Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Little Children’s Prayer - Galway Kinnell

It’s always a delight when a poet of Galway Kinnell’s (1927-2014) stature addresses romantic love, particularly when better known for tying together big societal themes with how they crash and connect with the daily lives of people at every level.   A New Englander, Ivy Leaguer (Princeton), a civil rights and anti-war activist AND a veteran (Navy), he brought all those experiences together in poems that are accessible but also require a little “stretching” (at least for me) and are both thoughtful and feeling.  Some of those poems are quite unsparing in spot-lighting the ugly.  He won both a Pulitzer and a share of the National Book Award for poetry in the same year (1980) for his Selected Poems.

This one is a recent “discovery” for me and has grown with each reading.  Its note of hope is an elixir we can appreciate and contrast with Rod McKuen’s “To Benson Green On His 27th Birthday”, but it’s a hope that doesn’t ignore all that might be around the bend of the river of Experience.  I have hung a signed, limited edition broadside of it that I pass several times a day.

Little Chidren’s Prayer

We huddle together, like the hands
of someone who prays, studying the book
of the great world, the wind
blowing the pages over, desolate odd, desolate even, and

When we come to
our own story, and read of its happy beginning
and of its ending happy enough for such as we will have been
and of all that’s needed to give clarity to the days and
                nights between,
may we find the love-flower,
that gives good faithfulness in love, pressed perfectly
long ago between some pages
of the slow going where only those who adore the story
                ever read.

And when we set out on our way
toward our loves, wearing our flower.
may we walk hand in hand a little while longer together
stretching the laughter of childhood
as far as we can into the days to come,
and may we hear,
from the other direction, another laughter
echoing back
from the graves where our next bodies will have lain down
             already and be laughing,
gently, at everything that once seemed so serious,
blessing with light heart our days and nights, even their sorrows.

                                                                           Galway Kinnell - American

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