Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Dispatch from a Winter Afternoon


A blood-red cardinal lies murdered in the garden, dropped by hawk or cat.

Daffodils and hyacinths that emerged too early shiver and regret. The lenten roses, soggy, droop.

In times such as these, one turns to poetry…

by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

 *      *      *

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

 *      *      *

Winter drags on, baring her fangs at spring.

Spring replies…

*     *     *


  1. Jennifer,
    You have an uncanny way of knowing what is needed. “Heavy” is beautiful and hopeful.
    Than you xoxo

  2. On a cold winter’s morning in Raleigh, what a delight again to be reading Bacon as I savor my morning coffee.

  3. Jennifer, thank you for providing a beautiful balance of poems on another icy morning. The poignant sheep photo plus the music further our musings…
    Thank you.

    • Good morning, Helen! How lovely to hear from you! I’m so glad you enjoyed the poems and the sheep and the music… I hadn’t seen a sheep in years before I saw these in Colonial Williamsburg a few weeks ago. They are really quite peaceable creatures, or at least peaceable in the few days and hours I saw them. It made me feel peaceful to see them. Xoxo

  4. Jennifer,
    So blessed by this post. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for posting. Are the photos from Colonial Williamsburg?

  6. The poems, the photographs, food for my mind, for my eyes as I struggle in my studio to find my way. It seemed so dark, but Bacon brought in a little ray of light. Thank you

  7. The oyster shell walks, the bricks, the fences – with the sheep lazing. Love Colonial Williamsburg like no other place. Your choices in poetry and photo capture it so well. How I appreciate “things that are kind and yet troubled.” Love to you.

    • That’s my favorite line too, Shelby, and I am eager to get back to Colonial Williamsburg… I hadn’t been in many, many years… I am enchanted in new and different ways. Sending love to you as well, xoxo

  8. Love love these poems, and on my birthday no less- You gave me a gift!

  9. I think you are my friend who is brave like Daniel, even among the lions. Thank you for bringing us these uplifting thoughts, as we toggle between heavy and happy. So grateful that you do this.

  10. Listening to Bach as I sip my coffee this cold Monday morning …. A peaceful and joyful way to begin the week. Thank you!

  11. I have noticed. I have heard. And how I admire admire admire your heart, resilience, and generosity to us all. Thank you, dear friend ♥️

  12. Two of my favorite poets and balm to my soul on this dark, rainy afternoon. Thank you, Jennifer.

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