Why Regret?


Didn't you like the way the ants help
the peony globes open by eating off the glue?
Weren't you cheered to see the ironworkers
sitting on an I-beam dangling from a cable,
in a row, like starlings, eating lunch, maybe
baloney on white with fluorescent mustard?
Wasn't it a revelation to swim all the way
from the estuary, to the river, the kill,
the pirle, the run, the brook, the beck,
the sike gone dry, to the shock of a spring?
Didn't you almost shiver to hear the book lice
rustling their sexual dissonance inside the old
Webster's New International, perhaps having
just eaten out of it izle, xyster, and thalassacon?
What did you imagine lay in store anyway
at the end of a world where the sub-substance is
muck, birdlime, slime, mucus, gleet, ooze?
What could the joke have been that night when even
at the tables out of earshot the people were laughing?
Don't worry about becoming emaciated–think of the wren
and how little flesh is needed to make a song.
Didn't it seem somehow familiar when the nymph
split open and the mayfly struggled free
and flew and perched and then its own back
split open and the imago, the true adult,
slowly somersaulted out backwards and
took flight toward the swarm, mouth parts vestigial,
alimentary canal unfit to digest food,
a day or hour left to find the desired one?
Or when Casanova threw the linguine in squid ink
out the window, telling his startled companion,
"The perfected lover does not eat"?
As a child didn't you find it calming to think
of the pinworms as some kind of tiny batons
giving the cadence to the squeezes and releases
around the downward march of debris?
Didn't you once glimpse what seemed your own
inner blazonry in the monarchs, veering
and gliding, in desire, in the middle air?
Weren't you reassured at the thought that these
hinged beings might navigate their way to Mexico
by the flair of the dead bodies of ancestors
who fell in this same migration a year ago?
Isn't it worth missing whatever joy
you might have dreamed, to wake in the night and find
you and your beloved are holding hands in your sleep?


Galway Kinnell, The New Yorker, December 22, 1997.