I love it when a work of literature captures a feeling of mine that is so specific yet so hard to name, particularly when it involves glimpses of the transcendent. I grew up in a more urban environment than the narrator of the poem below, so for me, that distinct blend of nostalgia, longing, and mystery often arose when I looked out of my apartment window at dusk, as the outlines of high-rises turned lavender and misty on the horizon.
The text below is reprinted by permission from American Life in Poetry , a project of The Poetry Foundation.
American Life in Poetry: Column 278
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
Peter Everwine is a California poet whose work I have admired for almost as long as I have been writing. Here he beautifully captures a quiet moment of reflection.
Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
for the first time a loon’s sudden wail
drifting across that remote lake—
a loneliness like no other,
though what I heard as inconsolable
may have been only the sound of something
untamed and nameless
singing itself to the wilderness around it
and to us until we slept. And thinking of my father
and of good companions gone
into oblivion, I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poems is From the Meadow: Selected and New Poems, Pitt Poetry Series, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Reprinted from Ploughshares, Vol. 34, no. 1, Spring 2008, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.