Joanna Klink

Better to be awake at night in sympathy with clocks
than to wander vaguely     through days.
Better to feel a hush in the yard.
To cultivate a faith in strangers,
in air and evening, in spots of sun     rising up the high oaks.
They are the harbor lights returned to you,     the people you loved returned to you,     the long sleep of pilgrims.
To pass safely through days free of sickness.
If you are deprived of hope
to still sometimes feel its power.
And the tides at night rippling back from     cold sand—to sense them
even if you have never seen them.
We are fine rain and shining streets.
We throw away things of great value and feel confused.
Seize upon the smallest arguments and call them huge.
(Some days I am small beyond measure.
Some days I am the fence the field the trees.)     • •Were they important to you, the calm eyes of the cattle,
the statues and their motionless     hearts. The parks residing
deep in you. Was the wind turning white
important to you, the scarves in their sweeps     around floating throats, the dozing     restaurants at noon. A clatter of dishes,
foggy sheets in the eyes of commuters,
the airplanes gliding down through white dusk.
The ground doves in their murmuring feathers.
The pale cements of abandoned lots.
Church bells are moving across old hills
and if you don’t believe in churches
you could believe in their awe, in the unrecognizable
agates in their cemetery     plots. What will you admit     into your life? Will that station be
held by you—to be alive as you’re living.     • •No more stalemates of feeling.
No more bitterness from the throats
of those lucky enough to live     where it is still possible to hear sounds
not shaped by cars.
(And if I have been scarred, it is because I gave up
those woods and the long
nightfall of color.)
Better to let the snows press
down against land.
Better to discourage the future by making no plans.     No plans!—better to
backtrack and distrust than to prize.
Prize your day these hours won’t happen again.
Prize the person who touches you in the simplest way     against all disappointment.
Better to collapse into what you love
than to ask for so little. Do not make progress,     do not be courteous. From here
you can begin your day again, more grateful than
thankless. Unprepared as we are
for what’s     coming. Unprepared as we are to lose
anything. As I was to lose you.

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Joanna Klink is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Jeannette Haien Ballard, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the trust of Amy Lowell. She teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Montana.

The Kenyon Review

July/August 2018

Gambier, Ohio

Kenyon College

David H. Lynn

Managing Editor
Abigail Wadsworth Serfass

Associate Editor
Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky

Poetry Editor
David Baker

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