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Tardy Solstice

It seems I’m tardy with many things these days. My only excuse is the daily occurrence of real life, joyous and challenging as it may be. Saturday was the Summer Solstice, the “first day” of summer, although our already humid 90 degree temperatures in Mississippi over the last week said it was at least a little overdue. Our Saturday was spent enjoying 2009’s longest day at my parent’s home. After yummy food and racing cars and stickered airplanes and much drooling and searching for “flint” rocks (ones I’ve yet to learn how to distinguish) and late afternoon naps and shouting and extra time with Daddy, it was 11:30pm before my three gifts could be coaxed to embrace the night, long after the sun had given up it’s day of “triumph.” Earlier in the week, a friend encouraged me to stare at everyone I love a little more closely these days in light of the unexpected brevity of life. I was decidedly blessed to take her up on the challenge the few extra daylight moments.

I came across a wonderful program called American Life in Poetry, which highlights modern poetry selections with notes from former U.S. Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser. Our local Arts Council has used it in their newsletter (which I design) for years. I’ve only recently paid closer attention and realized that the weekly offering is made available for free publication. A recent column was very apropos in beautifully articulating the push and pull of day and night this time of year.

American Life in Poetry: Column 220

One of the privileges of being U.S. Poet Laureate was to choose two poets each year to receive a $10,000 fellowship, funded by the Witter Bynner Foundation. Joseph Stroud, who lives in California, was one of my choices. This poem is representative of his clear-eyed, imaginative poetry.

Night in Day

The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c)2001 by Coleman Barks, from his most recent book of poems, “Winter Sky: New and Selected Poems, 1968-2008,” University of Georgia Press, 2008, and reprinted by permission of Coleman Barks and the publisher. Introduction copyright (c)2009 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.

Lovely. I think I’ll search out more of Mr. Stroud’s work. One caveat: Light seems just as unwilling to give up it’s hold on our hearts. On Wednesday, the boys and Hub were out chasing “lightening bugs” in the guise of doing chores for Miss Belle (the beagle). Upon their return, all sweaty and giggling, they informed me they had caught two. Only, one “COULD NOT turn his light off.”

Much like the lights of my life.

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