What the Day Gives by Jeanne Lohmann

Suddenly, sun. Over my shoulder
in the middle of gray November
what I hoped to do comes back,
Across the street the fiery trees
hold onto their leaves,
red and gold in the final months
of this unfinished year,
they offer blazing riddles.

In the frozen fields of my life
there are no shortcuts to spring,
but stories of great birds in migration
carrying small ones on their backs,
predators flying next to warblers
they would, in a different season, eat.

Stunned by the astonishing mix in this uneasy world
that plunges in a single day from despair
to hope and back again, I commend my life
to Ruskin’s most difficult duty of delight,
and to that most beautiful form of courage,
to be happy.

What the Day Gives

This poem just caught my attention and felt so perfect even though November is now over. You may remember this poet from an earlier post about three years ago: https://janicefalls.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/questions-before-dark-jeanne-lohmann/. Just the opening two words: Suddenly, sun, on these grey November days, there it is over your shoulder. Not so many fiery trees left now in this part of the world but we certainly had the blazing riddles of their autumn colours in the past couple of months of this unfinished year.

What to make of the next stanza – the frozen fields of my life, will of course be different for each of us as we make our way to spring through life’s difficulties, no shortcuts. Lohmann paints a vivid picture of migrating birds carrying small ones on their backs, how we protect the smaller, more vulnerable of our own flock. And how, in a different season, predator and prey may travel together.

Can you relate to how in this uneasy world, we can swing from despair / to hope and back again ? So she offers us an antidote, a salve for this seesaw of emotions, Ruskin’s most difficult duty of delight. In case you were wondering, as I did, about this reference, I explored and found that the 19th century poet John Ruskin wrote of delight as a responsibility.

Perhaps the best line for me is the last: that most beautiful form of courage, / to be happy. Lohmann recommends to the reader to delight in all of life and through courage, to find happiness, a proposal as relevant in the 21st century as the 19th. This is what the day gives us, every day.

13 thoughts on “What the Day Gives by Jeanne Lohmann

  1. I am painting the inside of my house orange and yellow downstairs and light gray with orange doors upstairs. The brightness is a “suddenly sun” as the poem mentions. After I will plug in my sun lamp and see how that goes.


  2. Oh Jan!! Yes, the last line was truth bumps on steroids – the courage to be happy – please give me a major dose of that :O) – thanks for this wonderful poem to start the day xo


  3. Gorgeous poem, Jan. I love its realness and its challenge to be happy in the midst of unease. To hold these paradoxes in one’s heart! Thank you. xoxo


  4. What an extraordinary poem. I wish you could know how my heart jumps up with a little happiness whenever heart poems shows up in my email. Thank you for sharing your gift the choosing such lovely poems with all of us.


  5. I’ve just found this site today, via link from Phyllis Cole-Dai’s Daily Boost email. This is such a lovely offering, this poem and this site. Poems are indeed medicine. I have subscribed 🙂
    Thank you


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