That Silent Evening
I will go back to that silent evening when we lay together and talked in silent voices, while outside slow lumps of soft snow fell, hushing as they got near the ground, with a fire in the room, in which centuries of tree went up in continuous ghost-giving-up, without a crackle, into morning light.
Not until what hastens went slower did we sleep.
When we got home we turned and looked back at our tracks twining out of the woods, where the branches we brushed against let fall puffs of sparkling snow, quickly, in silence, like stolen kisses, and where the scritch scritch scritch among the trees, which is the sound that dies inside the sparks from the wedge when the sledge hits it off center telling everything inside it is fire, jumped to a black branch, puffed up but without arms and so to our eyes lonesome, and yet also--how can we know this?--happy!
in shape of chickadee. Lying still in snow, not iron-willed, like railroad tracks, willing not to meet until heaven, but here and there treading slubby kissing stops, our tracks wobble across the snow their long scratch.
So many things that happen here are really little more, if even that, than a scratch, too. Words, in our mouths, are almost ready, already, to bandage the one whom the scritch scritch scritch, meaning if how when we might lose each other, scratches scratches scratches from this moment to that. Then I will go back to that silent evening, when the past just managed to overlap the future, if only by a trace, and the light doubles and casts through the dark a sparkling that heavens the earth.
Kinnell's Selected of 1982 won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award; this new retrospective contains many of the same poems, along with ample selections from the three books that have appeared in the interim (the most recent was 1994's Imperfect Thirst). Kinnell's earliest efforts, in which the poet attempted a more formal, Yeats-inflected style, are omitted completely, but the book presents an adequate cull of Kinnell's ambitious work from the '60s and '70s, including selections from What a Kingdom It Was (1960), Body Rags (1968) and Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980) that differ from the '82 selection. Exploring ideas of consciousness and mortality, the deeply Romantic poems of this period typically develop in short, numbered sections full of dark imagery: "I have come to myself empty, the rope/ strung out behind me/ in the fall sun/ suddenly glorified with all my blood." Like his deep-image peers Robert Bly and James Wright, Kinnell often seeks transcendence through immersion in nature: "Across gull tracks/ And wind ripples in the sand/ The wind seethes. My footprints/ Slogging for the absolute/ Already begin vanishing." Kinnell's later work maintains a similar mode in lyrics composed of long, single stanzas. Elemental as ever, these poems forcefully evince Kinnell's longstanding themes of human extremity--birth, death, sex--but frequently veer into gender-based bathos and heavy-handed lust: "She takes him and talks/ him more swollen. He kneels, opens/ the dark, vertical smile/ linking heaven with the underneath." At this stage in the poet's career, readers might have been better served by a collected volume spanning his entire output, but this well-balanced retrospective provides an appropriate overview of Kinnell's achievements. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|