Jan 13 – Jane Kenyon “Happiness . . . the way it turns up like a prodigal. . . “

Monday, January 13 – Jane Kenyon – “There’s just no accounting for happiness”

I’d not met Jane Kenyon until David Grubin caught my attention with her “Happiness” in an email back on a February 2017  morning.   Kenyon gets it about understated, even outrageous, joy emerging from tough work-a-day realities.  She reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” and W. H. Auden’s “Song.”  It happens that during these days of angry news, I’ve been looking for subtle poems that show us readers playful delight that has paid its dues in grief but are not locked down there.

In severe and dangerous times, strong poetry is more important than in softer times.  Kenyon makes space for both in “Happiness.”  She died young, from leukemia;  her eye for joy stays in our midst.

“Monday, Monday”  – –   Best to read out loud, with pauses.

Have a blest day.

john sj

Sunrise after wind & heavy snow on Pine Ridge   –  March 17, 2019


Today’s Post:   “Happiness”

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 from 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 basketmaker,
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.


Jane Kenyon (b. 1947 – d. 1995 )

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