Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Today's poem by Galway Kinnell

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak

The man splitting wood in the daybreak 
looks strong, as though, if one weakened, 
one could turn to him and he would help. 
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood 
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel 
through the air so hard the hard maple 
leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do 
in countries reluctant to permit divorce, 
and even willow, which, though stacked 
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore, 
to the married-until-death—sunders 
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers, 
but they help us only by the unperplexed 
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones. 
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated, 
can't, even in spring, break through the hard earth. 
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do. 
We have to hold our children up to lean on them. 
Everyone who could help goes or hasn't arrived. 
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak, 
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me. 

Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)


  1. Oh. Oh!! And it used to be us! Bill splitting and me stacking. Warm twice, for sure. From your header shot, it appears that you two are still doing very well in that regard. I am glad for you. A great woodpile in November is money in the bank. (She says as she turns up the electric heat ;)) ( getting old, understanding the poem only too well.!)

    1. Tom does it all now. I carry pieces in to fill the stove. :<) Loved your words - it was like you were sitting in the house chatting with me.

  2. Oh, Nan, I read this several time this evening, both to myself and out loud. The poem is, was, unfamiliar to me and now I want to read more from Mr. Kinnell.

    1. We saw him a few years ago. I wrote about it here: http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2007/08/further-afieldpoetry-reading.html
      He was wonderful.

  3. What a wonderful poem. It touches on the feelings so many of us have as we age - and as we attend the funerals of those who are just a little ahead of us. Thank you.

  4. I love what I've read of Kinnell's poetry so far, and this one is wrenching. I was startled by the abrupt change in these lines:
    "flashing the bright steel
    through the air so hard the hard maple
    leapt apart, as it's feared marriages will do
    in countries reluctant to permit divorce"

  5. What a poem. Will need to come back and come back. That is me. That is us but my so strong,competent husband might not yet recognise himself. This week my so strong so competent father is approaching the end with motor neurone disease. I am glad to have read this.


I'll answer your comments as soon as I possibly can. Please do come back if you've asked a question.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.