Friday, July 20, 2007

One Kiss by Tess Gallagher

I'm back after a week-long vacation to San Francisco. I like this Tess Gallagher poem about jealously, longing, and infinity. It's playful and surreal, and asks what life would be like if we did have the answer to everything.

One Kiss

A man was given one kiss, one
mouth, one tongue, one early dawn, one boat
on the sea, lust of an indeterminate
amount under stars. He was happy
and well fitted for life until he met a man
with two cocks. Then a sense of futility
and of the great unfairness of life befell him.
He lay about all day like a teenaged girl dreaming,
practicing all the ways to be unconsciously beautiful.

Gradually his competitive spirit began to fade
and in its place a gigantic kiss rowed toward him.
It seemed to recognize him, to have intended itself
only for him. It's just a kiss, he thought,
I'll use it up. The kiss had the same thing
on its mind—``I'll use up this man.''

But when two kisses kiss, it's like tigers
answering questions about infinity with their teeth.
Even if you are eaten, it's okay—you just become impossible
a new way—sleepless, stranger than fish, stranger
than some goofy man with two cocks. That's
what I meant about the hazards

of infinity. When you at last begin to seize those things
which don't exist,
how much longer will the night need to be?

Tess Gallagher, a poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright, was born in 1943 in Port Angeles, Washington. She received a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts from the University of Washington, where she studied creative writing with Theodore Roethke, and a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Iowa.

Friday, July 06, 2007

An Untitled Poem by Kabir

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such rush?
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
birds and animals and the ants--
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in
your mother's womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that's why everything you do has some weird
failure in it.

Translated by Robert Bly

Kabir (1440-1518) Kabir is a very important figure in Indian history. He is unusual in that he is spiritually significant to Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims alike. Kabir openly criticized all sects and gave a new direction to Indian philosophy. Legend has it that when he died, his Hindu and Muslim followers started fighting about the last rites. When they lifted the cloth covering his body, they found flowers instead. The Muslim followers buried their half and the Hindu cremated their half.