We Are Bereft



Silence and darkness grow apace, broken only by the crack of a hunter’s gun in the woods.  Songbirds abandon us so gradually that, until the day when we hear no birdsong at all but the scolding of the jay, we haven’t realized that we are bereft — as after a death. Even the sun has gone off somewhere.  By teatime the parlor is as black as the inside of a cupboard.

Reading after supper on the couch, I let my mind wander to the compost pile, bulging with leaves and stalks.  I’ve turned it a few times since October, but the pile’s hard surface no longer yields to the fork.  Even the earthworms have retreated from the cold and closed the door behind them.  There’s an oven warm at the pile’s center, but you have to take that on faith.  Now we all come in, having put the garden to bed, and we wait for winter to pull a chilly sheet over its head.
~Jane Kenyon from “Good-by and Keep Cold”




We Ate, Grateful





We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done—the unpacking, the mail
and papers … the grass needed mowing ….
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.
~Jane Kenyon “Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer”



Summer Rain

summerrainDrip drip the trees for all the country round,
And richness rare distills from every bough;
The wind alone it is makes every sound,
Shaking down crystals on the leaves below.

For shame the sun will never show himself,
Who could not with his beams e’er melt me so;
My dripping locks—they would become an elf,
Who in a beaded coat does gayly go.

~Henry David Thoreau from “Summer Rain”


How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from “Rain in Summer”


Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn.
~Jane Kenyon from “Heavy Summer Rain”

Moody Dusk




I’m out here in the dusk…

There is no one home but me—
and I’m not at home; I’m up here on the hill,
looking at the dark windows below.
Let them be dark…

…night has silenced
the last loud rupture of the calm.
~Jane Kenyon from “Frost Flowers”




The Tears of Summer


The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day
turns dry.
I miss you steadily, painfully
~Jane Kenyon from “Heavy Summer Rain”

The sun returns
and the tears will dry.

The impression left on my heart
still twinges with every beat.

Eventually, though trampled and toppled,
I right myself to face the rain again.

The truth is, I need it, can’t live without it.


photo by Nate Gibson

photo by Nate Gibson

The Ravaged Field

Photo of Moore Oklahoma following May 20 earthquake taken by Steve Gooch for the Associated Press

Aerial photo of Moore Oklahoma following May 20 earthquake taken by Steve Gooch for the Associated Press

Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?

…These things happen … the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses …

The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
~Jane Kenyon from “Twilight: After Haying”

Celebration is a sign of life in the rubble, the bliss of those arising from an ash heap to walk and breathe again.  Heartache is the sight of death in the rubble, the suffering of those trapped and crushed by a roaring force too immense to imagine yet devastatingly real.

Bliss and suffering are bound together like the grasses; we are grasses torn from our roots, ravaged.

Tears flow as they must, wetting the stubble left behind like dew.  We weep in sorrow for those lost; we weep in joy for those spared.

What else can a soul do but weep at parting and weep at welcoming?

These things happen, oh yes, these awe-full awful things, they happen.

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
~Psalm 103: 15