Sunday, March 28, 2004

Galway Kinnnell

My favorite living poet, Galway Kinnell has a lovely new poem in a recent New Yorker:

I raise my head off the pillow and study
the half-frosted windows and the clock
with its reluctant to tumble robotic digits
to check on how the night is proceeding.
By the clock's green glow and the light
of the last quarter moon the snow
shines up into our bedroom, I see
that the half of the oceanic comforter
apportioned to her side of the bed
lies completely flat. The words
of the shepherd in "Tristan," "Waste
and the empty sea," come to me.
Where is she? Sprouting in the furrow
where the comforter overlaps her pillow
is a hank of brown hair-she's here, sleeping
somewhere down in the dark underneath.
And now in her sleep she rotates herself
a quarter turn-from strewn all unfolded
on her back to bunched in a bulky Z
on her side, with her back to me.
I squirm closer, taking care not to
break into the immensity of her sleep,
and lie absorbing the astounding
quantity of heat a slender body
ovens up around itself, when need be.
Now her slow, purring, sometimes snorish,
perfectly intelligible sleeping sounds
abruptly stop. A leg darts back
and hooks my ankle with its foot
and draws me closer still. Soon
her sleeping sounds resume, telling me,
"Come, press against me, yes, like that,
put your right elbow on my hip bone, perfect,
and your right hand at my breasts, yes, that's it,
now your left arm, which has become extra,
stow it somewhere out of the way, good.
Entangled with each other so, unsleeping one,
together we will outsleep the night."

- Galway Kinnell (The New Yorker, p. 64, Mar. 22, 2004)
Why hasn't Kinnell ever served as poet laureate? Billy Collins was the last one, and--as enjoyable as many of his poems are--if he of the ode to Victoria's Secret catalogs can fill the position at all, Kinnell can do it amply.

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