HOW COULD YOU NOT
-- for Jane kenyon
By Galway Kinnell
It is a day after many days of storms.
Having been washed and washed, the air glitters;
small heaped cumuli blow across the sky; a shower
visible against the firs douses the crocuses.
We knew it would happen one day this week.
Now, when I learn you have died, I go
to the open door and look across at New Hampshire
and see that there, too, the sun is bright
and clouds are making their shadowy ways along the horizon;
and I think: How could it not have been today?
In another room, Keri Te Kanawa is singing
the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly,
as if in the past, to those who once sat
in the steel seat of the old mowing machine,
cheerful descendent of the scythe of the grim reaper,
and drew the cutter bars little
reciprocating triangles through the grass
to make the stalks lie down in sunshine.
Could you have walked in the dark early this morning
and found yourself grown completely tired
of the successes and failures of medicine,
of your year of pain and despair remitted briefly
now and then by hope that had that leaden taste?
Did you glimpse in first light the world as you loved it
and see that, now, it was not wrong to die
and that, on dying, you would leave
your beloved in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did you loosen your hold a little?
How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,
in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,
it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
How could you not rise and go, with all that light
at the window, those arms around you, and the sound,
coming or going, hard to say, of a single-engine
plane in the distance that no one else hears?
POEM OF NIGHT
By Galway Kinnell
I move my hand over
slopes, falls, lumps of sight,
Lashes barely able to be touched,
Lips that give way so easily
it's a shock to feel underneath them
The bones smile.
Muffled a little, barely cloaked,
Zygoma, maxillary, turbinate.
I put my hand
On the side of your face,
You lean your head a little
Into my hand--and so,
I know you're a dormouse
Taken up in winter sleep,
A lonely, stunned weight.
A curved piece of brow,
A pale eyelid
Float in the dark,
And now I make out
An eye, dark,
Wormed with far-off, unaccountable lights.
Hardly touching, I hold
What I can only think of
As some deepest of memories in my arms,
Not mine, but as if the life in me
Were slowly remembering what it is.
You lie here now in your physicalness,
This beautiful degree of reality.
And now the day, raft that breaks up, comes on.
I think of a few bones
Floating on a river at night,
The starlight blowing in a place on the water,
The river leaning like a wave towards the emptiness.
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