at Length

Three Weeks

—Dawn Potter


Mon.—    Bake for brother 3 meat pies 5 loaves. I travel to Rockland tomorrow, spend 2 days with cousin V. Of course Dave grudges my absence, &c.


Rags of sunlight cheer my heart.

I am going to try to write
A little.

I have nothing at stake but my life.

Tue.—    Roads as poor as ever— Will nothing change? Cousin V in good health except a lowering sensation in her head. This evening uncle escorts us to view a Shakespeare play, my first— O dear we will see some high life now!

Reading the Newspaper

I am ignorant of so many things.
I am ashamed to ask questions of strangers.

I am what I would not be.
Why should I costume myself?

Wed.—    Bought a hat $2.10 & pay 65¢ for copy-books and lead pencils. They say the bay is as fine as Naples but the lime-kilns burn night and day. Belching fire rolling smoke.

As You Like It

I have attended the theater,
Just to see what it is.

ImperviousnessCould not dream there often.

Thu.—    Rain—    Home once more. Brother rinsed his dishes, I should be grateful. The news from cousin V has startled me more than I care to admit, dave shows no concern however.


I took a cup of tea and ate a bite of bread and butter.
I tried to read a joyful psalm.
I felt that I hated.The dust caught in my throat.

Fri.—    rainy, Cut & sew another shirt for brother. Old Sara lost her colt which is $30.00 gone, still I am in two minds about taking another school term. Tho’ in truth they are not likely to ask me

Scrubbing Floors

We belong to the scrambling class,
Business and loathing in our nostrils.

But I will not crouch like a cowed dog.
I have seen a vision of a white field.

Sat.—    Fox took two turkey poults. Sun-shine at last, wash all day. My mind on other things.

Boiling Sheets

What am I?
I shroud myself in steam.

This will be a long and malevolent day.

Sun.—    Church alone. Dave puts his soul in peril but I shall not.

New Testament

Mary was a plain quiet woman.

I glimpse the half-shape of my future.


Mon.—    I re-read last week’s diary, I suppose it is all shame and sin. No visitors.

Pulling Beets

Week follows week.

I hardly know which way I am heading,
Upstream or down.

How near lies the border-land of the unseen.

Tue.—    Do usual work. Hawk circles hen-house all morning. I weary of asking Dave’s advice

Counting Eggs

Long wakefulness—
My indignation foams—

I am glad to find
My heart is not worm-eaten.

Wed.—    Brother to Rockland for no reason that I can see. Pickle 5 qts beets. Read a page in Paradise-lost but cannot keep my mind on verse.

Peeling Potatoes

Squalls, rain, high seas—

I feel like dissolving every tie that binds me.

Disaster craves me.

Thu.–    Weed onions, a dull task— Cannot help thinking of that sad affair in town and yet what is love?

Scouring the Wash Boiler

I dream near to God.

Of a friend, also—

I could dream such dreams.

Fri.—    Warm. cousin V writes to say the parties have done away with themselves, Poison suspected. It would be a tale from Shakespeare if the actors were otherwise. I am too shaken to do much

Skimming Cream

A cloudless sky, a slight breath of air—

I have gained a knowledge of the world.
But I am very tired of books.

Sat.—    Dave glum all day— We are a pair

Cutting Out a Bodice

I cannot stand it longer, I must make some sort of move.
Law everywhere, asserting its ascendancy—
I have often thought I would like to cross the ocean.
I must have a standard, be a law unto myself.

Sun.—    Church alone.

Pouring Tea

I love on a low plain, without joy or sorrow.
I do not know when I am well dressed.

God is the center of a magnificent circle.

Yet the same old lamentations—
I must choose what to do.


Mon.—    commenced summer term on the Ledge today. Only twenty scholars present. I wish I could be kind firm and strong.

Watching a Gull

The vaulted space above our heads—
Turn everything to good accountFragrance without bitterness—
Calm self-reliant lightness

Tue.—    Dave complains about his cold dinner— he forgets he should be grateful for the salary.           If I last in this place.

Sharpening a Pencil

All works of nature quicken the goodness of God,
Even the animals of my soul.

I could have done them no good
But oh
What a language I would have learned.

Wed.—    The third day of school. I must get up an interest. My mind seems to be caged.

Watching a Gull

A shattered craft may defy

A sturdy sea.

Thu.—    Heard the new minister at bible study last eve. A godly man not possessing much talent, viz. exceedingly well adapted to this town

Sharpening a Pencil

What will be our condition
If we are not found in our corners?

Fri.—    Sky glowing a greenish-yellow, imparting to the grass and the trees a peculiar shade. It is hardly so dark as night more like early twilight or those dead moments before dawn


The air quickens.

The stones hold my breath.

Sat.—    I am not in a condition now to lay any plans for the future


When I am weak,
I am the same as any weak mortal.

In judging him by my Self,
I make my mistake.

Sun.—    Church alone.


My good angel tells me

I ought to go home.

Dawn Potter is the author of nine books of prose and poetry, most recently Accidental Hymn. Her work has appeared in the Sewanee Review, the Threepenny Review, the Beloit Poetry Journal, and many other venues. Dawn directs the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. She lives in Portland, Maine.