Ralph Stevens lives in Ellsworth, Maine. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is the author of the collections At Bunker Cove (Moon Pie Press), Things Haven’t Been the Same (Finishing Line Press), and Water under Snow (Wipf and Stock: Resource Publications). His poems have appeared in a variety of publications and on the radio programs, The Writer’s Almanac and Poems from Here. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
…a kind of animal grace of the word, a pulse like the footfalls of a cat or the wingbeats of a gull.
— Kenneth Rexroth on the poetry of Denise Levertov.
Is it, then, some sort of ghost, this
thing we call grace,
barely visible, appearing unannounced or
in a kind of quiet, like that cat
walking across bare floor,
the flutter of a bird’s wing?
Words come now and then
and could be a sign, unpredictable,
of grace arriving, a break in the clouds.
The cat was sleeping on the radiator
until she woke, and jumped down into sunlight,
into pulsing footfalls and from there
to a bowl of milk. I do not
question her, or ask the gull
to fly. Is grace then,
the unasked-for circle of a life,
and does it, animal-like,
tend toward simple things,
the bowl of milk, sunshine on the floor,
and do these words
proceed from such tending, as from
the wingbeat of a flying thing?
I learned, early, the craft of loneliness. — John Deane
They are teachers without book
or chalkboard as they
pantomime the lesson, the man
bending over the mudflats, clam rake
rising and falling, the freight that passes
unseen in the distance, geese who
do not land but trail their raw cries
behind them over the town.
And the solitary loon, taking off in a spray
of lake water. They are everywhere,
the teachers, like those fishing boats
on their moorings at sunset, even this
old brown belt, its quiet buckle scars
marking the days, and now the heron
alone, standing in prehistoric stillness
as the tide rises and
brings things quick and silver,
in answer to unnamable longings.
These are the wise
masters of solitude, of
the craft of loneliness.