Happiness

Jane Kenyon

 
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 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 basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
       It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
 
From The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices From the Robert Frost Place. Used with permission of CavanKerry Press.

Poems by This Author

Afternoon at MacDowell by Jane Kenyon
On a windy summer day the well-dressed
Alone for a Week by Jane Kenyon
I washed a load of clothes
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina by Jane Kenyon
A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks by Jane Kenyon
I am the blossom pressed in a book,
Christmas Away from Home by Jane Kenyon
Her sickness brought me to Connecticut
Dutch Interiors by Jane Kenyon
Christ has been done to death
Having it Out with Melancholy by Jane Kenyon
When I was born, you waited
Heavy Summer Rain by Jane Kenyon
The grasses in the field have toppled
Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
Man Eating by Jane Kenyon
The man at the table across from mine
Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter, 1993 by Jane Kenyon
On the domed ceiling God
Notes from the Other Side by Jane Kenyon
I divested myself of despair
Otherwise by Jane Kenyon
I got out of bed
Portrait of a Figure Near Water by Jane Kenyon
Rebuked, she turned and ran
Private Beach by Jane Kenyon
It is always the dispossessed
Taking Down the Tree by Jane Kenyon
The Suitor by Jane Kenyon
We lie back to back. Curtains
Thinking of Madame Bovary by Jane Kenyon
The first hot April day the granite step
Three Songs at the End of Summer by Jane Kenyon
A second crop of hay lies cut
Twilight: After Haying by Jane Kenyon
Yes, long shadows go out
What Came to Me by Jane Kenyon
I took the last


Further Reading

Poems about Happiness
Happily [excerpt]
by Lyn Hejinian
Afternoon on a Hill
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Compassion IV
by Noelle Kocot
Plural Happiness
by David Rivard
The Happiness
by Jack Hirschman
The Place Where in the End / We Find Our Happiness
by Anne Boyer
The Study of Happiness
by Kenneth Koch