The Deconstruction of Emily Dickinson, Galway Kinnell
Sunday. It’s always Sunday.
Rifts and seams of dark birds
Right-flank and wheel across a darker December sky
Southwest and so wide.
Winter solstice again,
Burnt end of a narrow road.
The lawn chairs gutter and glare in their white solitude.
How short the days are.
How imperceptibly we become ourselves—
Like solstice-diminishing light
Devolving to one appointed spot,
We substitute and redress
In predetermined degrees we’ve neither a heart nor hand in.
How slowly the streetlights come on.
How shrill the birds are
Take off your traveling clothes and
Lay down your luggage,
Pilgrim, shed your nakedness.
Only the fire is absorbed by the Holy of Holies.
Let it shine.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.
No cup is broken in more places and mended, that is to say a plate is broken and mending does do that it shows that culture is Japanese. It shows the whole element of angels and orders. It does more to choosing and it does more to that ministering counting. It does, it does change in more water.
Supposing a single piece is a hair supposing more of them are orderly, does that show that strength, does that show that joint, does that show that balloon famously. Does it.
Body my house
my horse my hound
what will I do
when you are fallen
Where will I sleep
How will I ride
What will I hunt
Where can I go
without my mount
all eager and quick
How will I know
in thicket ahead
is danger or treasure
when Body my good
bright dog is dead
How will it be
to lie in the sky
without roof or door
and wind for an eye
With cloud for shift
how will I hide?
The saris go by me from the embassies.
Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.
They look back at the leopard like the leopard.
this print of mine, that has kept its color
Alive through so many cleanings; this dull null
Navy I wear to work, and wear from work, and so
To my bed, so to my grave, with no
Complaints, no comment: neither from my chief,
The Deputy Chief Assistant, nor his chief—
Only I complain…. this serviceable
Body that no sunlight dyes, no hand suffuses
But, dome-shadowed, withering among columns,
Wavy beneath fountains—small, far-off, shining
In the eyes of animals, these beings trapped
As I am trapped but not, themselves, the trap,
Aging, but without knowledge of their age,
Kept safe here, knowing not of death, for death—
Oh, bars of my own body, open, open!
The world goes by my cage and never sees me.
And there come not to me, as come to these,
The wild beasts, sparrows pecking the llamas’ grain,
Pigeons settling on the bears’ bread, buzzards
Tearing the meat the flies have clouded….
When you come for the white rat that the foxes left,
Take off the red helmet of your head, the black
Wings that have shadowed me, and step to me as man:
The wild brother at whose feet the white wolves fawn,
To whose hand of power the great lioness
You know what I was,
You see what I am: change me, change me!
You haven’t finished your ape, said mother to father,
who had monkey hair and blood on his whiskers.
I’ve had enough monkey, cried father.
You didn’t eat the hands, and I went to all the
trouble to make onion rings for its fingers, said mother.
I’ll just nibble on its forehead, and then I’ve had enough,
I stuffed its nose with garlic, just like you like it, said
Why don’t you have the butcher cut these apes up? You lay
the whole thing on the table every night; the same fractured
skull, the same singed fur; like someone who died horribly. These
aren’t dinners, these are post-mortem dissections.
Try a piece of its gum, I’ve stuffed its mouth with bread,
Ugh, it looks like a mouth full of vomit. How can I bite into
its cheek with bread spilling out of its mouth? cried father.
Break one of the ears off, they’re so crispy, said mother.
I wish to hell you’d put underpants on these apes; even a
jockstrap, screamed father.
Father, how dare you insinuate that I see the ape as anything
more than simple meat, screamed mother.
Well what’s with this ribbon tied in a bow on its privates?
Are you saying that I am in love with this vicious creature?
That I would submit my female opening to this brute? That after
we had love on the kitchen floor I would put him in the oven, after
breaking his head with a frying pan; and then serve him to my husband,
that my husband might eat the evidence of my infidelity … ?
I’m just saying that I’m damn sick of ape every night,
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible
I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer
The waste of my love goes on this way
Trying to save you from yourself
I have always wondered about the leftover
energy, water rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped
or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting there long after midnight.