The Luminous Particular: The Poetry of Jane Kenyon
More on Jane Kenyon

Lord, When Did We See You?

AloneApple Dropping into Deep Early Snow

A jay settled on a branch, making it sway.
The one shriveled fruit that remained
gave way to the deepening drift below.
I happened to see it the moment it fell.
Dusk is eager and comes early. A car
creeps over the hill. Still in the dark I try
to tell if I am numbered with the damned,
who cry, ouraged, Lord, when did we see you?

(Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise)

To say that poet jane Kenyon suffered from depression is insufficient to convey the sense of her despair. Her own poems help you to feel what she must have felt, that sense of loss of hope, of spiritual barrenness. This poem uses some images from Winter, from nature, as metaphors for that loss --- the last shriveled apple lost, sunken under the weight of snow, just as last hope suffocated by the weight of sorrow. The eagerness of dusk, the sense that the world is darkening and is almost dark. The wondering if God is there or, if He is, if He has abandoned you.

These are not plesant things to read, and yet they are at times not unlike some portions of the Psalms. At this moment I'm thinking of Psalm 102, where the Psalmist says "[m]y heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof" (Ps. 102: 4-7). Like the Psalmist, Kenyon could look to God's promises, but that did not make the despair go away. She could not simply shake it off. Rather, like the Psalmist, she had to wait for God to come. And He did.