Friday, October 10, 2014

when one has lived a long time alone







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1
When one has lived a long time alone,
one refrains from swatting the fly
and let’s him go, and one hesitates to strike
the mosquito, though more than willing to slap
the flesh under her, and one lifts the toad
from the pit too deep to hop out of
and carries him to the grass, without minding
the poisoned urine he slicks his body with,
and one envelops, in a towel, the swift
who fell down the chimney and knocks herself
against window glass and releases her outside
and watches her fly free, a life line flung at reality,
When one has lived a long time alone.

2
When one has lived a long time alone,
one grabs the snake behind the head
and holds him until he stops trying to stick
the orange tongue – which splits at the end
into two black filaments and jumps out
like a fire-eater’s belches and has little
in common with the pimpled pink lumps that shapes
sounds and sleeps inside the human mouth -
into one’s flesh, and clamps it between his jaws,
letting the gaudy tips show, as children do
when concentrating, and as very likely
one does oneself, without knowing it,
when one has lived a long time alone.

3
When one has lived a long time alone,
among regrets so immense the past occupies
nearly all the room there is in consciousness,
one notices in the snake’s eyes, which look back
without giving any less attention to the future,
the first coating of the opaque, mikly-blue
leucoma snakes get when about to throw their skins
and become new – meanwhile continuing,
of course, to grow old – the same bleu Passe
that bleaches the corneas of the blue-eyed
when they lie back at the end and look for heaven,
a fading one knows means they will never find it
when one has lived a long time alone.

4
When one has lived along time alone,
one holds the snake near the loudspeaker disgorging
gorgeous sounds and watches him crook
his forepart into four right angles,
as though trying to slow down the music
flowing through him, in order to absorb it
like milk of paradise into the flesh,
until a glimmering appears at his mouth,
such a drop of intense fluid as, among humans,
could form after long exciting at the tip
of the penis, and as he straightens himself out
he has the pathos one finds in the penis,
when one has lived a long time alone.

5
When one has lived a long time alone,
one falls to poring upon a creature,
contrasting it’s eternity’s-face to one’s own
full of hours, taking note of each difference,
exaggerating it, making it everything,
until the other is utterly other, and then,
with hard effort, possibly with tongue sticking out,
going back over each difference once again
and canceling it, seeing nothing now
but likeness, until … half an hour later
one stares awake, taken aback at how eagerly
one drops off into the happiness of kinship,
when one has lived a long time alone.

6
When one has lived a long time alone
and listens at morning to mourning doves
sound their kyrie eleison, or the small thing
spiritualized upon a twig cry, “pewit-pheobe!”
or at midday grasshoppers scratch the thighs’
needfire awake, or peabody birds send schoolboys’
whistlings across the field, and at dusk, undamped,
unforgiving chinks, as from marble cutters’ chisels,
or at nightfall polliwogs just burst into frogs
raise their ave verum corpus – listens to those
who hop or fly call down upon us the mercy
of other tongues – one hears them as inner voices,
when one has lived a long time alone.

7
When one has lived a long time alone,
one knows that consciousness consummates,
and as the conscious one among these others
uttering their compulsory cries of being here -
the least flycatcher witching up “che-bec!”
or red-headed woodpecker clanging out his music
from a metal drainpipe, or ruffed grouse drumming
“thrump thrump thrump thrump-thrump-
thrump-thrump-rup-rup-ruprup-rup-r-r-r-r-r-r”
deep in the woods, all of them in time’s unfolding
trying to cry themselves into self-knowing -
one knows one is here to hear them into shining,
when one has lived a long time alone.

8
When one has lived a long time alone,
one likes alike the pig, who brooks no deferment
of gratification, and the porcupine, or thorned pig,
who enters the cellar but not the house itself
because of eating down the cellar stairs on the way up,
and one likes the worm, who by bunching herself together
and expanding works her way through the ground,
no less than the butterfly, who totters full of worry
among the day lilies, as they darken,
and more and more one finds one likes
any other species better than one’s own,
which has gone amok, making one self-estranged,
when one has lived a long time alone.

9
When one has lived a long time alone,
sour, misanthropic, one fits to one’s defiance
the satanic boast, it is better to reign
than submit on earth, and forgets
one’s kind – the way by now the snake does,
who stops trying to get to the floor and lingers
all across one’s body – slumping into its contours,
adopting its temperature – and abandons hope
of the sweetness of friendship or love,
before long can barely remember what they are,
and covets the stillness in inorganic matter,
in a self-dissolution one may not know how to halt,
when one has lived a long time alone.

10
When one has lived a long time alone,
and the hermit thrush calls and there is an answer,
and the bullfrog head half out of water repeats
the sexual cantillations of his first spring,
and the snake lowers himself over the threshold
and disappears among the stones, one sees
they all live to mate with their kind, and one knows,
after a long time of solitude, after the many steps taken
away from one’s kind, toward the kingdom of strangers,
the hard prayer inside one’s own singing
is to come back, if one can, to one’s own,
a world almost lost, in the exile that deepens,
when one has lived a long time alone.

11
When one has lived a long time alone,
one wants to live again among men and women,
to return to that place where one’s ties with the human
broke, where the disquiet of death and now also
of history glimmers its firelight on faces,
where the gaze of the new baby looks past the gaze
of the great granny, and where lovers speak,
on lips blowsy from kissing, that language
the same in each mouth, and like birds at daybreak
blether the song that is both earth’s and heaven’s,
until the sun has risen, and they stand
in the light of being made one: kingdom come,
when one has lived a long time alone.


–Galway Kinnell








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