Gravity by Galway Kinnell

Galway-Kinnell

1

Upon the black hole Cygnus X-1 that wobbles

as if boffed by an invisible companion,

upon a silk stocking the color of bees

rolling itself up down a leg, upon the soft dip

over the clavicles, which accept only tongued kisses,

upon the tongue that slowly drifts

into the other’s mouth and chats

there with her opposite number,

gravity exerts the precise force needed.

 

 

 

 

2

In the wings of the Eskimo curlew

flapping through the thin air of the Andes,

in the sacral vertebrae of the widow

who stoops at the window to peer

behind the drawn blind, in the saggy skin

under the eyes of the woman

who is in love with a man incapable

of love, who lives on in the heaviness

of emotional isolation, in the lavish

cascade of urine the rhino releases,

in the mouthwater of the child who waits

in shriek position for the dentist,

in the scradged skin dangling in shreds

from the children who lurched toward

the Nakashima River screaming, as if this were

the single aria they had ever rehearsed, gravity

shudders at its mathematical immensity.

 

 

 

3

As long as two kvetches remain alive,

because inside each is self-hatred so hardened

not even nonexistence can abide them,

as long as the hummingbird strikes

the air seventy-four times per second,

as long as the mound of earth remains heaped

beside the rectangular hole waiting to be filled,

gravity cannot be said to impose its will.

 

 

 

4

If the pilot ejects one second too late,

if the condemned man shrinks at seeing

the trapdoor give way, if the man who stands

with fire at his back and a baby in his arms

hears the near neighbors cry,

“Drop her! Don’t worry! We’ll catch her,”

if the juggler gets behind in her count

and the bright object flies past the spot

where the other hand was to snatch it,

gravity cannot pause to rectify matters.

 

 

 

5

When a deer kenning us stands immobile,

and for one moment we know we exist

entirely within her thoughts, when cichlid fry,

sensing danger, empty their air bladders

and drop to the river bottom like pebbles,

when the snow goes and millions of leaves

reveal themselves pressed down over the contours

of earth to create her hibernation mask,

when a person in a military cemetery

among grave markers that spread to all the horizons

understands that all of existence has been destroyed

again and again, when depression after mania

causes clock hands to stick and days to crawl,

when the full moon’s light creeps across a sleeper

calling to her atavistic soul, when a soldier,

who has always known life is imperfect,

is wheeled to another hopeless attempt

at surgery—but, this time, resolves

to sleep and not wake again until such time

as time begins again—then gravity

grips us to the earth, and crosses its fingers.

 

 

 

6

In the case of the last ancient trees at Ypres

still turning out their terrified wood,

in the case of the concertina wire

hurled out in exuberant spirals and set down

between rich and poor, in the case of the howls

that fly off the earth through madhouse windows,

in the case of the word “heavenly”

when we remind ourselves that earth,

too, was a heavenly body once,

in the case of the numeral keys

totting up the number of humans

humans have killed, in the case of the man

who strays into a gravitational field where

the differential between the force on the scalp

and the force on the foot sole will stretch him

into an alimentary canal thin as a thread,

in the case of the child who has upset

his ink bottle while doing homework

and quickly snaps both arms down

to halt the lateral gush of the black juices,

gravity, if it could, would recuse itself.

 


 

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