“Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

 

Jane Kenyon, “Let Evening Come” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. (Graywolf Press, 1990)

* Special thanks to reader Will G. for recommending this poem to us. Will said in his email, “One of (Kenyon’s) poems that I particularly love is “Let Evening Come”. To me this poem harbors a deep compassion that goes beyond sentient creatures to touch all forms including rakes and barn walls. Reading her poem is like returning to a favorite painting by Rothko. Every time I read the poem, I find new things in its colors.” Beautifully put, Will, thank you again. Words for the Year will be going on hiatus January 1; I’m grateful I could share Kenyon’s piece before our break.

Number 14, Mark Rothko (1960).
Number 14, Mark Rothko (1960).

“August” by Mary Oliver

Our neighbor, tall and blonde and vigorous, the mother
of many children, is sick. We did not know she was sick,
but she has come to the fence, walking like a woman
who is balancing a sword inside of her body, and besides
that her long hair is gone, it is short and, suddenly, gray.
I don’t recognize her. It even occurs to me that it might
be her mother. But it’s her own laughter-edged voice,
we have heard it for years over the hedges.

All summer the children, grown now and some of them
with children of their own, come to visit. They swim,
they go for long walks at the harbor, they make
dinner for twelve, for fifteen, for twenty. In the early
morning two daughters come to the garden and slowly
go through the precise and silent gestures of T’ai Chi.

They all smile. Their father smiles too, and builds
castles on the shore with the children, and drives back to
the city, and drives back to the country. A carpenter is
hired—a roof repaired, a porch rebuilt. Everything that
can be fixed.

June, July, August. Every day, we hear their laughter. I
think of the painting by van Gogh, the man in the chair.
Everything wrong, and nowhere to go. His hands over
his eyes.

Source: Oliver, Mary (1993) ‘August’, via Poetry magazine, August 1993.

 

Sorrowing old man ("At Eternity's Gate"), Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). via WikiCommons
Sorrowing old man (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). via WikiCommons

“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.

 

“A Few Surprising Turns” by Ira Sadoff

A few surprising turns follow us everywhere.
I was shopping for something to replace
what I once felt. Weren’t there buildings there
where we once lived, fully furnished
and looking out on the sea? Didn’t we distill
from neighbors the necessary codes
and gestures? At the core we were all traipse
and meander, governed by fill in the blank.
But it was here, the ramshackle Cape Cod
with rattling shutters eaten away
then revived, mended and painted over.
It takes just a scent of sea spray
to bring back the once was: skimpy,
the bikini, the beach, the conversation,
the veil of summer, skimpy the engine
that chugs toward love, skimpy the cover
of the universe. Thanks to this fragrance
we can sit under our favorite cedar,
or picture the old dreaded barber shop.
Now I want my hair touched, and my cheek.
I want the salt rubbed out with a handkerchief.

– Ira Sadoff, via Poets.org. Copyright © 2016 by Ira Sadoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

***

This poem is for Teresa Evangeline. 🙂 She shared the following painting–Summer Day On Skagen’s Southern Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer (1884)–on Twitter, and I fell instantly in love with it. I told Teresa I would try to find a poem to pair with it, and while there are many “beach” poems, I couldn’t find the wistful tone I was seeking (maybe because the painting reminds me of childhood trips to the beach?) until one of my favorite poetry sites shared Sadoff’s poem. So thanks to Teresa and thanks to OofPoetry.

Via Wikiart.
Summer Day On Skagen’s Southern Beach by Peder Severin Kroyer (1884). Via Wikiart.

“North Star” by Sheila Packa

In Hanko, Finland
a young woman boards
the vessel in the Baltic
for a ship across the Atlantic.
The North Star shines in the sky.
She’s carrying in her valise
a change of clothes
a packet of seeds
and the sauna dipper.
Distance pours between constellations
between English words on her tongue
through storms and sun.
In New York City, she buys
a one way ticket
boards the train going
across the continent
arrives on an inland sea.
The winter ground underfoot
is familiar with frost
as she transfers to a northbound
along the Vermilion Trail
in Minnesota.
Ahead of her waits a man
a house to be built
and a fire that burns it down.
Ahead, eleven children
to bear, a few she must bury,
the cows in the barn
needing to be milked.
Unbroken ground only hers to till.
Above her, the North Star
inside the aurora borealis, northern
banners waving welcome —

“North Star” by Sheila Packa, from Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range. © Wildwood River Press, 2014.

 Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis Norway by Svein-Magne Tunli. Via Wiki Commons.
Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis Norway by Svein-Magne Tunli. Via Wiki Commons.