for it
to go except up
like a mast and
that’s where
it went, taking
its leaves with it—
long, tapering.
I never saw them
fall. It never
flowered, which
would’ve helped
me look it up in a
book of  flowering
Indian trees. Now
I’ll never know
its name nor of
the bird singing
at evening
in the shrubbery.

5

She stood outside
the gate, a woman
my age, head covered
with flowery print,
a sickle in her hand.

Could she come
inside and cut
grass for her goats?
It was ankle high.
Her face was inches

from mine and I felt
her breath on my skin.
It’s after I’d turned
the corner that I heard
what she’d said.

6

The shingles unwalked on,
the doors bolted,
the squirrels back in their nests.

Under the moon a bird floats
and settles on a branch.
The sky is pale.

The leaves of the ironwood
when new every spring
are a deep pink.

The evening  goes out like a flame.
We’ve seen different things.
It’s always been so.

Tell me, love, what you saw today.


You can find this in the October edition of Poetry.

Evening Poetry, November 4

Nothing Is Far

by Robert Francis

Though I have never caught the word
Of God from any calling bird.
I hear all that the ancients heard.

Though I have seen no deity
Enter or leave a twilit tree,
I see all that the seers see.

A common stone can still reveal
Something not stone, not seen, yet real.
What may a common stone conceal?

Nothing is far that once was near.
Nothing is hid that once was clear.
Nothing was God that is not here.

Here is the bird, the tree, the stone.
Here in the sun I sit alone
Between the known and the unknown.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems.

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Evening Poetry, October 15

Falling Leaves and Early Snow 

by Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
“They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.

In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.

You can find this in The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth.

Evening Poetry, October 5

Windfalls

by Jane Kenyon

The storm is moving on, and as the wind
rises, the oaks and pines let go
of all the snow on their branches,
an abrupt change of heart,
and the air turns utterly white.

Woooh, says the wind, and I stop
where I am, put out my arms
and look upward, allowing
myself to disappear. It is good
to be here, and not here...

I see fresh cloven prints
under the apple tree, where deer come
nosing for windfalls. They must be
near me now, and having stopped
when I stopped, begin to move again.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, October 4

Don’t Hesitate

by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

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

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.