Portrait of a Figure near Water
by Jane Kenyon
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.
The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.
Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.
So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
Jane Kenyon, “Portrait of a Figure Near Water” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon