Back to Issue Thirty-Six.

How I Wrote “Evenings and Days”



These three poems reflect the reality of my evenings and days, which are often solitary. I wanted to write something that would account for who I am in a practical everyday sense, inside all the hours of my days that seem to be ticking by. I gave myself a task: to be as direct as I could be.

In the first poem of the sequence I’m on the floor with books, then out for a walk with an umbrella in the late evening, feeling that calm that comes from the sound of rain as it gradually stops. And wondering why it is that when you look at something for a long time—the arc of someone else’s life, as in a novel, or a wire fence—you can come to have faith in it. But even looking closely like that, it’s easy to miss any fuller vision of what it means, to miss what your part is in it.

Then I tried recalling times when I did feel present to my own life. Moments when people go silent are significant—as if the world is saying, Just look, take it in. You speak back with your own silence. My friends who are parents are always telling their children Look! and I appreciate that, especially when it isn’t followed by an explanation. And I love how my friend Cammy’s kids run and throw their arms all over the place, as if their presence could make the world itself—a kiosk on the street—more itself. They do it. Cammy’s daughter Liela was racing across a soccer field in the distance, like a bead on an abacus—and then I felt the familiar swerve into not knowing anything, again, and the desire for something that isn’t there, which cuts through so much of living. She was in the distance, moving fast and laughing, then she disappeared from view. A city I loved was there, and now it’s unrecognizable. A man I loved was there and now is gone. There is always the deep / need of something gone.

I was just trying to regard these losses clearly, in the last poem, like when the sun comes out as it’s raining and you catch every strand of rain burning with light. I could see how exhausted the cashier was. And I didn’t do the easy thing, which would be to speak up and acknowledge it. I am awake / but unable to recognize the route. You’re awake, you’re conscious of what’s happening, but you can’t discern the right path for the day. I’m older now, and have a more vivid sense of what I want from love, for example, but that doesn’t make the course forward any more clear.  

I did notice, outside the window, a very young girl waiting for the bus, deeply anxious and smoking.  Somewhere in myself she is / completely at ease. There are seconds when, even if you only superficially imagine their struggles, you feel connected enough to a stranger that their humanness and fate is held momentarily inside you. When these flashes of connection happen, in the smallest way, over and over in the course of a lifetime, it alters who you are.



Joanna Klink is the author of four books of poetry. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies, most recently Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now and The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century Poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Jeannette Haien Ballard, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her new book, The Nightfields, was published by Penguin in July.


Next (A Conversation with Ellen Bass) >

< Previous (Remembering Anthony So)