Poetry Club, day 3

The first day of spring was back on March 20. Imagine that after months of cold and gray, you get a day that finally feels like what the calendar says.

Now think of a relationship that’s been stuck in winter for more months than you care to count. Imagine the first signs of thaw.


The First Warm Rays


after a long freeze

draws people

who wouldn’t think of going sweaterless

into a September evening when it dips to 60 degrees

outside when it’s 40

in shorts and a tee,

just to feel the sun

behaving like itself again.


Like the return of an estranged family member

or a friend you’ve had a falling out with.


It’s clear to us now,

the distinction

between absence and presence.



having gone so long without,

we rush,
arms wide,

eager to embrace

and wash away what’s clung to us

in the interim.


~ Marilyn Yocum


Marilyn graciously gave permission for me to use this poem in The Joy of Poetry, but it dropped off in the rewrite, for which I am still sad. Because this is the kind of poem I love. It’s about something specific (people enjoying the spring sunshine) and also something abstract (“the distinction / between absence and presence.”)

Your turn.

(By the way, y’all were great yesterday! Thanks for playing along.)



  1. I have so many thoughts on this that I’ll need to wait until the end of day to have them gathered and presentable. I’ll be back.

  2. Makes me realize how I often take those 60-degree-fall-day relationships for granted. Makes me remember not to expect perfection and to appreciate the good that I do have, on the 40-degree days. Makes me feel a little weird, too, to think like “well, I can’t have it as good as 60, so I might as well be happy with the 40.” And the “we rush,
arms wide, / eager to embrace” part makes me feel like I’m not really good at forgiving. In the thaw of a relationship winter, I haven’t had the rush, the arms wide, the eager embrace, because I have too good a memory for past grudges or hurts. Instead I have been kind of cautious and self-protective and tentative, the way I tend to go into a pool slowly, at the shallow end where I can enter one step, wait several minutes, step down another step deeper, etc. — instead of just jumping in at the deep end and getting accustomed to the not-so-warm water right away.

    • Everything you said about inching into the shallow end of the pool first was wonderful, Monica. Even your prose is poetic. You made me reflect on my own willingness to forgive. I admit I lean toward the style of the Father of the Prodigal – arms wide. But I think true forgiveness requires both willingness and caution, just as driving requires focus on both the near and far distance.

  3. P.S. Thanks, Marilyn, for a good poem! My favorite parts: (1) the title as the first line; (2) “sweaterless / into a September”; and (3) “just to feel the sun / behaving like itself again.” I’ve been pondering that part especially.

  4. I had forgotten about this poem and was surprised to see it here this morning. As I read, it sounded familiar, but it took the whole first stanza before I realized it was mine.

    I am currently enduring an estrangement that daily breaks my heart. I carry the sadness like a weight. Very few people know about it, not that I don’t talk about it, but it doesn’t come up in everyday conversation and to dump it on people from out of nowhere doesn’t seem right. Every so often it hits me especially hard. It’s very isolating. Just yesterday I wished I could say it out loud somewhere, just to be heard. Then here today, my own words came back to me and they helped me remember how I long for the rushing-with-arms-wide-open moment.

    • Marilyn, yep. Yesterday was one of those days for me. We recently had a death in the family and that loss, combined with the old one, rushed over me. Turns out it was a great day for me to post your poem.

      • If I ever find the magic wand that prevents those days, I’m going to write all about it and share it with the world. 🙂

  5. Bravo, Marilyn!

    My favorite line… “Just to feel the sun behaving like itself again.” Feeling is a bit different from seeing. Down here, earlier in the spring, folks were donning sweaters and even gloves when, though they could see the sun, they didn’t feel the heat. Its warmth was hovering below 60.

    • “Michigan Girl in the Sunshine State” – a good title for the journal where you keep all your observations from the days you are in now, Sandra. You never know what might come of it.