St Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell died October 28, 2014. He was a New England poet–born in Providence, died at his home in Vermont–who is always out there somewhere in the big room with the writers who mean something to me. Kinnell and  James Wright (of a few entries back on this blog) were good friends until Wright’s death in 1980. Kinnell looked deeply into ideas, that’s what made him an activist for human rights, also deeply into nature and into ordinary things. In this poem he takes a deep spiritual look at how things are. His idea that …everything flowers, from within, of self blessing; sounds like Gerard Manley Hopkins (d. 1889). The next line: though sometimes it is necessary/to reteach a thing its loveliness sounds like the other work of Hopkins, that of a Catholic priest, following the example of his brother priest, St Francis of Assisi.

St Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow
.

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