Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Peaches

Here are three poems I especially like, the work of what anyone would describe as a very diverse trio of poets, but at the same time poetry that touches upon the human experience in the deepest sense. The poems speak so clearly for themselves, I would feel uncomfortable commenting upon any of the three in a pretense of interpretation or analysis. Most might agree that the written lines say it all.

Li-Young Lee is an American poet, though he was born in Jakarta of Chinese parents. He has published four collections of poetry, the most recent in 2008. The poem below comes from his 1986 collection, Rose.

FROM BLOSSOMS” by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes

this brown paper bag of peaches

we bought from the boy

at the bend in the road where we turned toward

signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,

from sweet fellowship in the bins,

comes nectar at the roadside, succulent

peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,

comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,

to carry within us an orchard, to eat

not only the skin, but the shade,

not only the sugar, but the days, to hold

the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into

the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Edna St Vincent Millay is a name already familiar to many lovers of poetry, and was the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Her life and her love affairs were often fodder for scandal, and her poetry unlike anything being written by either men or women of her day. The sonnet below is from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems (1923). It can also be found here.

SONNET XLIII” by Edna St Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain

Under my head till morning; but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

Upon the glass and listen for reply,

And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain

For unremembered lads that not again

Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,

Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,

Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:

I cannot say what loves have come and gone,

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more.

Wendell Berry has published fiction, non-fiction, essays and poetry in volumes too numerous to mention. He was born in Kentucky in 1934. The poem below comes from his 1985 collection, The Collected Poems.


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

For those readers who would like to have these poems in one volume, I recommend what I believe is an excellent collection of poems selected and compiled by Garrison Keillor and called simply, Good Poems.


  1. Really nice selection. And for the majority of folks who run for the hills at the thought of reading poetry, these examples are accessible and call up images anyone can conjure and apply to themselves.

    Ain't grand writing the greatest thing in the world?

  2. I didn't know there was a whole book of them. Thanks!


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America