Allow the Year
Allow the year to end, clouds
gusting in an ocean overhead
and the sun on its passage
to solstice, sinking near earth.
Allow the thickets of winter
shadows to cross the yard
and ivy to ascend chain link
crimson as a neighbor’s light
brazenly on and off. Allow loss.
Allow the grinding traffic
whatever its various ends
to stop unseen and the mice
under the bird feeder to eat
among sparrows. Allow them.
their bottles, plastics and cans.
And the old cat her last patch
of warmth on the back steps.
And the housefly on the wall
its frail hold. Allow the year
to end, whatever the way, allow
the kitchen curtain to blow
in and out, and in and out.
Allow the year to end, the soul
to rise and fall, then rise again.
— Carol Willette Bachofner
I chose this week’s poem because I struggle with letting things be. So much of my nature is devoted to resistance, to grasping, and especially in the fall when I so want to keep winter from coming, want to keep the world green.
Carol Willet Bachofner is a Maine poet, and we can see Maine a bit in the landscape of this poem. It is a sort of prayer to change, a gentle reminder to appreciate the beauties of the world, with the incantation of “allow.” I am reminded of Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come” and its repetitions and gratitudes, its God who “does not leave us comfortless.”
In this poem, the speaker isn’t addressing the season’s shift between summer and fall but rather the solstice’s turn from fall to winter. And the speaker doesn’t seem to be struggling with the change, as I do, so much as celebrating all the various aspects of daily life—the beautiful, “the thickets of winter/ shadows” that “cross the yard” and the mundane, “mice/ under the birdfeeder.” Through her repetition of “allow”—a lovely word, full of those open vowels—the reader is mesmerized, drawn in and allowed (if I may say that) to really see the world, ordinary and beautiful at once. This detailed depiction of a day, with its sparrows and trash pickers and houseflies, is evoked finely and becomes, through careful description, beautiful.
But in case we are not convinced by the quotidian, the poem’s last lines leave us no doubt : “Allow the year to end, the soul/to rise and fall, and rise again.” Note how subtle the move from the physical to the metaphysical here, and the gorgeous internal rhyme of “end” and “again” to make the argument. Change is part of the human condition. We must allow it, and in allowing for it, perhaps we will be able to see its beauty. If we fall short, if we “fall”, we can rise up again—the next day to the clouds and sparrows—or eventually, if we so believe, into a heaven that might be better than this world. Or maybe not. Maybe this world is heaven. Certainly we need to be here and paying attention to know.
Oh, how I love poems. Willette Bachofner’s poem, reminding me to see, is a gift right now in my busy life. Thanks, Carol.
If you’d like to know more about Carol Willette Bachofner, go to these links: