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Lay for the Day
15th April

1843: the birthday of Henry James.
The poem, from the book of Praises, was written at Rye on the south coast of England, once the novelist’s home.

77. Of Bedtime Reading

The brown hand holds the white
palm, tanned forearm on sheltered wrist.
Her even breathing’s resonant
and calming as the herb
she twisted and frayed to breathe today in
Henry James’s garden,
puzzled to name the cinder-grey
feathery leaf, losing herself
in the scent’s elusion.

Her sighs are from the far side of a field
of downland a gate gave on to
out of ten clear pages
where mild shade drifts, pierced with sunlight,
from the fourth chapter of The Europeans.

John Gibbens
from Collected Poems

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar

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