for Poet Jane Kenyon

‘There’s no accounting for happiness
or the way it turns up like a prodigal.’ 
  Jane Kenyon

.

Dedicated to the proposition
of despair, she was unprepared
for those unsettling moments
when Happiness appeared.

Curled fetal in the mist of nap,
gray afternoon wrapped around her
and in the next moment
with not even a knock on the door,

It was there, grinning
in that irresistible way
that only Happiness has, and she
still fog-minded with sleep

Embraced it as if this time
it would stay, forgetting
in the moment it had a proclivity
for leaving unannounced.

Insomniac

Night outside his window
is a gauzy moon
lacing late autumn trees,
burnishing their bare limbs
golden.

It is cricket stragglers
strumming for a mate, unaware
that last call is soon upon them.
Chitterings and chirpings
join in.

Mist whispers through the nocturne
muting the musical theme there
in his room where he,
hostage of darkness, wrestles
old dreams.

A Time to Take to the Sky

O! Autumn,
is it your slanting sun
that severs summer
from the vine or is it
our anxiousness for rest
when the harvest is in
and the grapes are making
sweet promises?

Is it the squeak of baby mice,
pink and hairless in the granary,
soon to gorge on kernels plumped
with August sun or is it the hint
of winter tingeing the air
with magic hats and snowmen
that dance?

Whatever it is, pied season
of russet and orange and all
the reds and golds that God
can conceive,  when October
kisses the wind with frost
and geese form great honking vees,
my heart gathers a great hunger
to spread my wings and take to the sky.

The Remembered Scent of Lilacs

The scent of lilacs never fades
even when the leaves give way
to frost’s most lethal bite.

What matters if the foliage
has lost its splendor?
Lilacs are not noted for their shade.

I dare say none have ever bloomed in vain.
For what is life without such simple charm?
Remembered scents

are known to brighten darkest haze.
More than ember, they are the spark
that helps to keep us warm on winter days.

Displaced Poet

for Joseph Brodsky who said:
“The dolce vita is chocolate and champagne.”

He bought bread
in the little shop on the corner,
had it wrapped

mostly for the mystery
and the precious paper,
a blank slate for his poetry

inspired by mingled scents
of poppy seed and yeast,
and a yearning for his homeland

where loaves were crustier
and poets were noted
for their hunger.

 

(excerpted from Poetry Foundation) Iosif Alexandrovich Brodsky was reviled and persecuted in his native Soviet Union, but the Western literary establishment lauded him as one of that country’s finest poets. From the time he began publishing his verse—both under his own name, and under the name Joseph Brodsky—which was characterized by ironic wit and a spirit of fiery independence, Brodsky aroused the ire of Soviet authorities; he was also persecuted because he was a Jew. He was brought to trial for “parasitism,” and a smuggled transcript of that trial helped bring him to the attention of the West, for he answered his interrogators with courageous and articulate idealism. Brodsky was condemned to a Soviet mental institution and later spent five years in Arkhangelsk, an Arctic labor camp. A public outcry from American and European intellectuals over his treatment helped to secure his early release. Forced to emigrate, he moved to Michigan in 1972, where, with the help of the poet W. H. Auden, he settled in at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor as poet-in-residence. He then taught at several universities, including Queens College in New York and Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. He continued to write poetry, however, often writing in Russian and translating his own work into English, and eventually winning the Nobel Prize for his work.

Unconditional

The sun still shines;
Even at a slant it sustains.
It’s true, the buds have burst,
bloomed their best. Now
beauty has faded but underground
there is the promise of return.

Ash and oak  and spreading chestnut,
the maples most exuberant:
They know the drill, know
the disappointment of leafy canopy
stripped bare. They do not quit
nor do they slink away to shadow.

Even the fragile ferns, bent
by the wind, endure to praise the tempest
for the spores it spreads, and the brook,
ever joyful with its song, gurgles
beneath the crusty ice
throughout the season of freeze.

Each October, it looks as if the lilacs
are gone forever; each spring
they bloom again. To everything
there is a season. Whether we believe
or not, they will return. Such is the love
of our Creator.

Poets of Autumn

Leaves have fallen;
we rake and burn them.
Smoke signals scent the season
bittersweet.

O! How time does go on,
the pendulum never stopping.
No need to grieve for the trees;
they will endure.

Though the air is gathering a chill,
our Isadora scarves
dance in the wind.  We live
in the miracle of today.

This moment is irretrievable;
store it in your heart.
Time stops for no one
but it will pause for your song.