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 have 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 basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of the pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea...
~ Jane Kenyon
Occasionally, not very often, I come across a poem I love, but find myself wishing the final line or lines had either been slightly changed or not occurred at all. I don't pretend to know how every poem should end, or, for that matter, how any poem should end, but sometimes a line will speak to me more than the final line and I'll wish the poet had stopped there. And don't we all respond to what we read or hear from our own perceptions, our own feelings? I do hope I've not been out of order those few times my heart has stopped at a particular place, closing the poem prematurely. Such is the case with the above poem. I found myself drifting away with the thought of "to rain falling on the open sea...."
Miss Kenyon has passed from this world. But, if the veil between the seen and the unseen is as thin as it often feels to me, I'd like to think she wouldn't mind my mental omission of the last line. Not that she's giving it any thought. I'm left wondering, though, was she referring to herself in the last line, to her body, her life in which she had found a measure of happiness despite years of dealing with depression? I don't know. But that certainly lends itself to more than one reading, and it is her poem, after all. So, when you read it again, and I hope you do, please add her closing line:
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
Painting: "Saudade," by Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior (1850-1899), a Brazilian realist, and the wiki entry for "Saudade," which I found interesting. It provided the title for this post: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudade
For more information on Jane Kenyon: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Kenyon