Kwame Dawes, “Peach Picking” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Kwame Dawes’ poem “Peach Picking” from The Georgia Review, Spring 2005. Kwame Dawes is a contemporary poet, born in Ghana and spending most of his youth in Jamaica.


From the dusty road under acacia trees
the house looks like a dream rising in the sharp

clean colors from the common green, passive sea
of unremarkable land, no surprises. She lifts the tarp

and gathers gently the bruised peaches, their water
so near the skin like a blister, the childishness

of their tender peel—how little it takes to scar
them. She fills baskets, planting fruit in a nest

of fresh damp straw, while she counts out
a song that turns into words; a song that feels

as old as the indigo sky and the stoic brick house
teetering like an unsettled boat in the open field

in the middle of nothing: a body with no context,
just the language of loss haunting as a low country hex.


Previous poems in this series:

Osip Mandelstam, “Consider the River” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Osip Mandelstam’s poem “Consider the River” from Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam translated by Christian Wiman. Osip Mandelstam was one of the most important 20th century Russian poets. Writing poetry during the Bolshevik revolution and suffering much difficulty during that time, Mandelstam eventually died from hardships he endured after being imprisoned in Soviet work camps.


Like a late gift long awaited, winter:
Personal, palpable stirrings.

I love the early animal of her,
These woozy, easy swings.

Soft atrocity, sweet fright,
As if for ravishment on first bowed and gave thanks . . .

And yet, before the forest’s clean, hewn circle of light,
Even the raven banks.

Power more powerful for its precariousness,
Blue more blue for its ghost of white:

Consider the river, its constancy, its skin of almost ice,
Like a lullaby nullified by wakefulness . . .


Previous poems in this series:

Mary Oliver, “The Kingfisher” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Mary Oliver’s poem “The Kingfisher” from House of Light. Mary Oliver was an American poet in the 20th and 21st century. Her poetry won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a Lannan Literary Award for lifetime achievement.


The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world—so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water—hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.


Previous poems in this series:

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty” from Poems. Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest of the Victorian era whose poetry was published after his death and had a significant influence on the modernist movement of poetry in the 20th-century.


Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.


Previous poems in this series:

Wang Wei, “Morning, Sailing into Xinyang” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is Wang Wei’s poem “Morning, Sailing into Xinyang” from Laughing Lost in the Mountains: Poems of Wang Wei. Wang Wei was a poet in 8th century China whose work kept him busy, even as he longed for a contemplative life.


As my boat sails into Xingze Lake
I am stunned by this glorious city!
A canal meanders by narrow courtyard doors.
Fires and cooking smoke crowd the water.
In these people I see strange customs
and the dialect here is obscure.
In late autumn, fields are abundant.
Morning light. Noise wakes at the city wells.
Fish merchants float on the waves.
Chickens and dogs. Villages on either bank.
I’m heading away from white clouds.
What will become of my solitary sail?


Previous poems in this series: