Private Beach

By Jane Kenyon 1947–1995 Jane Kenyon
It is always the dispossessed—
someone driving a huge rusted Dodge   
that’s burning oil, and must cost   
twenty-five dollars to fill.

Today before seven I saw, through
the morning fog, his car leave the road,   
turning into the field. It must be
his day off, I thought, or he’s out
of work and drinking, or getting stoned.   
Or maybe as much as anything
he wanted to see
where the lane through the hay goes.

It goes to the bluff overlooking   
the lake, where we’ve cleared   
brush, swept the slippery oak
leaves from the path, and tried to destroy   
the poison ivy that runs
over the scrubby, sandy knolls.

Sometimes in the evening I’ll hear   
gunshots or firecrackers. Later a car   
needing a new muffler backs out
to the road, headlights withdrawing   
from the lowest branches of the pines.

Next day I find beer cans, crushed;   
sometimes a few fish too small   
to bother cleaning and left
on the moss to die; or the leaking   
latex trace of outdoor love....
Once I found the canvas sling chairs   
broken up and burned.

Whoever laid the fire gathered stones   
to contain it, like a boy pursuing
a merit badge, who has a dream of work,   
and proper reward for work.

Jane Kenyon, “Private Beach” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Let Evening Come: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1990)

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Poet Jane Kenyon 1947–1995

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 Jane  Kenyon

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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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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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