Another Night in the Ruins

By Galway Kinnell 1927–2014 Galway Kinnell
1
In the evening
haze darkening on the hills,   
purple of the eternal,   
a last bird crosses over,   
flop flop,’ adoring
only the instant.

    2
Nine years ago,
in a plane that rumbled all night   
above the Atlantic,
I could see, lit up
by lightning bolts jumping out of it,   
a thunderhead formed like the face
of my brother, looking down   
on blue,
lightning-flashed moments of the Atlantic.

    3
He used to tell me,
“What good is the day?   
On some hill of despair   
the bonfire
you kindle can light the great sky—
though it’s true, of course, to make it burn   
you have to throw yourself in ...”

    4
Wind tears itself hollow
in the eaves of these ruins, ghost-flute
of snowdrifts
that build out there in the dark:   
upside-down ravines   
into which night sweeps
our cast wings, our ink-spattered feathers.

    5
I listen.
I hear nothing. Only
the cow, the cow of such   
hollowness, mooing
down the bones.

    6
Is that a
rooster? He
thrashes in the snow   
for a grain. Finds   
it. Rips
it into
flames. Flaps. Crows.   
Flames
bursting out of his brow.

    7
How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,   
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
is
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?

Galway Kinnell, “Another Night in the Ruins” from Three Books. Copyright © 2002 by Galway Kinnell. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.

Source: Three Books (2002)

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Poet Galway Kinnell 1927–2014

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Nature, Weather, Animals, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Galway  Kinnell

Biography

Galway Kinnell was an award-winning poet best known for poetry that connects the experiences of daily life to much larger poetic, spiritual, and cultural forces. Often focusing on the claims of nature and society on the individual, Kinnell’s poems explore psychological states in precise and sonorous free verse. Critic Morris Dickstein called Kinnell “one of the true master poets of his generation.” Dickstein added, “there are . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Nature, Weather, Animals, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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