ISSUE FIVE
November 1998

John Kinsella

John Kinsella John Kinsella is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently, The Hunt and Poems 1980-1994. His work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, among many others. As well, he is the editor of Salt. Currently, he teaches at Cambridge University in England.
The Sky's Imperative

for Sue Ballyn and Jeff Doyle


The evening sky smothers words.
Like trees and seagulls there's no place
for it in the lexicon of late modernity—
it's merely a receptacle for critical waste.
But here in Barcelona, despite
the haze of exhaust fumes
it broods and is alive. The streets
inflect its polychrome
and bulge like the veins of a saint
on the verge of rapture; it's a picture
in which the tension of darkness
and light is liberating, and the glow
of the Mediterranean
is eloquent.

 

 

From Seu Vella (Lleida, Spain)

for Maria


As the hatchling is tossed in a long slow arc
that ends with a pop, the magpie delicately
robs the nest of an egg, seeming to hesitate
as pigeons bend their heads back so far
they choke on their breath, the rose window
translating light as if death were just
an elemental line of the spectrum.

In the tomb of the Conception
an almost familiar hand
strokes what until recently
was the recumbent figure
of Teresa de Montcada,
now believed to be
Constanša d'Aragˇ.
This visit the touch
is different. The heat
of the hand changes
the cold stone to living flesh.
For a moment it is warm
and veined by grief and love.

A line of sight
might be drawn
from the bell tower
to the olive tree or jojoba
planted in memory,
planted in the calm
of the country
as the plains spread
out like history — not linear
but in all directions:
no specific beginning or end,
but continuous, and living
even if taken from view,
each layer just there
to be cleared away.
High over Lleida
the air is cool
though the sun bright
and penetrating,
below, the gothic roof
of Seu Vella interns
its secrets, and below,
as Lleida grows,
the river flows
in both directions.

 

 

John Kinsella: Poetry
Copyright ę 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review