“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.

—Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, 2005. Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, MN. Copyright 2005 by Jane Kenyon.

“Be Nobody’s Darling” by Alice Walker

Be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
(Uncool)
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous
Fools.

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

But be nobody’s darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

~ Alice Walker, from Revolutionary Petunias

“Ars Poetica” by Linda Pastan

Ars Poetica
for Billy Collins

As I sit reading your book of poems,
page after page
of ordinary things
but with a twist– the kind of flavor
a twist of lime can give
a gin and tonic,

I wonder why I can’t
write poems like that, melancholy
but not sad exactly,
instead of writing the way
I always do
under a darkening cloud.

And so I take pencil to paper
and try to describe your book,
why it makes me happy.
But here comes that cloud again,
no larger at the moment
than a man’s hand.

Linda Pastan
from The Gettysburg Review, Summer 2015

“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

 

“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith (Website, Twitter, Books). “Good Bones” first appeared in Waxwing IX (Summer 2016) and is contained in Maggie Smith’s forthcoming book, Weep Up, Tupelo Press, 2018.

 

***

 

I rarely offer commentary, but this poem … yeah … this poem. I think it sums up so many of our lives, dear readers, don’t you? We are each trying to make this place beautiful though “the darkness around us is deep.” So I was beyond thrilled when multi-award winning poet Maggie Smith offered her blessing for me to share her poem with you all.

 

If you love “Good Bones” as much as I do, but can’t wait until 2018 to purchase Weep Up, check out this beautiful broadside print by designer Josef Beery:
"Good Bones" by Maggie Smith. Designed by Josef Beery. Click photo or HERE to purchase.
“Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. Designed by Josef Beery. Click photo or HERE to purchase. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Orlando Youth Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a safe space for GLBTQ youth in Central Florida.

“This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.”

Thank you again, Maggie. You and your poetry make this place beautiful indeed.

 

“Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

—Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. Copyright 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon.