Jane Kenyon Sessions, Vol. One

by Maggie Hollinbeck & Graham Sobelman

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Let the light of late afternoon shine through chinks in the barn, moving up the bales as the sun moves down. Let the cricket take up chafing as a woman takes up her needles and her yarn. Let evening come. Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned in long grass. Let the stars appear and the moon disclose her silver horn. Let the fox go back to its sandy den. Let the wind die down. Let the shed go black inside. Let evening come. To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop in the oats, to air in the lung let evening come. Let it come, as it will, and don’t be afraid. God does not leave us comfortless, so let evening come.
I am the blossom pressed in a book, found again after two hundred years. . . . I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper.... When the young girl who starves sits down to a table she will sit beside me. . . . I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . . I am water rushing to the wellhead, filling the pitcher until it spills. . . . I am the patient gardener of the dry and weedy garden. . . . I am the stone step, the latch, and the working hinge. . . . I am the heart contracted by joy. . . . the longest hair, white before the rest. . . . I am there in the basket of fruit presented to the widow. . . . I am the musk rose opening unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . . I am the one whose love overcomes you, already with you when you think to call my name. . . .
The Shirt 00:48
The shirt touches his neck and smooths over his back. It slides down his sides. It even goes down below his belt— down into his pants. Lucky shirt.
I washed a load of clothes and hung them out to dry. Then I went up to town and busied myself all day. The sleeve of your best shirt rose ceremonious when I drove in; our night- clothes twined and untwined in a little gust of wind. For me it was getting late; for you, where you were, not. The harvest moon was full but sparse clouds made its light not quite reliable. The bed on your side seemed as wide and flat as Kansas; your pillow plump, cool, and allegorical. . . .
Man Eating 01:24
The man at the table across from mine is eating yogurt. His eyes, following the progress of the spoon, cross briefly each time it nears his face. Time, and the world with all its principalities, might come to an end as prophesied by the Apostle John, but what about this man, so completely present to the little carton with its cool, sweet food, which has caused no animal to suffer, and which he is eating with a pearl-white plastic spoon.
Inertia 02:49
I divested myself of despair and fear when I came here. Now there is no more catching one's own eye in the mirror, there are no bad books, no plastic, no insurance premiums, and of course no illness. Contrition does not exist, nor gnashing of teeth. No one howls as the first clod of earth hits the casket. The poor we no longer have with us. Our calm hearts strike only the hour, and God, as promised, proves to be mercy clothed in light.
The grasses in the field have toppled, and in places it seems that a large, now absent, animal must have passed the night. The hay will right itself if the day turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully. None of your blustering entrances or exits, doors swinging wildly on their hinges, or your huge unconscious sighs when you read something sad, like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan, where he traveled after Clover died. Everything blooming bows down in the rain: white irises, red peonies; and the poppies with their black and secret centers lie shattered on the lawn.
The Suitor 01:43
We lie back to back. Curtains lift and fall, like the chest of someone sleeping. Wind moves the leaves of the box elder; they show their light undersides, turning all at once like a school of fish. Suddenly I understand that I am happy. For months this feeling has been coming closer, stopping for short visits, like a timid suitor.
The Call 02:28
If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure. A. P. CHEKHOV The Cherry Orchard 1 FROM THE NURSERY When I was born, you waited behind a pile of linen in the nursery, and when we were alone, you lay down on top of me, pressing the bile of desolation into every pore. And from that day on everything under the sun and moon made me sad—even the yellow wooden beads that slid and spun along a spindle on my crib. You taught me to exist without gratitude. You ruined my manners toward God: “We’re here simply to wait for death; the pleasures of earth are overrated.” I only appeared to belong to my mother, to live among blocks and cotton undershirts with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes and report cards in ugly brown slipcases. I was already yours—the anti-urge, the mutilator of souls. 2 BOTTLES Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin, Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax, Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft. The coated ones smell sweet or have no smell; the powdery ones smell like the chemistry lab at school that made me hold my breath. 3 SUGGESTION FROM A FRIEND You wouldn’t be so depressed if you really believed in God. 4 OFTEN Often I go to bed as soon after dinner as seems adult (I mean I try to wait for dark) in order to push away from the massive pain in sleep’s frail wicker coracle. 5 ONCE THERE WAS LIGHT Once, in my early thirties, I saw that I was a speck of light in the great river of light that undulates through time. I was floating with the whole human family. We were all colors—those who are living now, those who have died, those who are not yet born. For a few moments I floated, completely calm, and I no longer hated having to exist. Like a crow who smells hot blood you came flying to pull me out of the glowing stream. “I’ll hold you up. I never let my dear ones drown!” After that, I wept for days. 6 IN AND OUT The dog searches until he finds me upstairs, lies down with a clatter of elbows, puts his head on my foot. Sometimes the sound of his breathing saves my life—in and out, in and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . . 7 PARDON A piece of burned meat wears my clothes, speaks in my voice, dispatches obligations haltingly, or not at all. It is tired of trying to be stouthearted, tired beyond measure. We move on to the monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Day and night I feel as if I had drunk six cups of coffee, but the pain stops abruptly. With the wonder and bitterness of someone pardoned for a crime she did not commit I come back to marriage and friends, to pink fringed hollyhocks; come back to my desk, books, and chair. 8 CREDO Pharmaceutical wonders are at work but I believe only in this moment of well-being. Unholy ghost, you are certain to come again. Coarse, mean, you’ll put your feet on the coffee table, lean back, and turn me into someone who can’t take the trouble to speak; someone who can’t sleep, or who does nothing but sleep; can’t read, or call for an appointment for help. There is nothing I can do against your coming. When I awake, I am still with thee. 9 WOOD THRUSH High on Nardil and June light I wake at four, waiting greedily for the first note of the wood thrush. Easeful air presses through the screen with the wild, complex song of the bird, and I am overcome by ordinary contentment. What hurt me so terribly all my life until this moment? How I love the small, swiftly beating heart of the bird singing in the great maples; its bright, unequivocal eye.


Contemporary art songs composed by Graham Sobelman using the poetry of Jane Kenyon.


released March 20, 2019

Maggie Hollinbeck (vocals), Graham Sobelman (piano),

Recording/mixing/mastering by Matt Baxter in Auburn, CA.

Cover design by Corey Morgan Strange.


all rights reserved



Graham Sobelman Sacramento, California

Graham Sobelman is a Nothern California-based composer, musical director & pianist who loves making music.

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