Evening Poetry, September 27

The Dance

by Wendell Berry

I would have each couple turn,
join and unjoin, be lost
in the greater turning
of other couples, woven
in the circle of a dance,
the song of long time flowing

over them, so they may return,
turn again in to themselves
out of desire greater than their own,
belonging to all, to each,
to the dance, and to the song
that moves them through the night.

What is fidelity? To what
does it hold? The point
of departure, or the turning road
that is departure and absence
and the way home? What we are
and what we were once

are far estranged. For those
who would not change, time
is infidelity. But we are married
until death, and are betrothed
to change. By silence, so,
I learn my song. I earn

my sunny fields by absence, once
and to come. And I love you
as I love the dance that brings you
out of the multitude
in which you come and go.
Love changes, and in change is true.

You can find this poem in New Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 22

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells. 

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook 
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: 
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
   Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, 
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. 

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they? 
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft 
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; 
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

You can find this in A Poem For Every Night Of The Year.

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Evening Poetry, September 21

End of Summer

by Stanley Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

You can find this in The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz.

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Evening Poetry, September 18

The Journey

by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving,
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

You can find this poem in The House of Belonging.

Evening Poetry, September 17

Why I Need The Birds

by Lisel Mueller

When I hear them call
in the morning, before
I am quite awake,
my bed is already traveling
the daily rainbow,
the arc toward evening;
and the birds, leading
their own discreet lives
of hunger and watchfulness,
are with me all the way,
always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.

By the time I arrive at evening,
they have just settled down to rest;
already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees;
and all of us together —
myself and the purple finches,
the rusty blackbirds,
the ruby cardinals,
and the white-throated sparrows
with their liquid voices —
ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.

You can find this poem in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 15

Opening Up

by Peter Davison

Weekend: a country custom, a century old,
English in origin, secular, elite,
depended on railway schedules for its ritual:
breakfast in silver warmers, tweeds till tea,
tennis or crocquet when there was no hunting,
dress for dinner, billiards after port,
later, adultery in upstairs bedrooms.

Now as the car turns willingly off asphalt
and gravel stings its tires, we try our hand,
Arriving’s, all the same, though all has changed.
The buds have swollen: or the leaves have turned;
the house is still surprisingly intact.
An unlocked door will let the world back in groceries,
canvas satchels, lists of chores.

Stop. Watch the maples bending in the wind
tossing their boughs in summer agitation.
Quick, before sunset, swim the salt creek
that creeps up from the coast a mile away
to hiss beneath the bridges, trickle through
the swaying stalks of marsh grass, burdened with
more nourishment than twenty tons of humus.
Here one is happiest when not too clean.

Come on, walk barefoot over new-cut stalks
of green lawn grass, pausing to wipe off
the sticky blades that squeeze between your toes.
Along the granite of the garden wall
a hundred varied blossoms flash their hues
of gold and scarlet, peach and ivory.

One skyscraper stands up among the lilies,
brandishing blossoms like archangels’ trumpets—
All while the thirsty grasses dream the day.
Bend toward them. I can hear the tide of green
engorge and stiffen, music in the blood,
lifting sensation past the reach of time,
mingling with the future. Come, let’s turn,
let’s walk indoors and open up the house.

You can find this in The Poems of Peter Davison.

Evening Poetry, September 14

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 in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 13

Praying

by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 11

signals

by Frank Watson

carved wood--
   love letters written
     before the dawn of time

we speak
  in smoke signals
around in circles 
  vanishing
to the touch

the rope 
  entwines us
and binds us
  hands and feet
as we set sail
  on silver seas

we shape time
      with a chisel
following the lines
   of an afternoon
eclipse

    she
is a sculpture
     formed
from the lines
     of infinity
laid out to rest
     on the bed
of salvation

You can find this poem in In the Dark, Soft Earth: Poetry of Love, Nature, Spirituality, and Dreams.

Evening Poetry, September 9

You Learn By Living

by J. Patrick Lewis

for Eleanor Roosevelt

Who showed the world the world itself
     Was awkward, shy and plain.
A high-born leader in a long,
     Low decade full of pain.

Poor farmers, blacks, homeless, the least
     Advantaged hoped to see,
Magnificently unarrayed,
     Pure human dignity.

A lady first, the great first lady
     Looked fear in the face,
And said, There is no room for fear
     When courage take its place.

You can find this poem in Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women.