Thursday Poem: After Making Love We Hear Footsteps

Before I get started, I have a few things to mention – the first being that a poem of mine will be published in the Lost in Track Changes book put together by the wonderful folk over at If:Book Australia. I wrote about their project here, and I’m happy to say one of my poetic remixes is going to be included in their print edition. I also write comedic articles for SBS Comedy, which I don’t talk about often here, but the latest piece I have up is about Halloween, and specifically, the hilariously awesome folklore behind the jack-o-lantern: check it out!

With that out of the way, let’s talk poetry! This week, as I’m sure many of you are aware, American poet Galway Kinnell passed away. I follow a great deal of poets and poetry journals and organisations on Twitter, so for a while, his passing was inescapable for me. Sadly, I had not read any of his work, so I figured it was more than time for me to start. There’s a fair amount of it to be found online, and of those I’ve read, I keep returning to this small, simple poem titled After Making Love We Hear Footsteps.

It’s markedly different from the others I’ve found, like Another Night in the Ruins or The Bear or Flower Herding On Mount Monadnock, which exquisitely build poems into the landscape and are so very much concerned with place, with being and now. There is an unabashed lyricism in his detailing of nature, as in from Another Night:

Wind tears itself hollow
in the eaves of these ruins, ghost-flute
of snowdrifts
that build out there in the dark:
upside-down ravines
into which night sweeps
our cast wings, our ink-spattered feathers.

Or in Flower Herding:

There is something joyous in the elegies
Of birds. They seem
Caught up in a formal delight,
Though the mourning dove whistles of despair.

Though I haven’t read his other work, I imagine this gorgeous intersection of self/nature/poetry continues throughout his bibliography. Perhaps that’s why this poem in particular stands out to me: it’s so small in scope, so intimate a portrait, a moment of adulthood, of parenthood so perfectly sketched it caught my breath. I’ve read it numerous times now, and always the second stanza brings the poem to a full and satisfying conclusion, brings out the beauty in what could all too easily have been nothing more than an awkward situation. Here it is, After Making Love We Hear Footsteps:

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

I should mention, you can click on through to the Poetry Foundation to hear an audio recording of the poem, too. Maybe it’s the incredible sap in me, I don’t know, but I just adore those last four lines.

They’re beautiful, don’t you think?

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