By Joanna Klink

Too hurt to understand
too feverish to wonder

as when wonder spreads
through a grove of white pines

and the whiteness hums.
Those who move too fast

see the world around them as
static and calculate even the skin-

cells and tree-duff as a single
stream of gathering loss.

When the evening smoked
around the branches I felt

my face go quiet and a water
draw through my spine.

Orphan of every despair,
were you here

with me you would see
the whiteness in the matted

grasses, form and gold
where the darkness cannot

touch us. Because
we are separate

now, and the night
arrived, I must bear it myself.


I woke into the rainy day
thinking there was a window

through which I might climb.
Heavy dreams where sunlight

races over stones and the people
I’ve known come and go.

So much hurry and transport,
as if a wind gliding into the yard

were just another item on a
list. Mesas and savannas—

what happened to us
happened because we could not

stop. Needing time
for nicknames, belief in un-

inhabited wildernesses, in the
twelve hours of thunder

over these hills. Hope is a place
held for the unknown,

where you are beyond
anything I can say. Like animals

who form a quiet lake in the grass
long before scattering.


To ward off fear we could
listen for the burble of

the hermit thrush or else
learn joy in the chickadees’

three-dot-note. Outwardly
you make safety in anonymity

but I know some part of you
opens as the day opens,

as the tomcat stretches then
marches lion-like through

the neighbor’s wet weeds.
At times I have sensed no change

through the valley’s haze
and felt the dozing stranglehold of

stillness. At times for years.
But the lines drawn in books

are the lines etched in cliffs by
the river and the swallows burrow

in them. River-cortège, cortège
of each living thing that unfolds—

a bird its wings, a forest,
an old man his eyes.


Wasp at the nest under
the garden table, smashed

a barrette. A minute
to stare at these black

grooves in my hands.
To be worthy of the dirt

that will one day surround my
body I say a blessing to

constancy, friendship, hammocks
and meals. Joy was never

our birthright. But it was an honor
to have loved you, to have woken

into you, to have been wide-
awake in you. I’m more

at ease now, when the day goes
astray as it does, and sometimes

let those around me be. Perhaps
the way to despair is based in

certainty. Having lived
with you, I move through

this yard slowly, most evenings,
knowing very little.

Joanna Klink is currently the Briggs-Copeland Poet at Harvard University. Her third book of poems, Crisis Lyrics, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2010.

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