Tag: galway kinnell

Galway Kinnell, “Sex”

poetry

On my hands are the odors
of the knockout ether
either of above the sky
where the bluebirds get blued
on their upper surfaces
or of down under the earth
where the immaculate nightcrawlers
take in tubes of red earth
and polish their insides.

Galway Kinnell, “Middle of the Night”

poetry

A telephone rings through the wall.
Nobody answers. Exactly how
the mouth shapes itself inside
saying the word “gold” is what sleep
would be like if one were happy.
So Kenny Hardman and George Sykes
called “Gaw-way-ay!” at the back
of the house. If I didn’t come out
they would call until nightfall,
like summer insects. Or like
the pay phone at the abandoned
filling station, which sometimes
rang, off and on, an entire day.
The final yawn before one sleeps
is the word “yes” said too many times,
too rapidly, to the darkness. On the landing
she turned and looked back. Something
of the sea turtle heavy with eggs,
looking back at the sea. The shocking dark
of her eyes blew alive in me
the affirmative fire. It would have hurt
to walk away, just as it would bewilder
a mouth making the last yawn to say “no.”

* * *

Oh, hi. Yes I took a bit of a vacation from the poem-posting but I decided to get back at it again. Right back where I left off, with Mr. Kinnell – how great is this poem?! Just so – just so – Galway-esque. Sublime and verbose and it hits you in all the right spots.

Blackberries

languagepoetryprosereading

Standing at the fruit and veggies stand with Laura waiting for our sweet corn to be shucked and bagged up, I noticed the little cartons of fat, ripe blackberries just waiting for some lucky soul to eat them up. It made me think of one of my absolute favorite poems, “Blackberry Eating” by Galway Kinnell. I also stumbled across another poem just yesterday, this one by Seamus Heaney, called “Blackberry-Picking.” I wondered, there at the fruit stand, what the two poems would look like back-to-back. So, here they are:

Blackberry-Picking

for Philip Hobsbraum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

~ ~ ~

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

Keep reading

Galway Kinnell, “Why Regret?”

poetry

Didn’t you like the way the ants help
the peony globes open by eating the glue off?
Weren’t you cheered to see the ironworkers
sitting on an I-beam dangling from a cable,
in a row, like starlings, eathing lunch, maybe
baloney on white with fluorescent mustard?
Wasn’t it a revelation to waggle
from the estuary all the way up to the river,
the kill, the pirle, the run, the rent, the beck,
the sike barely trickling, to the shock of a spring?
Didn’t you almost shiver, hearing book lice
clicking their sexual dissonance inside an old
Webster’s New International, perhaps having just
eaten out of it izle, xyster, and thalassacon?
What did you imagine lies in wait anyway
at the end of a world whose sub-substance
is glaim, gleet, birdlime, slime, mucus, muck?
Forget about becoming emaciated. Think of the wren
and how little flesh is needed to make a song.
Didn’t it seem somehow familiar when the nymph
split open and the mayfly struggled free
and flew and perched and then its own back
broke open and the imago, the true adult,
somersaulted out and took flight, seeking
the swarm, mouth-parts vestigial,
alimentary canal come to a stop,
a day or hour left to find the desired one?
Or when Cassanova took up the platter
of linguine in squid’s ink and slid the stuff
out the window, telling his startled companion,
“The perfected lover does not eat.”
As a child, didn’t you find it calming to imagine
pinwoms as some kind of tiny batons
giving cadence to the squeezes and releases
around the downward march of debris?
Didn’t you glimpse in the monarchs
what seemed your own inner blazonry
flapping and gliding, in desire, in the middle air?
Weren’t you reassured to think these flimsy
hinged beings, and then their offspring,
and then their offspring’s offspring, could
navigate, working in shifts, all the way to Mexico,
by tracing the flair of the bodies of ancestors
who fell in this same migration a year ago?
Doesn’t it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
to wake in the night and find ourselves
holding hands on our sleep?

Galway Kinnell, “The Still Time”

poetry

I know there is still time –
time for the hands
to open, for the bones of them
to be filled
by those failed harvests of want,
the bread imagined of the days of not having.

Now that the fear
has been rummaged down to its husk,
and the wind blowing
the flesh away translates itself
into flesh and the flesh
gives itself in its reveries to the wind.

I remember those summer nights
when I was young and empty,
when I lay through the darkness
wanting, wanting,
knowing
I would have nothing of anything I wanted –
that total craving
that hollows the heart out irreversibly.

So it surprises me now to hear
the steps of my life following me –
so much of it gone
it returns, everything that drove me crazy
comes back, blessing the misery
of each step it took me into the world;
as though a prayer had ended
and the bit of changed air
between the palms goes free
to become the glitter
on some common thing that inexplicably shines.

And the old voice,
which once made its broken-off, choked, parrot-incoherences,
speaks again,
this time on the palatum cordis
this time saying there is time, still time,
for one who can groan
to sing,
for one who can sing to be healed.

– – –

Ah, lovely.

Galway Kinnell

poetry

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

– – –

The other night in my poetry class, we talked about poems like this. Thick, juicy poems, poems that drip, that fill you up like a meal, that leave you drunk like a bottle of red wine. Poems that leave you woozy and red-faced. Poems so filled with language, when you finish reciting them or hearing them recited, you just feel…lost. Drunk. We talked about William Carlos William’s plums, and the way you can feel them, almost, in your mouth. This is something more…this is a prayer to blackberries. Black tends to get a bad rap as a color. Here, the black is so black it has become something more…black’s ability as a pigment is to absorb, and here I feel absorbed, enveloped by the black of the blackberries. I feel buried in the crevices between the little lumps. “The black art of blackberry making.” Ah…

More than anything this is an example of wordplay in its highest form, and a showing of the power repetition has in language. His words are mostly polysyllabic, or else long monosyllables, like “black” itself, a word that stretches out from its vowel, as absorbent as its namesake. And then words like “September,” “overripe,” “prickly,” “ripest,” “unbidden,” “peculiar,” “startled” and “language.” Big words full of tongue motions. (Compare again to Williams; his poem is far simpler in its language, and that is where its success lies.) Kinnell goes so far as to single out particular words that remind him of blackberry eating, “strengths,” “squinch,” and “broughamed.” What’s unique about these word choices is that none of them have anything to do remotely with eating: “strengths” we understand; “squinch” is similar to squint; “brougham” is a horse-drawn carriage. Here Kinnell has made a separation between a word’s sound and its meaning, a rare feat. He has found sounds that remind him of blackberries, not word-meanings. This is the sort of thing poets try and fail at their whole lives. In this case the success is palpable, and it’s delicious.