Thursday, May 9, 2013

On reading Galway Kinnell again

Almost a quarter century ago, my eldest, all of 7 years old, and I wandered around Liberty State Park in the shadow of the Lady herself, trying out various foods at an international festival. Folks were amused at her voracious boldness, I was amused at their amusement. I had known her her whole life.

The day was glorious, the sky as stunningly clear as the day the Towers just across the water fell a dozen years later. There are a lot of reasons to fear north Jersey, and our myriad foods may be near the top of the list. Foreign. Exotic. And delicious enough to challenge anyone who fears crossing the line from sensuous to sensual, John Milton be damned.

A bluefish she caught, and we ate.

We ambled by a kid goat roasting over coals. As we stood there feeling the heat from coals, the kid's head broke off the body, and tumbled onto the grass by our feet.

I looked at Kerry, she looked at me. I doubt she remembers, but I do, my seven year old wunderkind looking as puzzled as the goat's eyes looking back at us. This was not supposed to happen. But it did.

A few years later I watched the Towers burn as I waited on the same island for the injured who never came, on a day as lovely as the one with the rolling goat head.

Both memories remain mostly tucked in my skull, then Galway Kinnell comes by and rumbles through my soul, again.

Here is the moment. Here is the world. Here is the choice.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Galway Kinnell, from "Wait"

From our hands, to our mouths

Maybe the point of teaching is to remind my lambs that there is a choice.

Sometime I forget this.
David Wallace Foster reminds us, too: "The real value of a real education … has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.


Kate T said...

I've been immersed in Mary Oliver lately - but this reminds me of my favorite Galway Kinnell poem- about teaching, and about teaching adolescents - and my heart breaks at the perfect understanding of agency, self doubt, and innate loveliness:

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
(From St. Francis and the Sow)
Thank you, Michael -

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

That may be my favorite Kinnell poem, but every time I try to find a piece to quote, I cannot break it, so leave it behind. (I reread it tonight before I saw your words.)

Mary Oliver is grand! I wrote her a letter once, and she wrote back. Her poem "Oxygen" spends time on our classroom bulletin board.