Kinnell, Galway

United States, (b. 1927)

Saint Francis And The Sow

  1. The bud
  2. stands for all things,
  3. even for those things that don’t flower,
  4. for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
  5. though sometimes it is necessary
  6. to reteach a thing its loveliness,
  7. to put a hand on its brow
  8. of the flower
  9. and retell it in words and in touch
  10. it is lovely
  11. until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
  12. as Saint Francis
  13. put his hand on the creased forehead
  14. of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
  15. blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
  16. began remembering all down her thick length,
  17. from the earthen snout all the way
  18. through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
  19. from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
  20. down through the great broken heart
  21. to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
  22. from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths
  23. sucking and blowing beneath them:
  24. the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell. The Book of Nightmares. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1971).

The Sow Piglet’s Escapes

  1. When the little sow piglet squirmed free,
  2. Gus and I ran her all the way down to the swamp
  3. and lunged and floundered and fell full-length
  4. on our bellies stretching for her, and got her,
  5. and lay there, all three shining with swamp slime,
  6. she yelping, I laughing, Gus gasping and gasping.
  7. It was then I knew he would die soon.
  8. She made her second escape on the one day
  9. when she was big enough to dig an escape hole
  10. and still small enough to squeeze through it.
  11. Every day I took a bucket of meal up to her plot
  12. of rooted-up ground in the woods, until
  13. one day there she stood, waiting for me,
  14. the wild beast evidently all mealed out of her.
  15. She trotted over and let me stroke her back
  16. and, dribbling corn down her chin, put up her little worried face
  17. as if to remind me not to forget to recapture her,
  18. though, really, a pig’s special alertness to death
  19. ought to have told her: in Sheffield the dolce vita
  20. leads to the Lyndonville butcher. When I seized her
  21. she wriggled hard and cried oui oui oui all the way home.

Galway Kinnell. Three Books: Body Rags; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words; The Past. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (2002).

About the Poet

Galway Kinnell, (b. 1927), US poet, studied at Princeton University and the University of Rochester. He has published more than eight volumes of poetry as well as translations of works by Bonnefroy, Goll, Villon, and Rilke.

Now retired, Kinnell was also the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets. [DES-6/03]

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