Poetry Sunday: Inertia by Jane Kenyon

I'm sure we've all experienced moments like the one that Jane Kenyon describes in her poem. Moments when we are overcome by a feeling of lethargy, languor, torpor - whatever you might choose to call it. Kenyon calls it inertia. 


by Jane Kenyon

My head was heavy, heavy;
so was the atmosphere.
I had to ask two times
before my hand would scratch my ear.
I thought I should be out
and doing! The grass, for one thing,
needed mowing.

Just then a centipede
reared from the spine
of my open dictionary. lt tried
the air with enterprising feelers,
then made its way along the gorge
between 202 and 203. The valley of the shadow
of death came to mind

It can’t be easy for the left hand
to know what the right is doing.
And how, on such a day, when the sky
is hazy and perfunctory, how does it
get itself started without feeling
muddled and heavy-hearted?

Well, it had its fill of etymology.
I watched it pull its tail
over the edge of the page, and vanish
In a pile of mail.


  1. In general I don't have lethargic days, but at times I can't seem to get started on a specific thing I know needs to be done. Perhaps that is selective lethargy, or task avoidance, maybe. Gotta go and do the dishes!

  2. Frankly, I've struggled so much with poetry comprehension my whole life that I very seldom sit down and read it. And I supposed it's become a bit of a "chicken and egg" thing in that my comprehension skills will not improve without practice. That said, I have to say that the poetry you feature on your blog has really been a treat. I love the images created in this one.

    1. I particularly like the image of the curious centipede.

  3. they used to call it "spring fever" for which various unsavory remedies were prescribed...

  4. Some are saying a lot of us are feeling that way - there's a word for it but I can't come up with it - due to the pandemic. But, truthfully, I had days like that even before COVID. Enjoyed the poem. Now, to try to think of that word.

    1. I think the word you are seeking is languishing. I read an article about that recently.

  5. Yes, I’ve had this feelings many times!


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