One-Way Gate

Jenny George

I was moving the herd from the lower pastureto the loading pen up by the road.It was cold and their mouths steamed like torn bread.The gate swung on its wheel, knocking at the herdas they pushed through. They stompedand pocked the freezing mud with their hooves.This was January. I faced backward into the hard year.The herd faced forward as the herd always does,muscling through the lit pane of winter air.It could have been any gate, any moment when things goone way and not the other—an act of tendernessor a small, cruel thing done with a pocketknife.A child being born. Or the way we movefrom sleeping to dreams, as a river flows uneasy under ice.Of course, nothing can ever be returned to exactly.In the pen the herd nosed the fence and I forked them hay.A few dry snowflakes swirled the air. The truck would be therein an hour. Hey, good girl. Go on. Get on, girl.

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Jenny George is the author of The Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). She is also a winner of the “Discovery”/ Boston Review Poetry Prize and a recipient of fellowships from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Lannan Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. Her poems have appeared in The New York Times, Ploughshares, Narrative, Granta, Iowa Review, FIELD, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Jenny lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she works in social justice philanthropy.

A bold new anthology of poems that contend with the most extreme human emotions, from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Despair, mania, rage, guilt, derangement, fantasy: poetry is our most intimate, personal source for the urgency of these experiences. Poems get under our skin; they engage with the balm, and the sting, of understanding. In The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall—its title inspired by a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem—acclaimed poet Robert Pinsky gives us more than 130 poems that explore emotion at its most expansive, distinct, and profound.

With seven illuminating chapters and succinct headnotes for each poem, Pinsky leads us through the book’s sweeping historical range. Each chapter, with contents chronologically presented from Shakespeare to Terrance Hayes, Dante to Patricia Lockwood, shows the persistence and variation in our states of mind. “The Sleep of Reason” explores sanity and the imagination, moving from William Cowper’s “Lines Written During a Time of Insanity” to Nicole Sealey’s “a violence.” “Grief” includes Walt Whitman’s “When Lilacs last in the Door-yard Bloom’d” and Marie Howe’s “What the Living Do,” and “Manic Laughter” highlights both Lewis Carroll and Martín Espada. Each poem reveals something new about the vastness of human emotion; taken together they offer a sweeping ode to the power of poetry.

Guided by “our finest living example of [the American civic poet]” (New York Times), The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall demonstrates how extreme feelings can be complementary and contradicting, and how poetry is not just an expression of emotion, but emotion itself.

"The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall is a thrilling roller-coaster ride of an anthology. Just when you think you have mastered the pitch and roll of one emotional extreme, you find yourself careening around a bend into a different extreme. And Pinsky’s individual selections are at once deft and surprising: a Renaissance Old Master like Fulke Greville sits cheek-by-jowl with poets like Keetje Kuipers and Katie Willingham, born within hailing distance of the present. The collection is a perfect introduction to poetry’s enduring power to explore the utmost bounds of our experience."
—Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Tyrant

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