Monday, April 02, 2007


National Poetry Month: Irene McKinney

Irene Mc Kinney is one of the best poets you've never heard of.

That's because she's passionate about writing and indifferent to self-promotion. Maybe even allergic to it. She's one of my very favorites. That was her "Monkey Heart" that I ran recently. She is the Poet Laureate of West Virginia, where she lives on her family farm. Her integrity never fails to amaze me.

This one's from an out-of-print collection that I wish someone would re-publish, Quick Fire and Slow Fire. This poem makes me think and breathe, mindfulness.


When I refuse to see the chair has presence
I trip over it repeatedly. When the stream is out
of mind I fall in it, when the snow is an
annoying intrusion I shiver. Then I smell

the oil of hands on the wooden arms of the chair,
I see the careful fittings of the joints,
the intricate carvings, and I no longer bump into it
but sit in it and read or eat my dinner.

And the stream begins to flow through mind
and carries some splinters and chips of varnish
away. I no longer fall unexpectedly into
the stream because I am already in it, and sometimes

I bring soap and oil and towels chosen for their
whiteness and sweetness. When I fell into the stream
I was always wearing boots but now I am
able to get my feet clean at last. And when

the snow came from the sky like an accident I was
wet and cold, hunched against the touch
of the flakes and knotted and gnarled against
the news. It is hard at first to push a breath

of ease around the knots. After three breaths
I see that I can always breathe until I die.
It's a beginning. The lungs are a happiness kit
that we can carry everywhere and assemble
when there's time and inclination. Why not?
I repeat. I mean it, why not?

Oh, lordy!

"The lungs are a happiness kit..."

My god, what a find. Thank you.
I think I must be lacking the poetry portion of my intellect.
Oh, Zippie... she's talking about being mindful enough to incorporate what's around you into your life, to take it in, to celebrate it rather than resist it, to make it your own.

Poems are for reading more than once.
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