Sun and Moon

By Jane Kenyon 1947–1995 Jane Kenyon

For Donald Clark

Drugged and drowsy but not asleep
I heard my blind roommate's daughter   
helping her with her meal:
“What's that? Squash?”
“No. It's spinach.”

Back from a brain-scan, she dozed   
to the sound of the Soaps: adultery,   
amnesia, shady business deals,   
and long, white hospital halls....   
No separation between life and art.

I heard two nurses whispering:
Mr. Malcomson had died.
An hour later one of them came to say   
that a private room was free.

A chill spring breeze
perturbed the plastic drape.   
I lay back on the new bed,   
and had a vision of souls
stacked up like pelts
under my soul, which was ill—
so heavy with grief
it kept the others from rising.

No varicolored tubes
serpentined beneath the covers;   
I had the vital signs of a healthy,   
early-middle-aged woman.
There was nothing to cut or dress,   
remove or replace.

A week of stupor. Sun and moon
rose and set over the small enclosed   
court, the trees....
The doctor’s face appeared
and disappeared
over the foot of the bed. By slow degrees   
the outlandish sadness waned.

Restored to my living room
I looked at the tables, chairs, and pictures   
with something like delight,   
only pale, faint—as from a great height.
I let the phone ring; the mail   
accrued unopened
on the table in the hall.

Jane Kenyon, “Sun and Moon” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: The Boat of Quiet Hours: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1986)

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Poet Jane Kenyon 1947–1995

Subjects Health & Illness, Living

 Jane  Kenyon


New Hampshire's poet laureate at the time of her untimely death at age forty-seven, Jane Kenyon was noted for verse that probed the inner psyche, particularly with regard to her own battle against the depression that lasted throughout much of her adult life. Writing for the last two decades of her life at her farm in northern New England, Kenyon is also remembered for her stoic portraits of domestic and rural life; as essayist . . .

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SUBJECT Health & Illness, Living

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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