Flaming, Naked, Stung

Koch

“You are not just the age you are, you are all the ages you have ever been.”

Kenneth Koch

Sensation

by Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by Kenneth Koch

On blue summer evenings I’ll go
. . down the pathywas
Pricked by the grain, crushing the
. . tender grass –
Dreaming, I’ll feel its coolness on
. . my feet.
I’ll let the wind bathe my bare head.

I won’t talk at all, I won’t think
. . about anything
But infinite love will rise in my soul.
And I’ll go far, very far, like a gypsy
Into nature – happy, as if with
. . a woman.


There are certain June evenings that are most suitable for time travel here in Minnesota.  The blue light of the evening sky, the greenest green that Minnesota is capable of producing everywhere I look, the light fragrance of peonies punctuating the breeze, a temperature in which few clothes are needed except for protection from mosquitoes all combine for a state of bliss that allows for transport to all kinds of destinations. All that’s required is a campfire crackling into the edge of darkness, the embers beginning to roll with reds and oranges and the occasional green or blue flame, to hypnotize you into a state where your soul can be transported. It is on those nights that I can become like Koch said, “every age I have ever been.”  I can relive June nights playing kick the can in the back yard, or riding my bike to nowhere in particular or sitting on a dock on a lake with my legs in the water, an evening tending bar for a wedding along the Mississippi river or playing with my children and the dog in the yard, or dancing with a partner at an outdoor music festival with reverie.  It is all there for the traveling.

Where are you headed this week one June night in your mind?   Are you bringing a friend?


You Know All This

by Kenneth Koch

The first, violent year
.     . I could not swim or float;
A dark and balanced fear
.     . Hung on me like a coat.

The second year it rained,
.    . The rain was strict and odd;
The fur of fear remained
.    . But I whistled Scheherazade. 

The summer of the third
.    . I stripped with some dispatch:
Still finding me absurd
.    . You struck me like a match:

Flaming, naked, stung,
.    . I held you for a year,
Persistent as a tongue,
.    . Infecting you, my dear.

My hands, somnambular,
.    . Have kept you like a vow:
No matter where you are
.     . We touch each other now.