Sarah Crowley Chestnut

A Better Gift

Barefoot in a nightgown at dawn, I cross
the wet lawn to the hydrangea heavy in bloom
and further burdened by rain to snip the long,
woody stems, relieve the trunk and fill our room.  
It is almost too much for me, this arm-load
of birthday thunderheads kissing my chin.   
I spread this gift across the counter, trim
leaves and length to fill a vase.  The children

are still sleeping and have been all this time—
oh love!  I could have given you the soft bloom
of my body, left a path of hushed breath across
your chest so petal-soft the vase of our room
would overflow, even tip.
This would have been a better gift.

Daucus Carota

the wild carrot
in November

is a tumbleweed:
umbels like ribs,
umbrella caught in the wind,
now grey, shut upward
around spiny seeds —

I gather seven
for their strangeness,
raise each one skyward
like a scepter,

feel the royal weight of beauty
bow to that seasonal kenosis —

lace petals
    trippinate leaves

inflorescence shuddered skyward
bright parasol released —

And those seeds, nesting in the center
wait patiently

for the tumbleweed
to run.

(after Louise Glück)

Not the trees merely, but the grass
itself vaults, endless reach
ribboning skyward
and the cool blades
slice bands of sun.  Did you
mean always to draw
our eyes up, to startle
us from the bottom of our feet
with the prick of growth?
What of the vine that climbs
beyond its strength?  
Even the fields will tip and keel
in the wind, lay down beneath
life’s gravity.  Forgive me
when I think it is all too much
for you—

of course it is: there you are,
in the meadow, overwhelmed
by this verdant riot, delighting again,
in your own surprise.

Mortal Beauty

Maybe it is a slow understanding
you are after, slow God.

A prism swaying so
slightly in the draft,
suspended by thread
looped over the curtain rod;
split in the clouds
and light refracts…

How old was I?  Five,
maybe, or six? 
With my mother
in Trader’s Emporium
touring curiosities.

My palms sweat
clutching those faceted rocks—
one oblong and ruby-toned,
one a crystalline globe.

Was this all it took to know
beauty’s gratuity
and the grip of what
For what purpose in stringing
the possibility of a rainbow,
chance of a heartbeat
that might suddenly skip
reckless around the room?

Is it that all our knowing
is latent till hung naked
in the window and riven
by a riveting light?


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty is a wholeness that resists dissection or paraphrase. It is that quality that begs for first hand experience: beauty is why we cannot tell someone about a poem; we must read the poem aloud. Beauty is why we can only say so much about a person who is dear to us before we exclaim, “you just have to meet her!” In this way, beauty is personal–it invites us into a relationship: beauty is the call that awaits a response. And once we do respond, a long friendship of mutual and bottomless discovery may begin to unfold.


Sarah Crowley Chestnut lives and works at L’Abri Fellowship in Southborough, MA with her husband and two children. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in CRUX, Bearings Online and in the recent mini-anthology, Conversations, published by Three Things and available at