Hello, everyone. I am back from my writing retreat and back into my summer routine at home. I got to spend today being inspired at the Art Institute of Chicago with friends and fellow writers Kristin and Paul LaTour. Good company and wonderful art. I have decided to spend one day a week going outside of home for some writing time. Whether that’s a museum visit, time at the library, or a local park, a change of scenery will help keep me in drafting mode.
Today’s poem is from Galway Kinnell. I have been reading The Book of the Dead, and I have long admired this poem. It seemed especially appropriate as several of my new drafts are dealing with time, dark and light, night and day in their imagery AND last summer produced many poems with specific scientific language about the body. This poem combines them in a way that I could only hope to emulate.
Poem Of Night – 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.
The fifth section contains one of my favorite images – “the day/a raft that breaks up” – and the conclusion with the water “leaning like a wave towards the emptiness” echoes the curved images of the bodies in the earlier parts of the poem. And, despite the use of the three words describing facial bones, the language of the poem is deceptively simple.
If You Want to Write:
1. Look up the names of bones or muscles in human anatomy that may be new or interesting to you. Try to work two or three of them into a poem.
2. Write a poem about Night or Day in five parts: part one using anatomical words, part two using an animal metaphor, part three – an unusual verb (like “wormed”), part four all in abstractions (note the lack of images in part four), and part five, a metaphor about your subject that is unique (like the raft image).