Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

This poem is one I wrote maybe a decade ago, but it still expresses something important to me about the beauty, peace, and comfort of this time of year.

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After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

____________________

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Five Reasons to Love the Long Nights of Winter

After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening

To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap

To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses

To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun

To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all

____________________

Sorted Those

Went through the clothes draped
over the chair, you know,
the in-between,
the ones you’re not sure
if you should wear
one more time –
the not worthy
to be hung as clean, the not dirty
enough to be tossed
in the laundry.

Went through the letters saved
in the box, you know,
the bittersweet,
the ones you’re not sure
if you should save
to poke again at that not-yet-
healed memory, the not so foolish
as to make you hang your head,
but sharp enough to squeeze your heart.

Went through the conversations bottled
in my mind, the ones where you said
this and I said
something reasonable, I must have
you know, I’m not sure
why it still hangs
in the air between us, a clean
break not permitted
and I can still be tossed
to the ground by desperate sorrow.

(The first stanza of this poem was ‘found’: it is a note written by my friend Dove about some tidying she did. I found it irresistibly poignant and compelling to riff upon.)

The Travelling Onion

To the Muses, with love, 2005

“And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.”* The onion does
what it does. We each must live this way.
The small tears you have caused me
the days of laughter
they are of my own making
yet they are yours; you must love the way
you live your life. You must love your own
rich juices, your protective skin, the layers
of your heart revealing
chamber after secret chamber,
the floating centre. You must love
the way your roots have nourished you
and clung to dirt to keep you honest.
Remember your beginnings.
Do not ask me to believe
you are anyone but yourself.

*Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Travelling Onion”, from Yellow Glove, 1986.

A poem written under the influence of Billy Collins*

Sitting on the sofa, staring at the perfect flames;
the two cats, having argued over who gets the lap and who
the haunch, now settled in their places;
I’m thinking about a perfect life, which is what this looks like.

Rain drums on the roof and falls in waves from that one place
where the eave is blocked with leaves. I think about the sheep
in the next-door field, and how their wool might smell,
soaked and muddy. Not shorn and washed, combed and spun and dyed,
and in my hands with circular needles
and a simple scarf pattern;
but live and wiry, doing its job: temperature-moderator, dirt-catcher,
bramble-intervenor.

I think of you, and what it means that you are sitting there,
and the scarf in my hands is a gift for you, and the fire
in the hearth is one you laid and lit.
I’m thinking about a perfect life, which is what this looks like.

*Billy Collins is a contemporary American poet, Poet Laureate of the US 2001-2003. I was recently introduced to his work by the enthusiasm of my friends Dove and Lorri, and I am grateful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Collins