The Dark, The Light

Dear Friends,
Where Holly and I live, the winter solstice makes itself quite evident: in the last few days, it barely starts getting light before the light diminishes into early evening. And when it does get dark (about 4:00), the dark seems darker, somehow, though my friends laugh at me and tell me it’s my imagination. Perhaps. But perhaps the world does turn in on itself this time of year, and all peripheral sources of light grow dim.

It can be hard on us: those of us with delicate dispositions. We do what we can—turn on our “happy lights,” take our Vitamin D and B12, take brisk walks—but part of me always wants to embrace this darkness for what it is, to allow it fully into myself, burrow pathways through my fear.

Poetry is always a way to have a companion when we decide to lean into the dark. And perhaps this year, more than ever—in a week where we’ve been faced with a darkness deeper than any we can fathom—we can turn to poetry to help us also  remember glimmers of light. I’ve been receiving lots of poetry this week—from friends, colleagues, Facebook acquaintances—and I thought I’d share some of them with you, too.

From the site Gwarlingo, comes this poem by Janlori Goldman:

Winter Solstice

for Jean Valentine


O odd light
bring me the old season
that winter familiar
a slow sheathing of moon in shadow
as if sky were a gill
through which all things
flow in                 filter out
bring me a home with no right angles
a space of curling in
not too bright or sharp
and bring me the time before that
with the garden dark with broken-down
coffee grounds                 rows of flowering mustard greens
the smell of ripped roots fresh
from the pull
and then before that
to my round house a friend will come
or maybe the friend’s mother
I’ll say stay for dinner
she’ll say let me sew that button

From Being Poetry, Erin Hollowell shared this poem by Naomi Shahib Nye:

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye (from The Words Under the Words)


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

And from The Poetry Foundation, this “Winter Solstice Chant,” by Annie Finch:

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
with the edge of winter sky
leaning over us in icy stars.
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

It’s been a tough week for all of us, dear friends. May we meet the darkness on its own terms, and yet find solace there as well.

With love, and remembrance for those who left us too soon,


9 thoughts on “The Dark, The Light

  1. Met you both for the first time at Village Books in B’Ham earlier this year. Your book has been inspiring to me ever since. On my website this morning I posted “Where is the Light?” and offer to you my reflections and poem. Click on the reflections tab and the poems tab to view both. I would love comments in return from you.

    Blessings –