One of my favorite poems is “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon.  It begins

“I got out of bed

on two strong legs.

It might have been



For the complete poem, please go to http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/050.html.

“Otherwise” first appeared in Harvard Magazine and was then published in 1993 in Constance.  Jane Kenyon was born in 1947, and she died in 1995 after a fifteen-month battle with leukemia.  This poem also appears in Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, as well as in her Collected Poems.

twinkling leaves

I hear the rain, and then I don’t.  I look out the window to see the bright green end-of-summer leaves twinkling, like stars, better than stars.  I look to the sky for an explanation.  The drops of rain are carefully spaced apart, and the sun is shining.  The drops hitting each leaf cause the movement.  The sun supplies the light.  Twinkling leaves.  It lasts maybe sixty seconds.  I try not to blink.


Jane Kenyon writes:

The grass resolves to grow again,

receiving the rain to that end,

but my disordered soul thirsts

after something it cannot name.


from “August Rain, after Haying”

Jane Kenyon Collected Poems

specious and torpid

I’m a writer.  A writer who hasn’t yet published her novel.  And I had a dream.  Not I have a dream–which of course I do, to publish a novel.  But I had a dream.  In my dream, a literary agent told me my writing wasn’t good because it was specious.

When I woke up this morning, at first I didn’t remember the dream.  I went into my study just like I do every morning.  I began to read “The Painters,” a poem by Jane Kenyon–recently I’ve been starting my morning of writing by reading a poem–and she used the word torpid.  The flies were torpid.  I couldn’t remember exactly what that meant. 

And that’s when I remembered the dream.  And the word specious.  I couldn’t look it up fast enough.  Sure, I’d heard it before, but I had no idea what it meant.  Deceptive.  More precisely, “having a false look of truth or genuineness.”

Is there any way this could possibly be a good thing?