Image by Maud Kinnell

Poem introduction

This is a passage from the last section of The Book of Nightmares which is called 'Lastness'.

Lastness - Section 2

Lastness

2

A black bear sits alone
in the twilight, nodding from side
to side, turning slowly around and around
on himself, scuffing the four-footed
circles into the earth. He sniffs the sweat
in the breeze, he understands
a creature, a death-creature,
watches from the fringe of the trees,
finally he understands
I am no longer here, he himself
from the fringe of the trees watches
a black bear
get up, eat a few flowers, trudge away,
all his fur glistening
in the rain.

And what glistening! Sancho Fergus,
my boychild, had such great shoulders,
when he was born his head
came out, the rest of him stuck. And he opened
his eyes: his head out there all alone
in the room, he squinted with pained,
barely unglued eyes at the ninth-month's
blood splashing beneath him
on the floor. And almost
smiled, I thought, almost forgave it all in advance.

And when he came wholly forth
I took him up in my hands and bent
over and smelled
the black, glistening fur
of his head, as empty space
must have bent
over the newborn planet
and smelled the grasslands and the ferns.


from Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2001), copyright © Galway Kinnell 2001, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.