White Water

By Eamon Grennan b. 1941 Eamon Grennan
Yes, the heart aches, but you know or think you know it could be   
indigestion after all, the stomach uttering its after-lunch cantata   
for clarinet and strings, while blank panic can be just a two-o'clock   
shot of the fantods, before the afternoon comes on in toe-shoes   
and black leotard, her back a pale gleaming board-game where all   
is not lost though the hour is late and you've got light pockets.

There is a port-hole of light at the end of the hemlock tunnel:   
birds cross it, flashing their voices at you, and you feel—
from the way they tilt their heads and their throats swell—
the beat of their brief song, another sign the world is what it is:   
a shade-tree heavy with households, its fruit for meat, its leaf   
for medicine. But that business of the first kiss is hard to fathom:

knees quaking, white water over broken rock, and the coracle   
you trusted your life to in a bit of a spin, head swimming
with the smell of flesh so close you feel it breathing, spilling secrets—
its inmost name, for one, and what the near future feels like, time   
wobbling to a tribal thing without tenses, and that tenacious "I"   
a thing of the past, only a particle of the action now, nothing

separate, a luminous tumult, an affair of air and palate, air
and larynx, tongue, throat, teeth, whatever brings the words out   
in their summer dresses—and you can hear the crow's black   
scavenger guffawing, egg- and offal-scoffer, comedian of windspin,   
so all of a sudden you rush your kingdom-come, the two of you,   
insects shedding your dry, chitinous skins. And although what's left

is raw for a while, the slightest breath burns it, in time it comes
to become you, you can live into it, intoning the Sebastian koan—
whose who in pain, who's who?— and know, or close-to-know,   
the here it is: two clean rooms in the next parish to wholeness.

Eamon Grennan, "White Water" from Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 2010 by Eamon Grennan.  Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2010)

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Poet Eamon Grennan b. 1941


 Eamon  Grennan


Born in Dublin, Eamon Grennan attended boarding school at a Cistercian monastery. He met Derek Mahon and Eavan Boland as an undergraduate at University College, Dublin, spent a year in Rome, and then came to the United States to earn his PhD at Harvard. He began writing poetry in earnest in 1977 and published his first collection, Wildly for Days, in 1983. He lives in the United States but returns frequently to western Ireland, . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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