The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Why Regret?
By Galway Kinnell

Didn't you like the way the ants help
the peony globes open by eating the glue off?
Weren't you cheered to see the ironworkers
sitting on an I-beam dangling from a cable,
in a row, like starlings, eating lunch, maybe
baloney on white with fluorescent mustard?
Wasn't it a revelation to waggle
from the estuary all the way up the river,
the kill, the pirle, the run, the rent, the beck,
the sike barely trickling, to the shock of a spring?
Didn't you almost shiver, hearing book lice
clicking their sexual dissonance inside an old
Webster's New International, perhaps having just
eaten out of it izle, xyster, and thalassacon?
What did you imagine lies in wait anyway
at the end of a world whose sub-substance
is glaim, gleet, birdlime, slime, mucus, muck?
Forget about becoming emaciated. Think of the wren
and how little flesh is needed to make a song.
Didn't it seem somehow familiar when the nymph
split open and the mayfly struggled free
and flew and perched and then its own back
broke open and the imago, the true adult,
somersaulted out and took flight, seeking
the swarm, mouth-pans vestigial,
alimentary canal come to a stop,
a day or hour left to find the desired one?
Or when Casanova took up the platter
of linguine in squid's ink and slid the stuff
out the window, telling his startled companion,
"The perfected lover does not eat."
As a child, didn't you find it calming to imagine
pinworms as some kind of tiny batons
giving cadence to the squeezes and releases
around the downward march of debris?
Didn't you glimpse in the monarchs
what seemed your own inner blazonry
flapping and gliding, in desire, in the middle air?
Weren't you reassured to think these flimsy
hinged beings, and then their offspring,
and then their offspring's offspring, could
navigate, working in shifts, all the way to Mexico,
to the exact plot, perhaps the very tree,
by tracing the flair of the bodies of ancestors
who fell in this same migration a year ago?
Doesn't it outdo the pleasures of the brilliant concert
to wake in the night and find ourselves
holding hands in our sleep?


From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, where Robert Pinsky asks, "Why is so much poetry gloomy? There are many good answers to that question. Any day's newspaper is full of them. Shakespeare, mythology and the Bible are not always cheerful. And happiness is very hard to write about convincingly. So is delight. But Galway Kinnell manages a successful catalogue of redeeming delights in "Why Regret?" the final poem in his new book [Strong is Your Hold]."

In the poem, "a winning candor includes, along with what the senses perceive, the poet's happy custom of dictionary-browsing. The speed of the list makes it more effective: lingering too long on the mayfly's brief search for a mate would be sentimental; instead, the poem dashes ahead through the outrageous brio of Casanova's gesture and the child's imagination re-assigning the discomfort of pinworms. And like dictionary-grubbing among the glaim and gleet, the image of the monarch butterflies maintaining the ways of their ancestors acknowledges memory. The poem counters the weight of certain mortality with the comfort of things that continue: life that is alimentary, sexual, intellectual and imaginative as well. The poem is less about its razzle-dazzle images, pleasurable though they are, than about the process that moves through them, and keeps moving: the restless, always-surprising process of life, and of the mind keeping up, for as long as it can."

Still have very unhappy throat and sinuses, but I discovered some old Advil Sinus from before they switched whatever it is that we can supposedly use to make crystal meth and necessitated substituting some other ingredient, and what a difference! Next time I go to the pharmacy and ask what I need to sign to get my old formula instead of whatever ineffective stuff is in Dayquil now. Since I was feeling better we went to Great Falls, which had a lot of people given the magnificent 60-degree weather but never felt crowded:

On September 9th, the new canal boat Charles F. Mercer was launched in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal here at Great Falls, Maryland. This replica packet boat has an aluminum hull with a wooden superstructure.

The Charles F. Mercer replaces the Canal Clipper III, which can be seen resting on dry land behind it here. The Clipper was damaged in 2003 by Hurricane Isabel and retired.

Here she is, the boat out of water. (You can see photos of her at work using the Great Falls tag.)

The Mercer, however, was not traveling anywhere today... the canal had been nearly drained dry in the area for repairs.

This duck puddle is about as deep as the C&O Canal got. The river, however, was nearly cresting over the bank near the walkways to the overlook and was putting on quite a show of sound and fury -- more photos next week.

When we came home, apaulled covered our entire living room floor with our entire CD collection, confident that he could get it put away by 1 a.m. when public television finished its Baker-era Doctor Who reruns (speaking of which, my British friend who sent me Casanova also sent me a link to this London Review of Books article from last spring reviewing a critical volume on the series). The bad news is, there are still CDs all over our living room floor. The good news is, because there's a pledge drive, the episodes will be running quite a bit later than 1 a.m. I, however, am not staying up for them, as I wore myself out watching Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones on cable for some unfathomable reason, and the struggle not to laugh hysterically during the love scenes was more than my poor throat can bear!

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