A poem from David Young’s 2000 collection At the White Window brings us this versatile poet in one of his many possible guises—in this case, courting the stillness, silence, and openness to loss which usher in something entirely other. Such surprising gifts are found throughout Young’s recent “New and Selected” volume, Field of Light and Shadow, which collects his work across more than 40 years.
The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon
Someone was reading in the back,
two travelers had gone somewhere,
maybe to Chicago,
a boy was out walking, muffled up,
alert on the frozen creek,
a sauce was simmering on the stove.
Birds outside at the feeder
threw themselves softly
from branch to branch.
Suddenly I did not want my life
to be any different.
I was where I needed to be.
The birds swirled in the dusk.
The boy came back from the creek.
The dead were holding us up
the way the ice held him,
helping us breathe the way
air helps snowflakes swirl and fall.
And the sadness felt just right,
like a still and moving wave
on which the sun shone brilliantly.
Learn more about Field of Light and Shadow by David Young
Download the broadside: “The House Was Quiet on a Winter Afternoon”