Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Tess Gallagher, photo by Teresa Olson

It is attention to the simple everyday acts that keep me grounded. This poem by the great poet Tess Gallagher perfectly reminds me of the beauty of the ordinary and the simple connections that can enrich and deepen my days. Gallagher walks to the mailbox to post a letter. She pays attention to the smallest and greatest things. This attention brings her peace, and fits this simple moment into the meaning of her life.

We all do these simple things, but do we notice both the weight and beauty and freedom of it? It is such a pleasure. Someone, some saint probably, and I paraphrase, said that attention was the greatest kind of love. In our fast moving, demanding lives, attention becomes the most precious thing.

Under Stars

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.

"Under Stars" copyright (c) 1987 by Tess Gallagher. Reprinted from "Amplitude: New & Selected Poems," Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. Gallagher's most recent book of poetry is "Dear Ghosts: Poems," Graywolf Press, 2006.

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