Summer Music by May Sarton

Summer is all a green air—
From the brilliant lawn, sopranos
Through murmuring hedges
Accompanied by some poplars;
In fields of wheat, surprises;
Through faraway pastures, flows
To the horizon’s blues
In slow decrescendos.

Summer is all a green sound—
Rippling in the foreground
To that soft applause,
The foam of Queen Anne’s lace.
Green, green in the ear
Is all we care to hear—
Until a field suddenly flashes
The singing with so sharp
A yellow that it crashes
Loud cymbals in the ear,
Minor has turned to major
As summer, lulling and so mild,
Goes golden-buttercup-wild.

Leaves Before the Wind

We have walked, looked at the actual trees:
The chestnut leaves wide-open like a hand,
The beech leaves bronzing under every breeze,
We have felt flowing through our knees
As if we were the wind.

We have sat silent when two horses came,
Jangling their harness, to mow the long grass.
We have sat long and never found a name
For this suspension in the heart of flame
That does not pass.

We have said nothing; we have parted often,
Not looking back, as if departure took
An absolute of will–once not again
(But this is each day’s feat, as when
The heart first shook).

Where fervor opens every instant so,
There is no instant that is not a curve,
And we are always coming as we go;
We lean toward the meeting that will show
Love’s very nerve.

And so exposed (O leaves before the wind!)
We bear this flowing fire, forever free,
And learn through devious paths to find
The whole, the center, and perhaps unbind
The mystery

Where there are no roots, only fervent leaves,
Nourished on meditations and the air,
Where all that comes is also all that leaves,
And every hope compassionately lives
Close to despair.

May Sarton

When a Woman Feels Alone

When a woman feels alone, when the room
is full of daemons,” the Nootka tribe
Tells us, ‘The Old Woman will be there.”
She has come to me over three thousand miles
And what does she have to tell me, troubled
“by phantoms in the night”?
Is she really here?
What is the saving word from so deep in the past.
From as deep as the ancient root of the redwood,
From as deep as the primal bed of the ocean,
From as deep as a woman’s heart sprung open
Again through a hard birth or a hard death?
Here under the shock of love, I am open
To you, Primal spirit, one with rock and wave,
One with survivors of flood and fire,
Who have rebuilt their homes a million times,
Who have lost their children and borne them again.
The words I hear are strength, laughter, endurance.
Old Woman I meet you deep inside myself.
There in the rootbed of fertility,
World without end, as the legend tells it.
Under the words you are my silence.

May Sarton

the Work of Happiness by May Sarton

 

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I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.
So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall—
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical.
For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

Fruit of Loneliness

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Now for a little I have fed on loneliness
As on some strange fruit from a frost-touched vine—
Persimmon in its yellow comeliness,
Or pomegranate-juice color of wine,
The pucker-mouth crab apple, or late plum—
On fruit of loneliness have I been fed.
But now after short absence I am come
Back from felicity to the wine and bread.
For, being mortal, this luxurious heart
Would starve for you, my dear, I must admit,
If it were held another hour apart
From that food which alone can comfort it—
I am come home to you, for at the end
I find I cannot live without you, friend.

May Sarton