Old Arrivals

Galway Kinnell - 1927-2014

Molded in verdigris
Shortly before she died
The Lady stands by herself,
Her electrical hand on fire.

They too in the Harbor
That chops the light to pieces
Looked up at her hand, burning.
Hair, flesh, blood, bone.

They floated in at night
On black water, cargoes
Which may not go back, waves
Breaking the rocks they break on.

More by Galway Kinnell

After Making Love We Hear Footsteps

For I can snore like a bullhorn 
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman 
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash, 
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house 
and he will wrench himself awake 
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together, 
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies, 
familiar touch of the long-married, 
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens, 
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep, 
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other 
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making, 
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake, 
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

Why Regret?

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?

Related Poems

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"