Sunday, January 30, 2011

Galway Kinnell


You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk

into your room, and pick you up,

and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me


as if clinging could save us. I think

you think

I will never die, I think I exude

to you the permanence of smoke or stars,

even as

my broken arms heal themselves around you.


I have heard you tell

the sun, don't go down, I have stood by

as you told the flower, don't grow old,

don't die.

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,

I would suck the rot from your fingernail,

I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,

I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,

I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,

I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,

I would let nothing of you go, ever,



you cling because

I, like you, only sooner

than you, will go down

the path of vanished alphabets,

the roadlessness

to the other side of the darkness,

your arms

like the shoes left behind,

like the adjectives in the halting speech

of old men,

which once could call up the lost nouns.


as you stand

at this end of the bridge which arcs,

from love, you think, into enduring love,

learn to reach deeper

into the sorrows

to come – to touch

the almost imaginary bones

under the face, to hear under the laughter

the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss

the mouth

which tells you, here,

here is the world. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.


In the light the moon

sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once

in my father's eyes, a tiny kite

wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel

of all mortal things lets go the string.

Little sleep's-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,

when I come back

we will go out together,

we will walk out together among

the ten thousand things,

each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages

of dying is love.



  1. I love these simple, little things you find. And I relate to them so clearly, always. And I ponder,

    Do you? Does everyone? What must one go through to live such a passionate life... and prevail. And why does it always feel as if we've lost something important along the way... something, which cannot return, or feels sad and longing for that passionate misery we loathe and fear.

  2. I think everyone who is capable of feeling deeper or "darker" than the average person feels an emptiness. The search for the whole is part of the process; finding poems like the one above is part of the filling and simultaneously stretching of the hole. It feels as if it expands as it is satiated. Passionate people crave both the finding and the tearing.