Evening Poetry, August 16

From This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems

2002

VII

by Wendell Berry

The flocking blackbirds fly across

the river, appearing above the trees

on one side, disappearing beyond

the trees on the other side. The flock

undulates in passage beneath the opening

of white sky that seems no wider

than the river. It is mid August.

The year is changing. The summer’s young

are grown and strong in flight. Soon now

it will be fall. The frost will come.

To one who has watched here many years,

all of this is familiar. And yet

none of it has ever happened

before as it is happening now.

You can find this poem in This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems.

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, June 25

Fireflies

by Frank Ormsby

The lights come on and stay on under the trees.
Visibly a whole neighborhood inhabits the dusk,
so punctual and in place it seems to deny
dark its dominion. Nothing will go astray,
the porch lamps promise. Sudden, as though a match
failed to ignite at the foot of the garden, the first squibs
trouble the eye. Impossible not to share
that sportive, abortive, clumsy, where-are-we-now
dalliance with night, such soothing relentlessness.
What should we make of fireflies, their quick flare
of promise and disappointment, their throwaway style?
Our heads turn this way and that. We are loath to miss
such jauntiness in nature. Those fugitive selves,
winged and at random! Our flickery might-have-beens
come up form the woods to haunt us! Our yet-to-be
as tentative frolic! What do fireflies say?
That loneliness made of light becomes at last
convivial singleness? That any antic spark
cruising the void might titillate creation?
And whether they spend themselves, or go to ground,
or drift with their lights out, they have left the gloom,
for as long as our eyes take to absorb such absence,
less than it seemed, as childless and deprived
as Chaos and Old Night. But ruffled, too,
as though it unearthed some memory of light
from its long blackout, a hospitable core
fit home for fireflies, brushed by fireflies’ wings.

You can find this poem in Goat’s Milk.

Evening Poetry, June 5

All in June

by William Henry Davies

A week ago I had a fire
To warm my feet, my hands and face;
Cold winds, that never make a friend,
Crept in and out of every place.

Today the fields are rich in grass,
And buttercups in thousands grow;
I’ll show the world where I have been–
With gold-dust seen on either shoe.

Till to my garden back I come,
Where bumble-bees for hours and hours
Sit on their soft, fat, velvet bums,
To wriggle out of hollow flowers.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of William Henry Davies.

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 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 27

Summer at North Farm

by Stephen Kuusisto

Finnish rural life, ca. 1910

Fires, always fires after midnight,
the sun depending in the purple birches

and gleaming like a copper kettle.
By the solstice they’d burned everything,

the bad-luck sleigh, a twisted rocker,
things “possessed” and not-quite-right.

The bonfire coils and lurches,
big as a house, and then it settles.

The dancers come, dressed like rainbows
(if rainbows could be spun),

and linking hands they turn
to the melancholy fiddles.

A red bird spreads its wings now
and in the darker days to come.

You can find this poem in Only Bread, Only Light.