Happiness

I have no good reason to be happy tonight.
It’s raining again — or still, if you prefer.
I’m tired from an interrupted night of sleep, and a long, busy day.
My sweetheart is stuck in Detroit when he should be here.
I’m at the leading edge of a busy week and my house isn’t clean.

And still, all is well.

I sat down here and felt a small kernel of happiness well up inside of me, unexpected and maybe undeserved after all my grousing today about the weather and my to-do list. But I’ll take it anyway.

I’ve been thinking about Jane Kenyon all day, because it’s her birthday, and I love her poems, and I wish she were still alive to write new ones.

And I’m grateful she wrote this one, as if just for me, this night.

Happiness

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.

–Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems

3 thoughts on “Happiness

  1. Thank you for sharing the wonderful poem. It is pouring rain here in Missoula as well. I know what you and Jane mean about happiness – sometimes it even hits me when I’m angry or upset and then I don’t know what to do about it 🙂

    • I know exactly what you mean! Glad you liked the poem. Hope you’re getting some sunshine. Today is our first (and only?) clear day in the forecast, so I’m getting the hay delivered today.

  2. Between you and me, I am also so over this rainy spring. Here in Indiana I do believe it must have rained every single day at least a little the entire month. It has so few days to redeem itself before June takes over. I hope June will be singing a different tune, as it were.

    Loved the poem. Do you remember this one from childhood days of poem recitation for English classes?

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Rainy Day:

    The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
    It rains, and the wind is never weary;
    The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
    But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
    And the day is dark and dreary.

    My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
    It rains, and the wind is never weary;
    My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
    But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
    And the days are dark and dreary.

    Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
    Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
    Thy fate is the common fate of all,
    Into each life some rain must fall,
    Some days must be dark and dreary.

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