A Poem For Sunday

by Alice Quinn


“The Oxen” by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928):

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

(From Christmas Poems, copyright (symbol) 2008 New Directions Publishing Corporation. Image: Piero della Francesca’s unfinished painting of the Nativity Scene, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Poem For Saturday

by Alice Quinn


“The Magi” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939):

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

(From Christmas Poems © 2008 New Directions Publishing Corporation. Image: James Tissot’s “The Magi Journeying,” circa 1890, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Poem For Friday

by Alice Quinn


“A Morning” by Mark Strand (1934-2014):

I have carried it with me each day: that morning I took
my uncle’s boat from the brown water cove
and headed for Mosher Island.
Small waves splashed against the hull
and the hollow creak of oarlock and oar
rose into the woods of black pine crusted with lichen.
I moved like a dark star, drifting over the drowned
other half of the world until, by a distant prompting,
I looked over the gunwale and saw beneath the surface
a luminous room, a light-filled grave, saw for the first time
the one clear place given to us when we are alone.

The Dish looked back at Strand’s life and work after his recent death here.

(From Selected Poems by Mark Strand © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Photo of a small boat off of Prince Edward Island, where Strand was born, by Angus MacAskill)

A Poem For Thursday

by Alice Quinn


“The Afternoon According to Saint Matthew” by Mary Ruefle:

There’s the black truck
with orange flames
on its hood. There’s the girl
in the pink pajamas. There’s her sister
in a bumblebee suit.
They are playing with dirt.
When they find bugs
they scream
but no one hears them.
Their minds are growing though.
In the late afternoon light
they scoop the dirt into tin cans
so they can bury it
in the backyard.
I think we have a case
of two women grinding at the mill—
one will be taken and one
will be left,
but it’s way too early
to tell.

(From Trances of the Blast © 2013 by Mary Ruefle. Used by permission of Wave Books. Photo by David Poe)

A Poem For Sunday

by Alice Quinn


“Julia Tutwiler State Prison for Women” by Andrew Hudgins:

On the prison’s tramped-hard Alabama clay
two green-clad women walk, hold hands,
and swing their arms as though they’ll laugh,
meander at their common whim, and not
be forced to make a quarter turn each time
they reach a corner of the fence. Though they
can’t really be as gentle as they seem
perhaps they’re better lovers for their crimes,
the times they didn’t think before acting—
or thought, and said to hell with the consequences.
Most are here for crimes of passion.
They’ve killed for jealousy, anger, love,
and now they sleep a lot. Who else
is dangerous for love—for love
or hate or anything? Who else would risk
a ten-year walk inside the fenced in edge
of a field stripped clean of soybeans or wheat?
Skimming in from the west and pounding hard
across the scoured land, a summer rain
raises puffs of dust with its first huge drops.
It envelopes the lingering women. They hesitate,
then race, hand in hand, for shelter, laughing.

(From Saints and Strangers by Andrew Hudgins. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Hudgins. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. The poem also can be found in Poems of the American South, Everyman Pocket Poets. Photo by Eugen Anghel)

A Poem For Saturday

by Alice Quinn


For many years, LuAnn Walther, editorial director of Vintage Books, Anchor Books, and Everyman’s Library has orchestrated one of the greatest poetry publishing enterprises in America, bringing out nearly one hundred anthologies in the Everyman Pocket Poets series, including single-author titles such as superb selections of the work of Emily Bronte and W.H. Auden and themed anthologies ranging from Lullabies and Poems for Children and Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Poems About Food and Drink to Marriage Poems, Jazz Poems, Poems of the Sea, and Love Speaks Its Name: Gay and Lesbian Love Poems.

The newest in this enchanting set of books is Poems of the American South, edited by David Biespiel. We’ve drawn some gems from it for our poems this week.

From “The Ozark Odes” by C.D. Wright:


Mother had one. She and Bernice racing for the river
to play with their paperdolls
because they did not want any big ears
to hear what their paperdolls were fixing to say.

Dry County Bar

Bourbon not fit to put on a sore. No women enter;
their men collect in every kind of weather
with no shirts on whatsoever.


I can still see the Cuddihy’s sisters
trimming the red tufts
under one another’s arms.

Lake Return

Why I come here: need for a bottom, something to refer to;
where all things visible and invisible commence to swarm.

(From Steal Away: Selected and New Poems © 1991, 1996 by C.D.Wright. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company on behalf of Copper Canyon Press. This poem also can be found in the anthology noted above, Poems of the American South, Everyman Pocket Poets. Photo of the White River in Arkansas by Thomas and Dianne Jones)