Reading Galway Kinnell at 4 A.M.

galwayThis morning I read Galway Kinnell’s “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps” — a rather ominous title for any poem to start out with.

Still, somehow, Kinnell took an Orwellian possibility and found some sweet truth in it. See for yourself. Note how the second stanza reflects on the first, giving it meaning and loveliness.

Kinnell wrote more than one poem about his son Fergus — most famously “Fergus Falling” — but it’s this one I prefer, touching on both innocence and mortality in one fell swoop. It’s poetry like this that makes mornings worth rising for, no?

“After Making Love We Hear Footsteps” by Galway Kinnell

For I can snore like a bullhorn 
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman 
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash, 
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house 
and he will wrench himself awake 
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together, 
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies, 
familiar touch of the long-married, 
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens, 
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep, 
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other 
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making, 
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake, 
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

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