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, eating lunch, maybe baloney on white with fluorescent mustard? Wasn't it a revelation to waggle from the estuary all the way up 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 Casanova 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 pinworms 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, to the exact plot, perhaps the very tree, 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 in our sleep?
Galway Kinnell - 1927-2014
1 In late winter I sometimes glimpse bits of steam coming up from some fault in the old snow and bend close and see it is lung-colored and put down my nose and know the chilly, enduring odor of bear. 2 I take a wolf's rib and whittle it sharp at both ends and coil it up and freeze it in blubber and place it out on the fairway of the bears. And when it has vanished I move out on the bear tracks, roaming in circles until I come to the first, tentative, dark splash on the earth. And I set out running, following the splashes of blood wandering over the world. At the cut, gashed resting places I stop and rest, at the crawl-marks where he lay out on his belly to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice I lie out dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists. 3 On the third day I begin to starve, at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would at a turd sopped in blood, and hesitate, and pick it up, and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down, and rise and go on running. 4 On the seventh day, living by now on bear blood alone, I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled, steamy hulk, the heavy fur riffling in the wind. I come up to him and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes, the dismayed face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils flared, catching perhaps the first taint of me as he died. I hack a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink, and tear him down his whole length and open him and climb in and close him up after me, against the wind, and sleep. 5 And dream of lumbering flatfooted over the tundra, stabbed twice from within, splattering a trail behind me, splattering it out no matter which way I lurch, no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence, which dance of solitude I attempt, which gravity-clutched leap, which trudge, which groan. 6 Until one day I totter and fall— fall on this stomach that has tried so hard to keep up, to digest the blood as it leaked in, to break up and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze blows over me, blows off the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood and rotted stomach and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear, blows across my sore, lolled tongue a song or screech, until I think I must rise up and dance. And I lie still. 7 I awaken I think. Marshlights reappear, geese come trailing again up the flyway. In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear lies, licking lumps of smeared fur and drizzly eyes into shapes with her tongue. And one hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me, the next groaned out, the next, the next, the rest of my days I spend wandering: wondering what, anyway, was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that poetry, by which I lived?