This poem may not be worthy of having the name Galway Kinnell connected to it but I have to thank him, as I am able, for the gifts he has given me.
October 29, 2014
On the day Galway Kinnell died, a finger was found in the East River,
Queens, New York.
The finger of a giant, cut from a muscular hand,
still bearing the mark of a wedding ring.
The finger was moving in murk water as if stirring a bowl of sky.
Every time a barge boat passed, the East River swelled a wake
and the fingertip was lifted high enough above the waterline
to touch the river coming down and make a water ring.
One hundred yards down, under Throgs Neck Bridge,
where she was raped ten years before,
a woman is ready to forgive the river its indifference.
All night after Galway Kinnell died, she stayed awake, reading
The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World.
All night, until the crying of river gulls,
who steal held breath away from morning just to keep their young alive,
woke her to herself.
Quietly then, she took the left hand into the right and held it
as her own.
It will not be his eyes she remembers now,
sharp as folding knives flicked opened with a vengeance,
nor the smell of pork flesh in his teeth,
but how the heavy woolen overcoat she wore that night,
cushioned the ground, as much as it was able,
how tug horns went on blowing in the fog, covering his curses and his threats.
Her coat is black
with silver threads like trails of stars falling through moonless night.
She wears it now, as if the river is a lover she was assigned to meet
at ten o’clock the morning after Galway Kinnell died,
when the flat October sun is so intense
she has to shade her eyes to see
galaxies of gnats swarming on the water.
Twenty-nine hundred miles away I am standing in the White Salmon River,
cliff swallows calling, “Galway, Galway…”.
Eleven silver salmon in white water,
six of them dead, five scouring trenches in the gravel bed,
ready now to spawn before they die.
The smell of the living and dead, risen up together, braided with the water
makes a twelfth.
Now the cold coming through my boots is drawn up calf and thigh bone
to clench its fist around the ball sack
as I pray:
including the eruption of consciousness
and the human animal thrusting disease into itself,
all planets, stars, the space between atoms
in which galaxies are flourishing,
all currents, energies, waves of light,
billions of created souls, each one different from the other
as Hutus are from Tutsis,
all of us born together through a single red vagina,
all flame and bloody as the Mother is Herself
all of us merged in a Unity beyond conception.
This is my prayer.
It is unkind to tell those who suffer,
that happiness is just another kind of pain
but I am standing in the White Salmon,
knowing the river as my own,
the air between us so erupt with joy, I am beaten
to a kind of death.
I tell you, this joy is so intense, at times, I hardly care.