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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.

This Franz Wright (1953-) poem renders me speechless.

“Did This Ever Happen to You”

A marble-colored cloud
engulfed the sun and stalled,

a skinny squirrel limped toward me
as I crossed the empty park

and froze, the last
or next to last

fall leaf fell but before it touched
the earth, with shocking clarity

I heard my mother’s voice
pronounce my name. And in an instant I passed

beyond sorrow and terror, and was carried up
into the imageless

bright darkness
I came from

and am. Nobody’s
stronger than forgiveness.

An anthology of Fanny Howe (1940-) selected poems has been quietly haunting me for months. Here is just one of the many gems.

You travel a path on paper
and discover you’re in a city
you only thought about before.

It’s a Sunday marketplace. Parakeets and finches
are placed on the stones
and poppies in transparent wrapping.

How can you be where you never were?
And how can you find the way–with your mind
your only measure?

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