Notes for the First Line of a Spanish Poem

By James Galvin b. 1951 James Galvin
We remember so little,
We are certain of nothing.
We long to perish into the absolute.
Where is a mountain
To spread its snowfields for us like a shawl?

You might begin,
The men who come to see me are not exactly lovers.
Or, Seen at a distance the gazelle is blue.
That’s just your way of cheering me up.

You might begin,
The quality of the telegram is vulnerable.
Or even, The spirit of the telegram is virginal.
By now I am ravenous.

You might begin,
Nothing’s more passionate than a train,
Entering an enormous depot,
Empty except for two lovers, irreconcilable,
Parting. Then,
No one’s more visible than a blind man on the street.

Things that are that were never meant to be!
Terrible music!

The utter confusion of surfaces!
The first steps toward probability!
You might begin,

Near the edge of the mind, the mind grows defenseless,
Sleepy in the way it sees,
Like Columbus on the edge of the world.
It feels the grip of all it cannot grasp,
Like the blind man trying to stay out of sight.
Show me any object, I’ll show you rust on a wave.

You begin,

Outside the mind, the snow undresses and lies down.

James Galvin, “Notes for the First Line of a Spanish Poem” from Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997. Copyright © 1997 by James Galvin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press,

Source: Resurrection Update (Copper Canyon Press, 1997)

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Poet James Galvin b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 James  Galvin


James Galvin is the author of several collections of poetry, including Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975–1997 and X (2003); a novel, Fencing the Sky (1999); and The Meadow (1992), a prose meditation on the landscape of the Wyoming-Colorado border and the people who live there.

Galvin’s work is infused with the genuine realities of the western landscape, while at the same time not shirking difficult questions of faith, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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