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Canticle to the Setting Sun
Mary Jo Balistreri


High in my tree-top gazebo, I nest
among gray squirrels, watch cardinals
fly and blue jays fuss and flutter.
Yellow-robed finches harmonize elaborate duets
while a grosbeak sings solo. As an orchestra tunes
before evening performance, each sound intones
a distinct timbre. The air hushes

and the ceremony of the sun begins. The sky
colors quietly, opens with chords of peach,
lavender and vermillion. Arches and beams
of hickory and oak soften. The leafy green entablature,
like the mossed limestone, whispers wind and waves.
The wafer of light deepens to blood red. Its slow descent
to the sea becomes the bread and wine of nature.
The ritual complete,

chipmunks burrow home while bird chant fades
into memory. Crickets and hoot owls awaken.
A German shepherd barks. Finally the mind quiets
and there is a moment of no sound. Fireflies flicker,
candling the dark. Only the hummer's sweet syrup
hangs unchanged. Ruby red, it witnesses day's death,
its rebirth, catches the first glimmer of dawn.

First published by Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature.
Used with the author's permission.


Mary Jo Balistreri was a concert pianist for most of her life, but in 2005 she began writing poetry after the death of her seven-year-old grandson. Poetry gradually helped her transform her grief into something resembling acceptance. Mary Jo’s award-winning work is widely published and she is the author of four collections: Still, gathering the harvest, Best Brothers, and Joy in the Morning. In 2014, Mary Jo began writing haiku and haibun and, since then, has turned almost entirely to Japanese forms. Mary Jo lives in Wisconsin; learn more about her at






Post New Comment:
Gail Goepfert:
This makes me just want to float away!
Posted 09/08/2014 08:07 AM
Thank you to everyone who commented here. I really appreciate it.
Posted 09/06/2014 09:10 PM
Posted 09/06/2014 08:08 PM
Patt Clark:
A triumphant poem where all of nature harmonizes. Your ability to paint with words is unparalleled. Patt Clark
Posted 09/06/2014 02:23 PM
That is an absolutely beautiful poem. It carried me though the late afternoon on to night."Its slow decent to the sea becomes the bread and wine of nature." That sums up the whole beautiful poem. thanks Jo
Posted 09/06/2014 12:51 PM
Lovely, lovely! "...becomes the bread and wine of nature."
Posted 09/06/2014 09:50 AM
Janet Leahy:
Hard to find my favorite line in a poem so wonderfully written but I do love "Firelies flicker, candling the dark." Thanks Jo.
Posted 09/06/2014 08:24 AM
Mary Jo, your poem is so soothing and beautifully fashioned. See you soon! Susan Moss
Posted 09/06/2014 08:20 AM
Utterly lovely. Thank you!
Posted 09/06/2014 08:12 AM
Larry Schug:
Very nice. Have you been sneaking into my yard!? this is a lesson on how to listen and live.
Posted 09/06/2014 08:04 AM
Wilda Morris:
What a beautiful poem! I was reading from GATHERING THE HARVEST yesterday and again this morning, being reminded what an amazing poet Mary Jo is. I was so happy that one of her poems showed here this morning. Although it is a sunset poem, it is a wonderful way to start the day!
Posted 09/06/2014 07:52 AM
Beautiful, peaceful. Glad to hear that you will read.
Posted 09/06/2014 07:31 AM
a lovely poem-painting..
Posted 09/06/2014 06:53 AM
This is lovely, Jo. Would love to hear you read it.
Posted 09/06/2014 06:08 AM
What a vision! Beautiful.
Posted 09/05/2014 11:57 PM

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