Words Written Near a Candle

By Tess Gallagher b. 1943 Tess Gallagher
If I could begin anything
I’d say stop asking forgiveness, especially
theirs which was always
the fault mentioned in your condition.
Nettles could be feathers
the moment they brush your
ankle. At the same time: floods, earthquakes,
the various slaveries
hunchbacked near the fence
to catch your glance.
What is it to say that among the hired boats
we carried our bodies well, cracked
jokes, left the gaps
in our lives and not
the page? This far to learn
the boat does not touch the water!
And if this is goodbye,
it is a light nowhere near believing
and I am happy
and it is all right to make a distance
of a nearness, to say, ‘Boat, I have left you
behind. Boat,
I am with you.’

Tess Gallagher, "Willingly" from Amplitude: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1987 by Tess Gallagher.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved. www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Under Stars (Graywolf Press, 1978)

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Poet Tess Gallagher b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Trees & Flowers, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tess  Gallagher


Poet, essayist, and short story writer Tess Gallagher was born in 1943 in Port Angeles, Washington, to a logging family. Her early years were marked by the rhythms of seasonal work, as well as the landscape of both the Northwest and the Ozarks, where her grandparents lived. “I don’t know how many children really get to explore vast amounts of territory like that,” she has said in interviews. “It builds something in you.” . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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