Monday, July 16, 2007

A Picture And A Poem

I wanted to share my favorite picture from vacation, and a new poem, by Jane Kenyon. I just discovered it in a collection called Otherwise. Jane Kenyon died of leukemia in April of 1995.

Here's her poem:


There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take for its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

From: Otherwise, by Jane Kenyon

copyright 1996 by Graywolf Press


Diane said...

I want everyone to know that the line "It even comes to the boulder" is supposed to be indented, but I don't know how to do that. I tried to space in, but blogger kept publishing it out to the margin. oh well

Jan said...

Diane, thank you for this beautiful poem and picture. (Also, not being able to indent happens to me on blogger.) I like the beginning with the line about the prodigal. Always a prodigal, returning yet again. . . .

JanetB said...

I like the photo (Oh, and the poem is nice too)

DogBlogger said...

Nice entry. I especially like Scout's one floppy ear. Cub's right ear used to do that.

Diane said...

Since Scout is over 2 yrs now, I think the floppiness will not go away. We like it, too.

RevDrKate said...

Really beautiful...both poem and picture...thanks for sharing.

Songbird said...

What a powerful poem, Diane. There is a person in my life who is very serious, and when a laugh breaks from him, it is like those moments in the poem.

lj said...

Thanks for introducing me to a new poet, Diane. Loving it!

mompriest said...

Hi diane, I finally managed to post a link over at my blog. later tonight I want to come back over and reflect more on this wonderful poem - I just love the language and the imagery she uses. and, yes, another poet to appreciate!

Diane said...

I just wanted to start by saying 1) I like the Biblical imagery of the prodigal... an inherent criticism of happiness for being gone so long... and
2) I'm puzzled about how she says, at the end, happiness even comes to the inanimate objects she names... what do you think?

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

Scout is so funny! Not being a huge poetry person I have to say though I loved this one. I like her images and especially how happiness goes out door to door...

I'll have to think some more on the inanimate objects part.

mompriest said...

actually I like that she names even the "inanimate" recieve God's happiness. I love to think that a rock, apparently inanimate to me, but perhaps "alive" with all kinds of micro-organisms, is a recipient of God's happiness.

And, since it is God's happiness there are all kinds of possibiities

Marsha said...


Love the picture and the poem. I'm left with the impression that the writer is telling us that happiness is there for the taking, regardless of our circumstances and will even find us if we allow it.

I'm sending you the code to indent text on your blog posts in an email.

DogBlogger said...

Cub's didn't go away completely until she was about four. Just when I thought it would stay...

I love the poem, too, and all the discussion it's sparked! I just seem to be more geared toward dog mama than English major today, though they're both in me.

Diane said...

I like your interp. of the inanimate objects... not outside of god's grace, although she doesn't use the word grace...but it really stretched my world...

Diane said...

oh, dogblogger, do both of Cub's ears stick up straight now?

Rowan The Dog said...

Dear Scout,

You really look pretty in that swell photo. Is that your guardian with you? It looks like she must really love you quite a lot. Your ears are very nice but still not as big as mine. Mine are a gigantic which is a human word meaning "the best!"

Sometimes my guardian reads poetry to me. I like it.

Lindy said that even rocks might be alive because, like us dogs, humans don't know everything either. Sometimes they act like they do, always giving commands: SIT. STAY. and doing stuff like that. But, they really don't know much more than we do.

Lindy thinks that the poem is saying something like in Matthew 5 where it is talking about rain. Lindy thinks that the poem is saying that happiness happens. Sometimes it happens to us, sometimes to someone else, sometimes to a stone, or out in the ocean where only God and the angels can dance in it. Like the bluebird of happiness it flits and flies wherever it will.

That's what my human thinks anyway. For me, I just like to enjoy the sound of the pretty words.



Gannet Girl said...

That Scout is a lot bigger than I thought she was.

When you were little, didn't you imagine inanimate objects as being happy or sad? Especially your stuffed animals? There is a wonderful ee cummings poem that I think of every year as I discard the Christmas tree:

little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

All to say: humans responding to inanimate objects as if they have feelings makes complete sense to me.

Diane said...

yep, the stuffed animals...

Diane said...

Rowan, the girl in the picture is not my guardian, but someone my guardian is very fond of. (my guardian is somewhat older than that.)

Diane said...

anyway, everyone, you can see why I love this poem, full of ordinary life and yet a little mysterious too.

she really has a way of capturing both happiness and the gloom/oppression that precedes it.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful imagery..I especially like the part about the boulder, since it resonates with my state of being these days. I guess there's hope :)

Diane said...

oh, and by the way gannet girl, that is a great eecummings poem that I didn't know.

revabi said...

wow, awesome poem.

I like you pictue too. I love your dogs.

Barbara B. said...

wow, great picture, great poem, and lots of great comments!

Presbyterian Gal said...

I love this poem. Such a lovely dance to it!

I once wrote, with a friend, a story about a living rock called "Whispering Stone". It was a love story. And the rock was happy.

I recall Donovan's song that is now so wrongly used in a cereal commercial "Happiness runs in a circular motion, floats like a little boat upon the sea. All of our souls are deeper than you can see. You can have everything if you let yourself be."

Grace thing said...

Beautiful poem, Diane. I love this poem-sharing in blogs that's been happening. I like the happiness coming to inanimate objects...just reminds me of the interconectedness of everything. This poem give me hope. A good reminder of Love constantly following us and seeking us out and to be found in the most unlikely moments and places.

mompriest said...

"to the wineglass weary of holding wine." happiness coming that which is weary of doing what it was "created" to do. happiness coming in the midst of burnout? I realize this is another "inanimate" object, but the metaphor is intriging (ok, can't spell)...being filled with happiness when the substance that usually fills has become a burden?

Diane said...

yes, but maybe the person drank the wine, and it made them happy, and that made the wineglass happy... after all, just HOLDING wine is not enough

mompriest said...

ahh, yes. drinking the wine would indeed, I think, make the wineglass happy. Drinking a nice glass of good wine often has that affect on me! (And I happen to really like wine glasses, sometimes I think I drink wine just for the glass...or rather I choose where I drink that wine for the glass it is served in....)