Poet and fiction writer Jane Mayhall died March 17 at the age of 90. Her last collection of poems, Sleeping Late on Judgment Day: Poems, was published in 2004 by Knopf, who has generously shared one of her poems, below.

It is a splendid choice. My favorite lines: “tell it / like it is, don’t gloss over / in silent splendor.”

JANE MAYHALL
May 10, 1918 – March 17, 2009
* * * * * *

“Never Apologize, Never Explain”
by Jane Mayhall

On the contrary, always apologize and explain,
in the terror-white veracity, down to the essence bone,
tenaciously follow the long road. Be
capable and Voltairean, discreet of form and substance, tell it
like it is, don’t gloss over
in silent splendor.

Give the unattractive facts. But they won’t be
that insipid (arrears of heavenly bodies).
And if you have to polish up
the contemptible gaff, give it all you’ve got-seriously,
don’t swindle and pretend the sky
didn’t fall in.

But dole out the mathematics, saviors of the gut.
Inching without propaganda the longhand
of dream. Even insult the host who
just wanted to play the game. Apologize in sample color,
if you loved something, say it. If kept
under your hat,

let the fallacies represent you.
From whatever Acropolis of stress, bat with
that genuine non-expurgation, the angel of bottomless pits.
Versatility and science; right the wrongs you know,
and do it with wholeheartedness. In fundamentals
so brash, or like a glass

of water.

From Sleeping Late on Judgment Day: Poems.

* * * * * *

Listen to a recording of Knopf’s poetry editor
Deborah Garrison reading “Untitled” by Jane Mayhall.

Advertisements