Evening Poetry, August 11

The Work of Happiness

by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems 1930-1993.

Evening Poetry, August 9

Deep Summer

by Mary Oliver

The mockingbird

opens his throat

among the thorns

for his own reasons

but doesn’t mind

if we pause

to listen

and learn something

for ourselves;

he doesn’t stop,

he nods

his gray head

with the frightfully bright eyes,

he flirts

his supple tail,

he says:

listen, if you would listen.

There’s no end

to good talk,

to passion songs,

to the melodies

that say

this branch,

this tree is mine,

to the wholesome

happiness

of being alive

on a patch

of this green earth

in the deep

pleasure of summer.

What a bird!

Your clocks, he says plainly,

which are always ticking,

do not have to be listened to.

The spirit of his every word.

You can find this poem in the collection Evidence by Mary Oliver.

Evening Poetry, August 2

August Morning

by Albert Garcia

It’s ripe, the melon 
by our sink. Yellow, 
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes 
the house too sweetly. 
At five I wake, the air 
mournful in its quiet. 
My wife’s eyes swim calmly 
under their lids, her mouth and jaw 
relaxed, different. 
What is happening in the silence 
of this house? Curtains 
hang heavily from their rods. 
Ficus leaves tremble 
at my footsteps. Yet 
the colors outside are perfect– 
orange geranium, blue lobelia. 
I wander from room to room 
like a man in a museum: 
wife, children, books, flowers, 
melon. Such still air. Soon 
the mid-morning breeze will float in 
like tepid water, then hot. 
How do I start this day, 
I who am unsure 
of how my life has happened 
or how to proceed 
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

You can find this poem in Skunk Talk by Albert Garcia.

Evening Poetry, August 1

“She had forgotten how the August night”

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

She had forgotten how the August night
Was level as a lake beneath the moon,
In which she swam a little, losing sight
Of shore; and how the boy, who was at noon
Simple enough, not different from the rest,
Wore now a pleasant mystery as he went,
Which seemed to her an honest enough test
Whether she loved him, and she was content.
So loud, so loud the million crickets’ choir. . .
So sweet the night, so long-drawn-out and late. . .
And if the man were not her spirit’s mate,
Why was her body sluggish with desire?
Stark on the open field the moonlight fell,
But the oak tree’s shadow was deep and black and
     secret as a well.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Evening Poetry, July 31

The End of Summer

by Rachel Hadas

Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Over the summer months hung an unspoken
aura of urgency. In late July
galactic pulsings filled the midnight sky
like silent screaming, so that, strangely woken,

we looked at one another in the dark,
then at the milky magical debris
arcing across, dwarfing our meek mortality.
There were two ways to live: get on with work,

redeem the time, ignore the imminence
of cataclysm; or else take it slow,
be as tranquil as the neighbors’ cow
we love to tickle through the barbed wire fence
(she paces through her days in massive innocence,
or, seeing green pastures, we imagine so).

In fact, not being cows, we have no choice.
Summer or winter, country, city, we
are prisoners from the start and automatically,
hemmed in, harangued by the one clamorous voice.

Not light but language shocks us out of sleep
ideas of doom transformed to meteors
we translate back to portents of the wars
looming above the nervous watch we keep.

You can find this poem in Halfway Down the Hall.

Evening Poetry, July 29

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 Pictures of a Floating World.

Evening Poetry, July 28

You can find this poem in The Essential Rumi.

There is a way between voice and presence

where information flows.

In disciplined silence it opens.

With wandering talk it closes.