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?
“Why Regret?” from Strong Is Your Hold. Copyright © 2006 by Tom Galway Kinnell. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on February 1, 1927.
Date Published: 2006-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/why-regret