Sit and Look Out

The Perch

There is a fork in a branch
of an ancient, enormous maple,
one of a grove of such trees,
where I climb sometimes and sit and look out
over miles of valleys and low hills.
Today on skis I took a friend
to show her the trees. We set out
down the road, turned in at
the lane which a few weeks ago,
when the trees were almost empty
and the November snows had not yet come,
lay thickly covered in bright red
and yellow leaves, crossed the swamp,
passed the cellar hole holding
the remains of the 1850s farmhouse
that had slid down into it by stages
in the thirties and forties, followed
the overgrown logging road
and came to the trees. I climbed up
to the perch, and this time looked
not into the distance but at
the tree itself, its trunk
contorted by the terrible struggle
of that time when it had its hard time.
After the trauma it grows less solid.
It may be some such time now comes upon me.
It would have to do with the unaccomplished,
and with the attempted marriage
of solitude and happiness. Then a rifle
sounded, several times, quite loud,
from across the valley, percussions
of the custom of male mastery
over the earth — the most graceful,
most alert of the animals
being chosen to die. I looked
to see if my friend had heard,
but she was stepping about on her skis,
studying the trees, smiling to herself,
her lips still filled, for all
we had drained them, with hundreds
and thousands of kisses. Just then
she looked up — the way, from low
to high, the god blesses — and the blue
of her eyes shone out of the black
and white of bark and snow, as lovers
who are walking on a freezing day
touch icy cheek to icy cheek,
kiss, then shudder to discover
the heat waiting inside their mouths.

Galway Kinnell, New Selected Poems

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2 thoughts on “Sit and Look Out

  1. I’ve been meaning to comment on this one since you first posted it. First of all, I LOVE it!! I can’t even begin to pick out all the wonderful, musical sounds going on in here. This really stands out:
    “but she was stepping about on her skis,
    studying the trees, smiling to herself,
    her lips still filled,…”

    And, of course, the THEME is gripping. The excellent images create a perfect vision. But as a poet, I also appreciate what the form is teaching me here. This is one of the best poems I’ve ever read with no stanza breaks. It flows so well…it doesn’t need them. I love it when a poem moves me but also teaches me something about craft. I’ll read this one many times. Thanks for sharing it, sister!

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