love song for galway kinnell

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

gkinnellWhen Shakespeare wrote in his Sonnet 18 that loveliness lives on in the immortal lines of the poet, I think he was writing about Galway Kinnell, the American poet who died Wednesday of this week at the age of 87.  As a passionate reader, Kinnell is one of those writers I longed to sit under trees with.  To sit under a tree on a summer afternoon, listening to him talk or tell stories.  To notice perhaps his gentle eyes tracing the flight of birds overhead or his strong wrinkled and freckled hands trembling a little as they smooth down the grass along the edge of our blanket.  I’d tell him how I never could get the man I keep to like the name Maud, how I can’t stop dreaming about hair sprouting in the moonlight, how haunted I am by the wind crying across stones.  The wages of dying is love, he’d say.  We’d read from a book I’ve brought, his Selected Poems.  And we’d start with the first poem “Two Seasons” and read straight through sunset to the last poem, “Flying Home.”  Mine is a 1982 paperback, black with creased corners and pencil-marked pages.  Would he linger at all over my notes, I doubt.  In the margin on page 129 nothing stays the same    impermanence   A faded blue post-it note on page 115 The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell

When a beautiful soul departs the earth there’s always that sad reminder of our own mortality, but when we share pieces of ourselves with others, when we extend our hands and utter words, when we write them down, especially, a part of us lives on.

 

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness,
like the stars for ever and ever.

~ Daniel 12:3


 

Two Seasons (1946)

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

 

Flying Home (1980)
1

It is good for strangers
of few nights to love each other
(as she and I did, eighteen years ago,
strangers of a single night)
and merge in natural rapture—
though it isn’t exactly each other
but through each other some
force in existence they don’t acknowledge
yet propitiate, no matter where,
in the least faithful of beds,
and by the quick dopplering of horns
of trucks plunging down Delancey,
and next to the iron rumblings
of outlived technology, subways up for air,
which blunder past every ten minutes
and botch the TV screen in the next apartment,
where the man in his beer
has to get up from his chair over and over
to soothe the bewildered jerking
things dance with internally,
and under the dead-light of neon,
and among the mating of cockroaches,
and like the mating of cockroaches,
who were etched before the daybreak
of the gods with compulsions to repeat
that drive them, too, to union
by starlight, without will or choice.

It is also good—and harder—
for lovers who live many years together
to feel their way toward
the one they know completely
and don’t ever quite know,
and to be with each other
and to increase what light may shine
in their ashes and let it go out
toward the other, and to need
the whole presence of the other
so badly that the two together
wrench their souls from the future
in which each mostly wanders alone

and in this familiar strange room,
for this night which lives
amid daily life past and to come
and lights it, find they hold,
perhaps shimmering a little,
or perhaps almost spectral, only the loved
other in their arms.

2

Flying home, looking about
in this swollen airplane, every seat
of it squashed full with one of us,
it occurs to me I might be the luckiest
in this planeload of the species;
for earlier,
in the airport men’s room, seeing
the middle-aged men my age,
as they washed their hands after touching
their penises—when it might have been more in accord
with the lost order to wash first, then touch—
peer into the mirror
and then stand back, as if asking, who is this?
I could only think
that one looks relieved to be getting away,
that one dreads going where he goes;
while as for me, at the very same moment
I feel regret at leaving
and happiness to be flying home.

3

As this plane dragging
its track of used ozone half the world long
thrusts some four hundred of us
toward places where actual known people
live and may wait,
we diminish down into our seats,
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours,
and yet we do not forget for a moment
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter:
where I will meet her again
and know her again,
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars.

Very likely she has always understood
what I have slowly learned
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away
as one can get on this globe, almost
as far as thoughts can carry—yet still in her presence,
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her
as by things she had already reminded me of,
shadows of her
cast forward and waiting—can I try to express:

that love is hard,
that while many good things are easy, true love is not,
because love is first of all a power,
its own power,
which continually must make its way forward, from night
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult
day.
And as the plane descends, it comes to me,
in the space
where tears stream down across the stars,
tears fallen on the actual earth
where their shining is what we call spirit,
that once the lover
recognizes the other, knows for the first time
what is most to be valued in another,
from then on, love is very much like courage,
perhaps it is courage, and even
perhaps
only courage. Squashed
out of old selves, smearing the darkness
of expectation across experience, all of us little
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts
of landing to the imponderable world,
the transcontinental airliner,
resisting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly,
to where
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears
all its tires know the home ground.

originally published in New York Review of Books, July 17, 1980 • Volume 27, Number 12

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf
Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eternal-life,-nature-of#sthash.lor6ya4c.dpuf

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in words and in touch, you are lovely

It’s World Poetry Day and the second day of Spring.  Enjoy this old favorite from American poet Galway Kinnell.

StFrancis

Saint Francis and the Sow

By Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

 

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