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CELTIC-L  December 1996

CELTIC-L December 1996

Subject:

Galway Kinnell

From:

Bette Tomlinson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Fri, 13 Dec 1996 17:01:35 -0700

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (123 lines)

Because things seem a bit slow on the list, and because it is Christmas--a
good time to think about mothers, and birth and death, and because Galway
Kinnell is an Irish-American poet who writes like the old ones did, I'm
going to share part of this poem (because it is very long.)
Here is where you can delete, if you want--

The Last Hiding Places of Snow

1.

The burnt tongue
fluttered, "I'm dying..."
and then, "Why did...?  Why...?"
What earthly knowledge did she still need
just then, when
the tongue failed
or began speaking in another direction?
...

There is a place in the woods
where you can hear
such sounds:  sighs, groans
seeming to come from the
darkness of spruce boughs,
from glimmer-at-night of the white birches,
from the last hiding places of snow

a breeze,
that's all, driving
across certain obstructions: every stump
speaks,
the spruce needles play out of the air
the sorrows cried into it somewhere else.

Once in awhile, passing the place,
I have imagined I heard
my old mother calling, thinking out loud her
mother-love toward me, over those many miles
from where her bones lie,
five years
in earth now, with my father's thirty-years' bones.

I have always felt
anointed by her love, its light
like sunlight
falling through broken panes
onto the floor
of a deserted house: we may go, it remains,
telling of goodness of being, of permanence.

So lighted I have believed
I could wander anywhere,
among any foulnesses, any contagions,
I could climb through the entire empty world
and find my way back and learn again to be happy.
...

2.

I was not at her bedside
that final day, I did not grant her ancient,
huge-knuckled hand
its last wish, I did not let it
gradually become empty of the son's hand--and so
hand her, with more steadiness, into the future.
Instead, old age took her
by force, though with the help
of her old, broken attachments
which had broken
only on this side of death
but had kept intact on the other.

...

3.

A child, a little girl,

in violet hat, blue scarf, green sweater, yellow skirt, orange socks, red
     boots,
on a rope swing, swings
in sunlight
over a garden in Ireland, backfalls,
backrises,
forthsinks,
forthsoars, her charmed life holding its breath
innocent of groans, beyond any
future, far past the past: into a pure present.

...

no matter what fire we invent to destroy us,
ours will have been the brightest world ever existing...
The vision breaks,
the child suddenly grows old, she dies...

Every so often, when I look
at the dark sky, I know she remains
among the old endless blue lightedness
of stars; or finding myself out in a field
in November, when a strange
starry perhaps first snowfall blows
down across the darkening air, lightly,
I know she is there, where snow
falls flakes down fragile softly
falling until I can't see the world
any longer, only its stilled shapes.

Even now when I wake at night
in some room far from everyone,
the darkness sometimes
lightens a little, and then,
because of nothing,
in spite of nothing,
in an imaginary daybreak, I see her,
and for that moment I am still her son
and I am in the holy land
and twice in the holy land, remembered
within her, and remembered in the memory
her old body slowly executes into the earth.

From _Mortal Acts, Mortal Words_, ISBN 0-395-29126-7

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