Jane Kenyon (May 23, 1947 – April 22, 1995)
A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority.
Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils.
Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”
Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.
Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.
The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?
A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.
The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.
Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.