Christian Poems XIV: Kenyon, Spires, and Donne

Sunset with road.
Sunset, toward west, but road may traveled east or west. Which way to go? Source:

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

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 sand 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.

In The Best American Poetry 1991.  Mark Strand, editor; David Lehman, series editor (Collier Books 1991, p 119).  From Kenyon’s 1990 book of the same title (Graywolf Press 1990).


Good Friday.  Driving Westward.

by Elizabeth Spires

See John Donne’s poem, below, to which this poem gives a secular and/or “dark day of the soul” contrast (from note on the poem by Spires; see source, page 249).

 . . . being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesse, so our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
— John Donne

The rain.  Rain that will not end.
The daily errands.  Daily bread.
No letting up.  No pause
as I steer blindly, circling
the great city.  City of tears and blood.
I woke this morning to the ringing phone.
To the last days of the twentieth century.
HelloHello.  But the line was dead.
The phone in my hand heavy.
My mind whirling.  Numb.  Taken
against my will closer to oblivion.
At the mall, a man in rags begging
for a coin.  My God, only a coin!
I turned my back.  Turned back.
But he was gone.  Daily, I turn my back.
The suffering of others more and more
like television.  Do I drive East?  West?
Do I suffer?  Shall anger be divine?
Uncorrected, I steer.  Swerve
on a slick patch.  Lose control.
The rain letting up now.  Clouds torn.
The setting sun a brilliant bloody globe.
As if a nailed hand had violently
raked the sky.  And then withdrawn.
Past anger or mercy.  Leaving me
more distanced.  Alone.  Driving
this endless road with all the others.
Night and night’s Eternity coming on.

In The Best American Poetry 1992. Charles Simic, editor; David Lehman, series editor (Collier Books 1992, p 178-179).  Originally published in The New Criterion.


Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward

by John Donne

Let man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motions, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey,
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirled by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west
This day, when my soul’s form bends towards the east.
There I should see a sun, by rising, set,
And by that setting endless day beget:
But that Christ on this cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad I do not see
That spectacle, of too much weight for me.
Who sees God’s face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink;
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands which span the poles,
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?

Could I behold that endless height which is
Zenith to us, and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? Or that blood which is
The seat of all our souls, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God, for His apparel, ragg’d and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
Upon His miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was God’s partner here, and furnished thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransomed us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look’st towards me,
0 Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
I turn my back to Thee but to receive
Corrections, till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
0 think me worth Thine anger; punish me;
Burn off my rusts and my deformity’,
Restore Thine image so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou may’st know me, and I’ll turn my face.

This version is from an online pdf source,


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