Monday, March 7, 2011

King of the River (excerpt), Stanley Kunitz

Hello Poets,
In this last section of a shamanic poem about dying salmon and a dissolving self, Stanley Kunitz falls back from false assurances and rational choice to a deeper complexity that undoes ordinary reality, allowing another reality to enter.

King of the River (excerpt)

If the heart were pure enough,
but it is not pure,
you would admit
that nothing compels
any more, nothing
at all abides,
but nostalgia and desire,
the two-way ladder
between heaven and hell.
On the threshold
of the last mystery,
at the brute absolute hour,
you have looked into the eyes
of your creature self,
which are glazed with madness,
and you say
he is not broken but endures,
limber and firm
in the state of his shining,
forever inheriting his salt kingdom,
from which he is banished

by Stanley Kunitz, from The Testing-Tree, 1971