It’s barely 5:00 am and I am out walking with my dog. The waning moon provides gentle illumination as we move in silence down the dirt road. We are in no hurry. As we near the open fields the crickets get louder. Their chirping adds to the ambiance of the moment. We stop to listen.
Back at home, I take off my coat and place it on the wooden coat rack. I turn on the lamp in the corner and walk toward the bookshelf where I pull off a copy of Tom Hennen’s Darkness Sticks to Everything. I begin searching for a poem that might capture this moment. I feel that this moment is filled with a sense of ease and gratitude for the ordinary.
It doesn’t take me but a second to find the poem. A torn scrap of paper held the page as if it knew I needed to revisit this verse. I stand in the dimly lit room and read.
“Love For Other Things”
It's easy to love a deer But try and care about bugs and scrawny trees Love the puddle of lukewarm water From last week’s rain. Leave the mountains alone for now. Also the clear lakes surrounded by pines. People are lined up to admire them. Get close to the things that slide away in the dark. Be grateful even for the boredom That sometimes seems to involve the whole world Think of the frost That will crack our bones eventually.
I pause, read the poem again, and then a third time.
Yes, that was what I was looking for. Love for the other things, the simple things, because those are the things that make up everyday life. Find joy in these moments and find joy in living.
About Tom Hennen
Tom Hennen was born in 1942 and spent his early years on farms in Minnesota. In 1965, he began work as a letterpress and offset printer. In 1972, he helped establish the Minnesota Writers’ Publishing House out of his garage. He published his first chapbook, The Heron with No Business Sense, in 1974. He went on to publish five other books and chapbooks. Darkness Sticks to Everything is a collection of his previous work with some new poems.
Hennen’s poetry is deeply influenced by the natural world. He writes about the weather, flora, fauna, and his relationship with his surroundings. Thomas R. Smith describes Hennen’s style as “level, almost Taoist, with a tempered knowledge of self and world. Hennen avoids poetic fashion and speaks without pretension, though not unmusically, of an ancient way of being on and with the earth.”(2) I find his work amazingly grounding and relatable. I read Hennen’s poetry and say to myself, “This is poetry that works for me”.
Hennen is one of those poets we return to when we long to release what attracted us to poetry in the first placeThomas R. Smith
Do you have a favorite poet? A poet that seems to speak directly to you? Feel free to share below.
- Hennen, Tom. (2013) Darkness Sticks to Everything
- Smith, Thomas R., “A Poet with No Business Sense: In Praise of Tom Hennen”, Darkness Sticks to Everything. pg.173
- Hennen, Tom. (1974) The Heron with No Business Sense
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I do love much of Wordsworth’s poems and do return to them often. Also, John Clare and Robert Frost and Edward Thomas and so many others but the one I return most is Mary Oliver whose “Wild Geese” call to me, loud and often. Tom Hennen’s work sounds like I should be reading him too! Thanks for this post. Have a great weekend 🙋♂️
Hi Ashley, I will be looking up Mary Oliver’s poem in a moment. Thanks for the recommendation. Have a great weekend.
Thanks for this poem. I never really came out of the Covid lockdown here, and it looks like we face another wave. During this time, I have been able to cultivate a better sense of being at peace in this place I call home. I have found much beauty in my untended home landscape, it meadows of what other people call weeds, in trees that are twisted, weatherbeaten and dying. To borrow the title of Fenton Johnson’s book, I came to understand that I live at the Center of All Beauty. I feel blessed.
What a great sentiment! Living at the Center of All Beauty is definitely a great way to see the world. COVID also gave me the opportunity to notice and appreciate all those wonderful things around me. Thanks for visiting and the comment. Be Well!
So lovely, Mark. I love how you immediately found what you sought, page-marked and all.
P.S. I love that title: The Heron With No Business Sense.
Hi Tracy, Thank you! It was kind of amazing that the poem was right there. Kind of magical.
That’s what I thought…magical.
A great post, Mark! I really like how you described your early morning and then transitioned to Tom Hennen’s poem. I’m slowly starting to get more into poetry. Hennen’s writing reminds me very much of Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac.” When it comes to relatable poets I have to go with my local guy, Sherman Alexie. He grew up on the Spokane Indian reservation and I grew up as a part-time rural white girl hanging out with a lot off-Rez Indian friends.
Hi Melanie, I will look up Sherman Alexie and see if I can some of his writing. I’m always interested in reading new stuff. One thing I like about Hennen is he writes a lot about winter, and winter feel long in the northeast. Hope all is well on the west coast!
Absolutely delightful read Mark, – so grateful you shared Tom Hennen with it. He is only 12 years my senior – so I’ll have a lot of growing to do. I gather my at-home-ness is closer to the paradox of dysfunctional social reality with nothing but an owl or three for remote company. I definitely empathise with Hennen’s turning away from the glorious mountains and – somehow your story and his merge in my mind: As the owner of a dog might ‘get’ how a muddy puddle can be more interesting than the mountain view. (I might share a post about a Yorkshire guy who combines both. Look out for him.)
Hi Barbara, I will keep an eye out for that post from the Yorkshire guy! Thanks for the comment.
it’s up now, titled ‘For the love of a dog’ – if you get round to it.
Hi Barbara, thanks for letting me know!
you’re welcome 🙂
Love the post, we sometimes forget to appreciate the smallest things. And mornings are my favorite times as well because thats the only time I can find peace and quiet in my full and loud house
Thanks for visiting! I am so glad you enjoyed the post. You are so right that we need to appreciate the little things, like a calm morning. Thanks for the comment. Be well!
This is so lovely!
Hi Kally, Thanks for the support and comment. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Tom Hennen is a great writer and his work really resonates with me.
Stop and smell the roses, they say, but in this post you have moved beyond the cliche to deliver this message to the soul.
I reflect on how many of my photographs are of sweeping vistas, but some of my best photos are of small, mundane subjects – like the flowers in a restaurant’s window garden that everyone else passes by.
Most of us will not be able to see a mountain lake every day, so to fully live, we will hopefully see the small beauties that go, by most, unseen.
Hi Tressa, Such a beautiful comment about this poem and your own experience. Thank you for adding to the conversation. Much appreciated!
So many incredible Hennen poems. He stands with the giants of the second half of the 20th century, in my view — James Arlington Wright, Robert Bly and William Stafford. He is by far the best unknown poet, in my view.
Before the Storm is a classic. The Heron with No Business Sense is about the suburbanization of marshes surrounding Minneapolis. I bought his 1974 Chapbook when it was still hot off the press. There is an image in one of the poems about the family moving. In the moving truck the kitchen chairs assemble themselves for breakfast. That has stayed with me and informed my notion of good writing.
Check this one out:
Into The Snowy Forest
By Tom Hennen
As I dig a grave
For the old bitch dog
The ground steams
With each breath.
Here the earth
Loose even in winter.
We all have many bodies
The years rub together
In the pine tops.
Only the snow that falls
the heaviness of bones.
Hi Tracy, Thank you for adding to conversation and sharing one of your favorite Hennen poems.
I feel like I remember reading “Into The Snow Forest” before. Although, I may be thinking of a similar poem from Wendell Berry books This Day.
So many good poems and so little internal memory space! Thanks again for sharing and commenting!