Friday, September 5, 2008

Poetry Friday: Jane Kenyon's Happiness

After posting yesterday about This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, I wanted a poem today to compliment the themes of that book.

I found one in Jane Kenyon's Happiness, which begins:

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 continues with this wry image:

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.

Go read the whole poem.
I think she's beautifully accurate in saying that we do forgive happiness for its absence, the very minute it shows up again.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup today.


  1. Thanks for some Jane Kenyon on a cloudy Friday morning. I like her poetry. I'm going to read and savor this when I get back home in a while here. I'm glad to know Jane'll be waiting.

  2. I love this poem; it describes such an ephemeral thing so beautifully.

    Isn't it just the nature of the human psyche that we expect happiness to be gone, and the unmerciful bleakness to sort of be the family with whom we live?!

    What strange creatures we are.

    Happy Friday.

  3. What a gorgeous poem. I'm going to savor it all day.

  4. That Jane Kenyon really knew her way around a poem. Lovely.

  5. I'm trying to think of a time when happiness really left me. Up and gone. Nowhere to be found. Those times are rare. Like the time the previous cat snuck into the upstairs closet that connected our half of the double to our neighbors', fell through their kitchen ceiling panels, and hid under their bed.

    No, I think happiness is more like the current cat, who has a plethora of fur between his toes, which allows him to be right there in the room with you one minute and gone the next without a sound. Not gone-gone, but quite disappeared from view, and back as soon as he's ready but not a minute sooner.

  6. I love this poem. And I just LOVE what Mary Lee has to say in response. I sure hope she's right: I need to catch the happiness cat!

  7. I pretty much love everything Jane Kenyon ever wrote, but this one especially keenly. I think it's so poignant when paired with Kenyon's own truth as a depressive. Still, even then, happiness just shows up...


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