from Book of Hours

By Kevin Young b. 1970 Kevin Young
The light here leaves you
lonely, fading

as does the dusk
that takes too long

to arrive. By morning
the mountain moving   

a bit closer to the sun.

This valley belongs
to no one—

except birds who name
themselves by their songs

in the dawn.
What good

are wishes, if they aren't
used up

The lamp of your arms.

The brightest
blue beneath the clouds—

We guess
at what's next

unlike the mountain

who knows it
in the bones, a music   

too high
to scale.

*       *       *

The burnt,   
blurred world

where does it end—

The wind
kicks up the scent

from the stables
where horseshoes hold

not just luck, but
beyond. But

weight. But a body

that itself burns,
begs to run.

The gondola quits just
past the clouds.

The telephone poles   
tall crosses in the road.

Let us go
each, into the valley—

turn ourselves   
& our hairshirts

inside out, let the world
itch—for once—

*       *       *

Black like an eye

bruised night brightens
by morning, yellow

then grey—
a memory.

What the light was like.

All day the heat a heavy,
colored coat.   

I want to lie
down like the lamb—

down & down
till gone—

shorn of its wool.
The cool

of setting & rising
in this valley,

the canyon between us
shoulders our echoes.

Moan, & make way.

*       *       *

The sun's small fury
feeds me.

Wind dying down.

We delay, & dither
then are lifted

into it, brightness
all about—

O setting.
O the music

as we soar
is small, yet sating.

What you want—

Nobody, or nothing
fills our short journeying.

Above even the birds,
winging heavenward,

the world is hard
to leave behind

or land against—
must end.

I mean to make it.

Turning slow beneath
our feet,   

finding sun, seen
from above,

this world looks   
like us—mostly

salt, dark water.

*       *       *

It's death there
is no cure for

life the long
disease.

If we're lucky.

Otherwise, short
trip beyond.

And below.

Noon,   
growing shadow.

I chase the quiet
round the house.

Soon the sound—

wind wills
its way against

the panes. Welcome
the rain.   

Welcome
the moon's squinting

into space.
The trees

bow like priests.

The storm lifts
up the leaves.

Why not sing.

Source: Poetry (November 2007).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

November 2007
 Kevin  Young

Biography

Kevin Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He studied under Seamus Heaney and Lucie Brock-Broido at Harvard University and, while a student there, became a member of the Dark Room Collective, a community of African American writers founded by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange. He was awarded a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, and later earned an MFA from Brown University. Three of Kevin Young’s books form what . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Couplet, Pastoral

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