The Song of My Marrow-Bones

SKunitz
Stanley Kunitz (

 

End with an image and don’t explain!

Stanley Kunitz

The End of Summer

By Stanley Jasspon Kunitz

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.

Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.


This past Sunday was one of those September days that was masquerading as July.  It was hot, muggy, sunny and absolutely perfect, unless you found yourself on the top rungs of a ladder applying stain to siding on the southern and western sides of the house.   Then, it was down right HOT!   I embodied the last line of Hopkins poem below, I was my sweaty self, but worse.

The end of summer is here and fall is clearly visible in the canopy with trees starting to turn and leaves starting to drop.  Mentally if I go through the check list of all the projects I aspired to complete this summer, I would give myself a B+. The problem with house projects is the idea of getting something repaired is never as easy as the reality of actually fixing it.  It’s even more difficult when there are differing opinions on what actually needs to be done or how “easy” it would be to do it.   Ha!  But alas, I will not throw myself into damnation for my failures, like Hopkins seems want to do.  Instead I’ll give myself a pass and realize all those projects will be like a good hound, waiting for me faithfully next year.


Sonnet 45 – The Terrible Sonnets

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

I WAKE and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sighs you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
Selfyest of spirit a dull dough sours.  I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

 

 

 

When I Am Sudden Loss

kunitzstudy
Stanley Kunitz (1905 – 2006)

 

“The poem comes in the form of a blessing—‘like rapture breaking on the mind,’ as I tried to phrase it in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.”

Stanley Kunitz

Promise Me

by Stanley Kunitz

Only, when I am sudden loss
Of consequence for mind and stair
Picking my dogged way from us
To whom, recessive in some where
Of recollection, with the cross
Fall, the breast in disrepair:

Only, when loosening clothes, you lean
Out of your window sleepily,
And with luxurious, lidded mien
Sniff at the bitter dark – dear she,
Think somewhat gently of, between
Love ended and beginning, me.


It is difficult to summarize a career that spans so many decades.   Stanley Kunitz is one of those rare talents whose writing got stronger as he got older, he never reached a zenith from which to fall.   His poetry ranged from metaphorical postcards to autobiographical and deeply personal.  He was fearless in his writing, laying bare the most intimate of wounds before the reader, unimpeded by dramatic flourish, only an invitation to witness our shared humanity.

Kunitz was marked from birth by his father’s suicide, leaving a pregnant wife with two daughters to fend for herself.  He did not countenance his father’s selfish act as his inheritance for Kunitz would prosper for over a 100 years, wringing every ounce of enjoyment out of life that the human body can provide.

Kunitz was a poet’s poet.  His poems carefully constructed, complex and eloquent.   His poetry completely accessible, he embraced rhymes and excelled at free verse.  Kunitz wrote what he wanted to write throughout his entire life with aplomb.   His first book of poetry, Intellectual Things, was green lighted by a young editor at Doubleday, Ogden Nash, and published in 1930.   His final book, The Wild Braid, was published in 2005 in his centenary year.  Kunitz long career would influence many including such poets as Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, W. H. Auden, James Wright, and Mark Doty.  Kunitz has the unique honor of being named Poet Lauraete twice, in 1974 and in 2000 and holds the distinction of being the oldest Poet Laurate in our nation’s history.

Kunitz is one of those poet’s that if I had come to poetry sooner in my life, I think I would have written him fan mail and wished secretly that he would respond.  Here’s one of his most personal poem’s and a great example of why poetry is an art form unlike any other in its power to articulate what it is to be human.

PS.   An interesting question, what living poet should I write a fan mail letter?  What living poet would you write?   A good idea to think about and maybe do…


The Portrait

by Stanley Kunitz

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

 

Summer Is Late My Heart

 

Sporting Ground
Sporting Ground by Elise Asher

Moment In July

by Elise Asher (1912 – 2004)

I unsheathe a grass blade,
Drag its private sweetness through my teeth.
My limbs float backwards to a day in June,
In the vise of yellow sun and quilted ground
My brain is crushed foliage.
Though on my idling eyes are traced
Ant-trollies in the grasses
And in my drowsing ears resounds
Time’s tick through fleshless spaces
And now slack energies within me faintly stir;
Still, budge budge, I cannot budge –
The air is pitched in nooses around my torso.
The elements of freedom hold me prisoner.


Marriage does not come easily to most.   And yet it comes to most of us at least once in our lifetimes.  Elise Asher and Stanley Kunitz were married in 1957 and would remain so until her death in 2004.  For Elise it was her second marriage and for Stanley it was his third.  Kunitz was quoted as saying that relationships got in the way of his writing, but lucky for him Asher just kept getting in his way.  Kunitz was the more celebrated of the two in terms of poets, but both were accomplished artists, Elise blending words and images throughout her long career and illustrating some of her husband’s poems on canvas.

Touch Me was published in 1995 when Kunitz was 90 years old.  I love the ending of this poem; “Darling do you remember the man you married? Touch me, remind me who I am.”

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Stanley Kunitz and Elise Asher

Touch Me

by Stanley Kunitz (1905 – 2006)

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.