Questions Before Dark – Jeanne Lohmann

Day ends, and before sleep
when the sky dies down, consider
your altered state: has this day
changed you? Are the corners
sharper or rounded off? Did you
live with death? Make decisions
that quieted? Find one clear word
that fit? At the sun’s midpoint
did you notice a pitch of absence,
bewilderment that invites
the possible? What did you learn
from things you dropped and picked up
and dropped again? Did you set a straw
parallel to the river, let the flow
carry you downstream?
I do appreciate poems that ask questions, especially ones that cannot be answered simply  but remain in my mind to challenge me, to inform my days, and especially now at the beginning of a new year. I hope you may find a question or two here that is meaningful to you, learning, as Rilke says, ‘to love the questions‘.
Has this day changed you? She asks us to consider this at day’s end and of course how could we not be altered, though it may not always seem so.
I love this one: Are the corners sharper or rounded off? When I am at peace with myself, I can feel the roundedness; sharper when I am feeling anxious.
Did you live with death? I do try to remember every day that I’m going to die; that death is certain though the time of death uncertain.
Make decisions that quieted? Sometimes yes, again those rounded off corners in my mind, unremarkable decisions in the course of an ordinary day that settle me.
Find one clear word that fit? Well, words are important to me so I give them a lot of thought and although I may not always find ones that fit, it gives me pleasure to search for them.
A pitch of absence, bewilderment that invites the possible? Ah yes, the uncertainty I often struggle with even though it holds possibilities unforeseen.
What did you learn from things you dropped and picked up and dropped again? I’m thinking here of things I learn, then forget, then relearn, sometimes repeating this many times until it becomes a new knowledge.
Did you set a straw parallel to the river, let the flow carry you downstream? This is meaningful to me as I hold the intention at the start of this year to let my days unfurl rather than rushing through them. I’m reminded of John O’Donohue’s succinctly eloquent poem: I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. Yup, like that.

10 thoughts on “Questions Before Dark – Jeanne Lohmann

  1. Oh, thank you for this, Jan. This is one that I’m going to print and refer to every now and then. Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    – Oscar Wilde.

    >

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  2. Always evocative poems and provoking questions to ponder, Jan. This last few days I’ve been going to sleep and waking up stewing about a conversation I had with a black woman I know only a little that had pieces that landed badly with both of us. I keep picking it up, turning it over, putting it down. How the words didn’t fit, how decisions don’t quiet me, how I set the straw in the river and it just spins. I too so want to live as the river flows and yet time and again I get caught in the eddies. This poem took me to one by Naomi Shihab Nye called Fresh in which she says: “To lift something/you already had/and set it down in/a new place./Awakened eye/seeing freshly.” I woke again this morning wondering what I might need to say to clean up this conversation, if anything, and picking it up again in my meditations I found myself setting it down in a new place, my eyes seeing freshly something that was cloudy before. I always love how poems can help frame the questions in ways that we can hear them more deeply or more clearly. Thank you for this one, dear friend.

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  3. dear, dear Wendy, you take these questions, these poems and see with an ‘awakened eye’, such an inspiration to us all. Thank you for making these questions more tangible, the poem even more real. xoxox

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  4. Dear Jan – what a powerful poem you’ve introduced me to, with its compelling questions. Pondering these questions thoughtfully sounds like a worthy practice. Thank you! Love – Mary Lou

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