Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Stanley Kunitz: The Wild Braid

At my touch the wild
braid of creation
- "The Snakes of September"
Stanley Kunitz was not only one of America's great poets, he was also a champion gardener. At his seaside home in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, he often found solace and renewal. As he writes in the beautiful book, The Wild Braid: A Poet reflects On A Century in the Garden, "All my life, the garden has been a great teacher in everything."

Before Kunitz died in 2006 at 100, he worked with fellow writer Genine Lentine to collect his observations in the series of interviews and poems that make up the book. He echoes Yeats in one of the book's most powerful poems, "Touch Me": "What makes the engine go?/ Desire, desire, desire./ The longing for the dance..."

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
                       and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

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