Waving Goodbye (Gerald Stern)

September 14, 2009

I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds to move us through our actions
and tears to help us over our feelings,
so I drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
and filled her car with suitcases and hugged her
as an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
and turned my head after them as an animal would,
watching helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
her smiling face and her small hand just visible
over the giant pillows and coat hangers
as they made their turn into the empty highway.


Denise Levertov asks in one of her poems if the animal’s joy is found in the way it doesn’t falter, because it can’t, because it “knows what it must do.” Unlike animals, we are always faltering, and are seldom sure of what to do. And so, occassionally, we are forced (or must somehow force ourselves) into moments of helplessness, where we grow dumb, where only our bodies know how to speak.

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