Jan. 6, 2009

What To Do the First Morning the Sun Comes Back

by Roseann Lloyd

Find a clean cloth for the kitchen table, the red and blue one
you made that cold winter in Montana. Spread out
your paper and books. Tune the radio to the jazz station.
Look at the bright orange safflowers you found last August—
how well they've held their color next to the black-spotted cat.

Make some egg coffee, in honor of all the people
above the Arctic Circle. Give thanks to the Sufis,
who figured out how to brew coffee
from the dark, bitter beans. Remark
on the joyfulness of your dishes: black and yellow stars.

Reminisce with your lover about the history of this kitchen
where, between bites of cashew stir fry,
you first kissed each other on the mouth. Now that you're hungry,
toast some leftover cornbread, spread it with real butter,
honey from bees that fed on basswood blossoms.

The window is frosted over, but the sun's casting an eye
over all the books. Open your Spanish book.
The season for sleeping is over.
The pots and pans: quiet now, let them be.

It will be a short day.
Sit in the kitchen as long as you can, reading and writing.
At sundown, rub a smidgen of butter
on the western windowsill
to ask the sun:
Come back again tomorrow.

"What To Do the First Morning the Sun Comes Back" by Roseann Lloyd, from Because of the Light. © Holy Cow! Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. It celebrates the day when the three Magi visited Jesus and gave him the gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.

Christmas Eve begins the 12 days of Christmas, so January 5th, the eve of Epiphany, is called Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare wrote a play for the festivities in 1602, which is why it is called Twelfth Night.

James Joyce's famous short story "The Dead" is set at a party for the Feast of the Epiphany. The story ends: "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

It's the birthday of Edgar Lawrence Doctorow, E.L. Doctorow, (books by this author) born in New York City in 1931. He said, "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."

It's the birthday of Carl Sandburg, (books by this author) born in Galesburg, Illinois (1878). His parents were Swedish immigrants named August and Clara Johnson, but his father knew several other August Johnsons, so he decided to change the family name to Sandburg.

Young Carl fought in the Spanish American War. And he met a soldier who went to school at Lombard College in Galesburg, Sandburg's hometown. The soldier convinced Sandburg to go there, so he ended up in college. And at Lombard, he had a professor who encouraged him as a writer.

Carl Sandburg traveled around the country, collecting folk songs and performing his own poetry or music, and accompanying himself on the banjo. And he continued writing poems and biographies of Abraham Lincoln.

It's the birthday of Khalil Gibran, (books by this author) born in Bsharri, Lebanon (1883). When Gibran was 12 years old, his mother left her husband and moved her four children to Boston. He grew up, became a popular host, and one day the publisher Alfred A. Knopf came to one of his parties. Knopf was impressed, and he published Gibran's book The Prophet (1924). It became a huge best-seller in the 1960s.

The Prophet contains lines like: "Work is love made visible." And, "You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

It's the birthday of St. Joan of Arc, born on this day in Domrémy, France (1412). Her parents were peasants. She never learned to read or write, but she loved church, loved to go sit and pray. And when she was 13, she heard the voices of saints, telling her to go and help defend France against the British.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook

The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »