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The Book of Hours
Joyce Sutphen


There was that one hour sometime
in the middle of the last century.
It was autumn, and I was in my father's
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.

And there was that hour in Central Park
in the middle of the seventies.
We were sitting on a blanket, listening
to Pete Seeger singing "This land is
your land, this land is my land," and
the Vietnam War was finally over.

I would definitely include an hour
spent in one of the galleries of the
Tate Britain, looking up at the
painting of King Cophetua and
the Beggar Maid, and, afterwards
the walk along the Thames, and

I would also include one of those
hours when I woke in the night and
couldn't get back to sleep thinking
about how nothing I thought was going
to happen happened the way I expected,
and things I never expected to happen did—

just like that hour today, when we saw
the dog running along the busy road,
and we stopped and held on to her
until her owner came along and brought
her home—that was an hour well
spent. Yes, that was a keeper.

byJoyce Sutphen.
Used with the author’s permission.


Joyce Sutphen is Poet Laureate of Minnesota, author of six award-winning books of poetry, and co-editor of To Sing Along the Way, an anthology of Minnesota women poets. A professor of literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, she has garnered multiple fellowships and residencies in the course of her poetry career. The oldest of nine children, Joyce is mother to three daughters and has six grandchildren. She loves both prairie and city and says "a perfect afternoon for me would be a long walk around the big marsh behind my house, or a ramble through Holland Park in London." A fan of Shakespeare, Joyce often uses her commute time to memorize poems by favorite poets.


Post New Comment:
Would that I could fill all the hours in a day, and live with only those.
Posted 06/24/2014 05:29 PM
Mary Dahlman:
Just lovely!
Posted 06/22/2014 02:17 PM
mary lou taylor:
What an inspiration! I am thinking, of course, about the book of my own hours. Thank you for this.
Posted 06/22/2014 02:16 PM
This poem and a poem by Sharon Auberle on another site, have pointed me in the right direction on this Sunday morning.
Posted 06/22/2014 09:39 AM
Larry Schug:
Joyce Sutphen, as do all poets, knows how to be alive. Pay attention, folks.
Posted 06/22/2014 07:14 AM
Treasured visuals that touch our hearts. Savored times that we all want to keep but slip away except for the words we use. Thank you for this.
Posted 06/22/2014 06:06 AM
wonderful poem which brings lovely memories of our own Book of Hours..thanks!
Posted 06/22/2014 06:05 AM
Ross Kightly:
Memo to self: Make every hour a KEEPER! Marvellous stuff - many thanks.
Posted 06/22/2014 01:02 AM
Alarie Tennille:
Thanks, YDP, for bringing back this treasure by Joyce Sutphen. I'm a fan of hers and missed the original post.
Posted 06/21/2014 11:25 PM

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