Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Church Fair

Jane Kenyon

Who knows what I might find
on tables under the maple trees—
perhaps a saucer in Aunt Lois's china pattern
to replace the one I broke
the summer I was thirteen, and visiting
for a week. Never in all these years
have I thought of it without
a warm surge of embarrassment.

I'll go through the closets and cupboards
to find things for the auction.
I'll bake a peach pie for the food table,
and rolls for the supper,
Grandma Kenyon's recipe, which came down to me
along with her legs and her brooding disposition.
"Mrs. Kenyon," the doctor used to tell her,
you are simply killing yourself with work."
This she repeated often, with keen satisfaction.

She lived to be a hundred and three,
surviving all her children,
including the one so sickly at birth
that she had to carry him everywhere on a pillow
for the first four months. Father
suffered from a weak chest — bronchitis,
pneumonias, and pleurisy — and early on
books and music became his joy.

Surely these clothes are from another life—
not my own. I'll drop them off on the way
to town. I'm getting the peaches
today, so they'll be ripe by Saturday.

 "Church Fair" by Jane Kenyon, from  - Let Evening Come. © Graywolf Press, 1990. Reprinted with permission.

Jane Kenyon, born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (1947). She married fellow poet Donald Hall, whom she met as a student at the University of Michigan, where he was a professor. They lived in his family farmhouse in New Hampshire. Hall wrote: "[W]e got up early in the morning. I brought Jane coffee in bed. She walked the dog as I started writing, then climbed the stairs to work at her own desk on her own poems. We had lunch. We lay down together. We rose and worked at secondary things. I read aloud to Jane; we played scoreless ping-pong; we read the mail; we worked again. We ate supper, talked, read books sitting across from each other in the living room, and went to sleep. If we were lucky the phone didn't ring all day. In January Jane dreamed of flowers, planning expansion and refinement of the garden. From late March into October she spent hours digging, applying fifty-year-old Holstein manure from under the barn, planting, transplanting, and weeding."
She published only four books of poetry before she died from leukemia at the age of 47. She was the state poet of New Hampshire at the time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved this poem as soon as I heard Garrison recite it yesterday. I have attended & worked on many church fairs and thus can relate to the subject. Also, I come from NH, where Jane Kenyon lived & where she was Poet Laureate at the time of her death.