For all that free verse posits throwing off the chains of form, poetry is by its very nature structured. A poem is the poet’s way of making sense of her world, of creating a container that both describes and brings forth an emotion. And because the work is brief, a distillation of all that is both internal and external, poetry is often a way to share experience at events such as weddings and funerals, convocations and dedications.
Perhaps it is just that sense-making out of what can feel profoundly nonsensical that drives the poet to write frequently about two universal subjects – loss and love. If Wordsworth was right about poetry being “the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility,” why then are we so often driven to write when we aren’t tranquil? I like to think it is our heart trying to make its way out of a thicket, so that we can find peace and know more assuredly what we know. For in upheaval, all that we once took for granted is dashed to the floor.
This weekend, a member of our community passed away, a gifted woman, an artist, and a generous soul. It wasn’t a complete surprise – she had been ill, but seemed to be healing. So when I learned of her death in Sunday’s slow dawn, I was caught off guard and could only read over the words several times trying to make sense of them, disbelieving and suddenly cold.
At the time, I thought of the Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come,” a poem that rests its warm hand upon us. Yet all that day and today, I sought more words to wrap around myself. I need those containers in which to rest my emotions, stopping places along the road that we all traverse. In poetry I feel connected with others that have gone before me, who have stood looking out where I am now and moved along leaving trail markers to follow.
Let Evening Come
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.