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  • Writer's pictureTerry Pace


I got out of bed on two strong legs. It might have been otherwise. I ate cereal, sweet milk, ripe, flawless peach. It might have been otherwise. I took the dog uphill to the birch wood. All morning I did the work I love. At noon I lay down with my mate. It might have been otherwise. We ate dinner together at a table with silver candlesticks. It might have been otherwise. I slept in a bed in a room with paintings on the walls, and planned another day just like this day. But one day, I know, it will be otherwise. By Jane Kenyon (2005)

Otherwise, (2005) by Jane Kenyon (1947-1995) from Collected Poems. Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1947. She published four books of poetry—: Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993), Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986), and From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978)—, as well as a book of translation, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Ally Press, 1985). Kenyon was also the spouse of the poet and essayist Donald Hall and lived with him on Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire. Her poetry is of nature and relationships and simple joys. Dogs were one of her favorite subjects. This poem is of course about the gift and fragility of life; about its small joys and about mortality. I find it one of the most beautiful odes to the sweetness of life and an urgent message about how quickly life passes. If you enjoy this poem, please consider reading her collected works. It's a manageable size collection and contains great awareness and gentleness.

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