AFTER GALWAY KINNELL DIED

AFTER GALWAY KINNELL DIED

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These poems 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

one

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.

A little Honduran boy playing by the river found the finger moving  in the current as if it was stirring a bowl full of sky.
Every time a barge boat passed and the East swelled a wake,
the fingertip was lifted high enough above the waterline
to touch the river coming down and make a water ring.

two

One hundred yards down, under Throgs Neck Bridge,
where she was raped ten years before,
a woman was 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 that night she was crying, until river gulls,
who would steal the breath from morning to keep their young alive,
woke her to herself.
Quietly then, she took the left hand into the right,
held it as her own and she was healed.

It will not be a rapist’s eyes she remembers now,
sharp as folding knives flicked opened with a vengeance.
It will not be the smell of pork flesh in his teeth, she remembers,
but how the heavy woolen overcoat she wore that night,
cushioned the ground, as much as it was able,
how tug horns, in compassion, 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 a 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.

three

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.

Standing in the river, the cold coming through my boots is drawn up calf and thigh bone
to clench its fist around the ball sack
as I pray:

Mother of this creation,
all eruptions of consciousness,
including the human animal thrusting disease into itself,
all planets, stars, and the space between atoms
in which galaxies are flourishing,
all currents, energies, waves of light,
trillions of created souls, each one different from the other
as Hutus are from Tutsis,
all of us born together through a single red vagina,
in flame and blood as the Mother is Herself,
all of us are merged in a Unity beyond conception!

That is my prayer.

four

It is unkind to tell those who suffer,
that happiness is just another kind of pain
but I am standing in the White Salmon River,
knowing her as my own self,
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.

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http://www.wnyc.org/story/85403-philip-levine-reads-galway-kinnell/

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ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND IN WINTER

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Three vertebrae in the mid back that once were tender as willow, cracked in a fall from a three story building. Now they hold to each other as three widows would,  living in a one bedroom apartment. I have a nose broken in four places and a ring finger that can not bend, as a swan will, to its own reflection in a palm full of water. The body worships with a child’s faith every illusion of safety but, with age, begins letting go of faith, learning to make do with common sense and the support of a brace.

This morning the moon is the color of a mule’s hip bone, the one I found in a field of crowder peas outside New Waverly, Texas in 1959. The sky is white as the face of a man in his sixties, raised on pork. I am walking to the White Salmon again, following the circle of my breath. Hear the spangled screech of hawk or eagle hunting ground squirrel in the fog. Sounds like a tambourine or the ornate rowel of a Mexican spur suddenly set spinning.

Walking in snow a hundred feet above the river, I recognize my own boot prints coming toward me from yesterday. Cloud fills the narrow gorge to its limits. Crows caw to each other over the rapids, swell their breasts and make the popping sounds of courtship. In the shadow of an overhang, egrets are murmuring and their murmur is a twin to the murmur of the river.

Without gloves on, the cold moves ‘cross the swollen knuckles of my right hand, as a wind that circumambulates five sacred hills where little fires are built. This fire is how I know the sky comes down to the riverbed and enters into bone. My hand, the color of a slice of wonder bread, is open, offering the sky back to itself. The One without a name who takes the shape of water and of air is also present in fire and in bone.

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