Selections from

by Burt Kimmelman


The Assumption Of Matter

      The light at least was not to be dismissed.

                          — William Bronk

The newspaper tells us
what we come to know:
"New View of Universe

Shows Sea of Bubbles to Which

Stars Cling." At least until
more accurate sightings
from lensed outposts,

we see the world further from home,
come to feel more and more

our clinging selves
in the perfect stars.

Our galaxies
on surfaces

in a cosmos
twenty billion years old. And we peer in

to the patient emptiness. I
think of your poem
"The Annihilation

of Matter." We

do not
deny, dismiss

the light, Bill,

though we welcome darkness.


The Fabric

we have left

undone, the fabric's
edge, threads

in air. Set up house,

window, cover the bed
and table where

we sit — how not see you in

the morning,
any longer remember

the next day, the
next. Yet there

is an end to it —
the light in

the room, unraveled,



Tales from the Lives Of Krsna

       A Dog's Life

In a dream
I was newly born. (All the joy,
the thrill of being born!)
And then I realized —
my face
was the face of a dog.
(I panicked.)
With my paws
I tried tugging at my face
— as if it were a mask,
as if I couldn't breathe,
as if it couldn't be true!
It was very sad,
knowing that I was
an infant child.



First Life
       For Jane

When you opened
your eyes you smiled

the doctor held
you at arm's length

your cord led back
where you'd never

It took a while

before you cried
then you rested

and sucked. Later
you slept. What had

you seen in that
first instant — light,

movement. Somehow
in your strong voice

we knew it was
you, you who knew

voices — within
the dark, warm world.

The three of us

at the moment
of life.



For Jane, Age Three

Saying goodnight is saying goodbye —
leave-takings are forever. When
you were born, time began — yet for you
there's no such thing as time.

I drop you off at nursery school,
the colors on the walls, the bright chaos
of finger painting, and cut-out shapes
of trees and people, these two dimensional

worlds without memory, lives lived
at odd angles. In roundabout ways
parents use I tell you we live in a world
of absolutes, the oddnesses not so remote.

For you it's simply instinct, the absence
and return. You pull my hair or let your
head rest in my arm; you ask questions,
questions. The asking, the beauty of talk

is something you've never had to learn.
There are times I say, "I'll always be back."
Strange, since you and I live with such
clarities, that dying has taken its shape.

Saying goodbye seems against all nature.
In this you've shown me the form of love.



Letter to My Dead Brother

I suppose letters to the dead are common.
We need to speak, even when no one's there.
I think of the crazy juxtapositions, the people
and things you loved. Life is a mute grieving.

That's all I can ever say. I have a picture
of you holding Jane at six months, holding
her bottle to her mouth. She used to cry
to herself, a baby when her mother was away.
I'd become afraid. What could I do?

There are objects we inherit from the dead.
They make a strange language we speak
with astonishing clarity — we're surprised by it
yet there it is. The world, its textures, we cherish
them — we cling to them and live out the story.

You never learned how children keep our time.
They don't know us but our words, our faces
shape a world — and we, as if peering out
from behind it, understand how death forms
love, how the photograph becomes memory.

There is a connection that takes the place of
holding one another. I remember you when
Jane puts her arms around my neck. I feel
her warm breath, the blood coursing along.




The flagstones have been uprooted, branches
from underground and leaves scattered
in all directions. Today, after a fierce rain, stones
in the sun turn red and blue — shapes of water


Jane likes to lift the stones, to see the ants and
other strange creatures who burrow for a living. Their
legs, heads, antennae swirl erratically in a panic
of sensing — the loose wires of a civilization coming apart.

We look on.



Finding a Place

Reading the paper on Sunday morning
under lamplight, the white of new snow
filters in along the kitchen's edges.

Silence, although upstairs the thumps and
small voice of my daughter who's fixed a bed
for her doll, and a washing machine,

dining table, adjoining movie
theatre — eventually an entire
village comes to life by putting a chair

in one spot or another, a pillow
under the doll's bedcover, a small
book that's been "written" on a bit of bound

paper, to read before sleep. And after
each careful maneuver, get up and skip
back and forth for a minute or two

thinking what next move, etc. I
hear the water in the tub gurgling. So
it seems this newly made world will be

deluged, swept away — as are all thoughts, all
memories. Someday, I'll drown in my own
juices. But my daughter will be there

in the world building things, and placing them -
taking chances, talking and planning —
finding how to live within winter's light.



Getting Ready
       Jane, Age Seven

Standing at the sink,
her fingers feel at
the strands of "hair" in
water, add shampoo,

rub and stroke — her smile
of concentration
says she's busy with
important matters —

the small doll getting
ready now to go
out into the world.

These rehearsals, these
evenings, her mother
on the phone, as I
pass the bathroom door

a moment before
nightgown, bed, book, then
covers overhead
to keep out the night.



Waking My Daughter for School
       Jane, eleven years old

I lean over your bed and kiss
your cheek. Everything that might
have happened — a night's tragedy —
has fallen away. Now, in the
moment, we are here together.

Your eyes open. You say "okay"
and sit up, looking around, it seems,
for a dream lost somewhere. You
dress for school, read the back of the
cereal box with your breakfast.

The early daylight overtakes
the kitchen lamp, gathering us.
How routine the day has become —
strange enough, as if it were meant
to be like this. Surely it is.



from Somehow, Marsh Hawk Press
© 2005 by Burt Kimmelman

Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry

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