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In memory of the great poet Galway Kinnell, who died yesterday at the age of 87.

“Wait”

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

“Poem for my Father’s Ghost”

–Mary Oliver

Now is my father
A traveler, like all the bold men
He talked of, endlessly
And with boundless admiration,
Over the supper table,
Or gazing up from his white pillow –
Book on his lap always, until
Even that grew too heavy to hold.

Now is my father free of all binding fevers
Now is my father
Travelling where there is no road
Finally, he could not lift a hand
To cover his eyes.
Now he climbs to the eye of the river,
He strides through the Dakotas,
He disappears into the mountains, And though he looks
Cold and hungry as any man
At the end of a questing season,

He is one of them now:
He cannot be stopped.

Now is my father
Walking the wind,
Sniffing the deep Pacific
That begins at the end of the world.

Vanished from us utterly,
Now is my father circling the deepest forest –
Then turning in to the last red campfire burning
In the final hills,

Where chieftains, warriors and heroes
Rise and make him welcome,
Recognizing, under the shambles of his body,
A brother who has walked his thousand miles.

Happy October, dear readers. May you feel younger than in all the months of spring.

“The Love of October” by W.S. Merwin (1927-)

A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
… walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun.

I remember a quiet morning in Amherst 10 years ago, sitting with my mother on Emily Dickinson’s stoop, wondering what had transpired behind those walls as she wrote her nearly 1,800 poems. Dickinson is one of the first poets I read–and truly loved–and tonight these verses speak to me like never before.

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes–“

After great pain, a formal feeling comes –
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs –
The stiff Heart questions ‘was it He, that bore,’
And ‘Yesterday, or Centuries before’?

The Feet, mechanical, go round –
A Wooden way
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought –
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone –

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go –

Happy summer, readers. This achingly beautiful poem is brought to you by Li-Young Lee and the bag of peaches I purchased from the farmers’ market this morning.

photo (6)

“From Blossoms”

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Dear readers,

Thank you for joining me for another National Poetry Month. I hope you’ve enjoyed the last four weeks of verse–and I hope even more that you continue to seek out poetry all year long. For now, I will close with this selection from the magnificent writer, activist, and farmer Wendell Berry (1934-).

 

from  Sabbaths 1998

I

Whatever happens,
those who have learned 
to love one another 
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.

II

This is the time you’d like to stay.
Not a leaf stirs. There is no sound.
The fireflies lift light from the ground.
You’ve shed the vanities of when
And how and why, for now. And then
The phone rings. You are called away.

III

Early in the morning, walking
in a garden in Vancouver
three thousand miles from your grave,
the sky dripping, song
sparrows singing in the borders,
I come suddenly upon
a Japanese dogwood, a tree
you loved, bowed down with bloom.
By what blessedness do I weep?

IV

The woods and pastures are joyous
in their abundance now
in a season of warmth and much rain.
We walk amidst foliage, amidst
song. The sheep and cattle graze 
like souls and bliss (except for flies)
and lie down satisfied. Who now
can believe in winter? In winter
who could have hoped for this?

I never grow tired of Jane Hirshfield (1953-) and her clear, calming verse.

“Stone and Knife”

One angle blunts, another sharpens
Loss also: stone & knife

Some griefs augment the heart,
enlarge;
some stunt.

Scentless loosestrife,
rooms unwalked in,
these losses are small.

Others cannot be described at all.

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