Thursday, May 26, 2011

Homesickness one way, wanderlust the other

Here's a poem by Galway Kinnell from his book Imperfect Thirst; it's from the section "Sheffield Ghazals." I remember reading this poem three years ago and becoming instantly implicated in its language--it's what a good poem does to a person, makes complicity. Kinnell does not adhere to the ghazal form strictly, but uses it as a sort of guide; this is especially evident in the maqta, where he names himself--partially to claim credit for the work, but also to deeper involve himself in the poem's events.

Driving West

A tractor-trailer carrying two dozen crushed automobiles overtakes a tractor-trailer carrying a dozen new.
Oil is a form of waiting.
The internal combustion engine converts the stasis of millennia into motion.
Cars howl on rain-wetted roads.
Airplanes rise through the downpour and throw us through the blue sky.
The idea of the airplane subverts earthly life.
Computers can deliver nuclear explosions to precisely anywhere on earth.
A lightning bolt is made entirely of error.
Erratic Mercurys and errant Cavaliers wander the highways.
The girl puts her head on a boy's shoulder; they are driving west.
The windshield wipers wipe, homesickness one way, wanderlust the other, back and forth.
This happened to your father and to you, Galway--sick to stay, longing to come up against the ends of
           the earth, and climb over.

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