The Argument

By Jane Kenyon 1947–1995 Jane Kenyon
On the way to the village store   
I drive through a down-draft   
from the neighbor’s chimney.   
Woodsmoke tumbles from the eaves   
backlit by sun, reminding me
of the fire and sulfur of Grandmother’s   
vengeful God, the one who disapproves
of jeans and shorts for girls,
dancing, strong waters, and adultery.

A moment later the smoke enters
the car, although the windows are tight,   
insinuating that I might, like Judas,
and the foolish virgins, and the rich
young man, have been made for unquenchable   
fire. God will need something to burn
if the fire is to be unquenchable.

“All things work together for the good   
for those who love God,” she said
to comfort me at Uncle Hazen’s funeral,   
where Father held me up to see
the maroon gladiolus that trembled
as we approached the bier, the elaborate   
shirred satin, brass fittings, anything,

oh, anything but Uncle’s squelched   
and made-up face.
“No! NO! How is it good to be dead?”
I cried afterward, wild-eyed and flushed.   
“God’s ways are not our ways,”
she said then out of pity
and the wish to forestall the argument.

Jane Kenyon, “The Argument” 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: Constance: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)

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Poet Jane Kenyon 1947–1995

Subjects Religion, Death, Living

 Jane  Kenyon

Biography

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 Religion, Death, Living

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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