The Snowy Fields, More Silent Now

I am deeply sad to learn of the death of Robert Bly. He was the last of those late 20th century poets whose poems I loved in my college days. There were Bly, Stafford, Roethke, Kinnell, Wright, Jeffers, Strand and others. All gone now. T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound were already long gone, even then. And Robert Frost died when I was two years old. I have loved these people, tangentially; the way you love a cool pond on a hot summer day and driving past it, wish you had time to stop and swim. 

I have little experience of snowbanks. It hasn’t snowed here since 1937 and I’ve heard I didn’t really stick. Far too little of anything has stuck to me. I’m a cozy warm in the house with a cup of coffee kind of guy. Far too often, I’m more adrift in Netflix than in the snowy fields of literature. Quel dommage!

“Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.”


You can find the influence of Bly’s poems all throughout my own. Like this:


“And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.”

Just last month I was thinking about Robert Bly very particularly and googled to see that he was still with us. That day, I wrote a poem that borrows from him, using the title of one of his books, “The Man in the Black Coat Turns.” My poem (below) is called “The Man in a Black Coat.” That’s not just influence, it’s outright allusion; you can see how much I appreciated his poetry. And here’s il miglio fabbro – the better craftsman:

Poetry Breaks: Robert Bly Reads “Snowbanks North of the House”

About 30 years ago a friend of mine was about to go to one of Bly’s retreat/workshops for men. I gave him a few of my poems and a copy of one of Bly’s books and asked him to take them along. He read the poems to Robert Bly and others, said Bly was complimentary, and returned with the book signed for me. Bly had drawn a figure which he said was meant to be “the shadow chasing Kyle.” 

So much gratitude from my shadow and me. 

Futility

In the cold kitchen of blue hour
I sit drinking coffee, echoing a song
you wrote for someone else.
The piano answers in a farther room.
Communication is impossible, just a myth
of the old oceans and their blue-black waves,
the early trees and smothered rock.
It depended on shadow and gladness.
It has always defied us.
We pretend, we orate and whisper,
weep and entreat the trembling air.
We unearth stones, carry weapons
to speak for us, beg the birds to sing
from the hedges to help us talk.
No, it’s not sound that matters.
It depends on shadow and the folding of distance.
Now the sun is down!
Light candles that smell better than reality.
Call every memory together
but in the sum of all parts, the parts fade away.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

the view from here

The Man in a Black Coat

Citizens of hope & glory,
Time goes by, it’s the time of your life

— Genesis

Sometimes space goes on and on
as when we were children
whose feet didn’t reach the floor
from Grandpa’s chair; who grew up
and tried for years to reach the sky.

There are spaces where time goes
on and on as when we grow older
and can’t reach across the field
of flowers where a coffin stands
and the cold hands of our watch fall still.

These don’t account for the ocean
which is infinite space or the night
sky or Disneyland’s eternity.

So I measure the distance between us
in memories and longings,
in the desperate need to be held
against the shade of forgetfulness,
or simply in hundreds of miles.

The shapes of fear rise up in our dreams
like infinite rooms collapsing in on us,
expanding forever yet never big enough
for angels or lost dogs, or the name
we had before the world was made.

There are empty kitchens in this world,
vacant houses full of leaves, sheets
dripping on the line in dishwater light.
If the sheets block the fence and the fence
blocks the view of the trees,
isn’t everything an empty space?

Look, someone is standing there, waiting –
a man in a black coat, beneath the trees.
I’m afraid it might be me. What do I want?
For the world to stop spinning so fast,
for time to return us to people who love us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Autumn Equinox 2021
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Imagine Time

Imagine Time arrived one evening after dinner
and started pacing around the house as always
and I stood up and finally admitted sadly
that I have fallen out of love with Time.

We used to get along pretty well. We spent
long afternoons slowly reading books or listening
to the Dead or watching football with Dad.
But since Covid started and I’ve been

in isolation, Time has become passive-aggressive.
It rests on the rug in a melted pool of itself
then jumps up and runs away toward the end
of the dark street, where a sliver of waxing crescent

hangs in the still summer sky. What an eccentric
performance! Time must have gotten to the end
of the block and just stopped, exhausted. I can’t
go on like this, year after year, in this frenetic

stagnation, the mind steeped in hidden pools
of memory like cold pitch. It’s a toxic relationship
and it’s time to grow up, pack Time’s watercolors
and shards of the past, and go our separate ways.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

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The Forgetting

Is the world already disappearing me?
No one survives The Forgetting forever
but this seems a little premature.

The clock is powered by a battery,
thank God. But that keeps
it running, not honest.

Everyone has one chance to stand
in the light and be visible, and mine
passed before the new millennium.

The sun sifts the day in brilliant
graceful patterns
through the miniblinds.

Oh, I remember now. I don’t know
what, but it was beautiful
and you were there.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

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The Lost Word

Speech without word and
Word of no speech
– T.S. Eliot 

All I want to do is to write 
it down, whatever it is
that can’t be written 
or spoken or even dreamed 
and only seen if we look 
away, only heard 
in the exhalations of the waves.

If we look away and talk 
about tomorrow, it rises up 
at our backs in the long 
grass, there in the deepest 
shadows of the trees. 

Don’t look back, don’t yearn 
or pray to see it. Say no name 
of the lost or left behind 
and still beloved. 
I’ve tried all that but it slips 
away to hide among the years.

Still it’s all I want, to catch 
it once on paper in my time
with you, to give it that 
elusive name, to prove 
that I have loved you 
more than eternity.  

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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Seven Hundred Moons

Now I am sixty in less than a month.
I’ve seen seven hundred twenty moons
blaze up and light the orchards
and the sea then fade away.
It’s time to deconstruct my life;
no time to rest, to elegize the years.
What’s past was wasted or was spent.
But how to dismantle and renew?
Does anyone remember where
we stored the paint?
Yes, I know I shouldn’t joke
but sometimes either you laugh
or cry, can’t sleep, or sleep through
half the morning, burning days.

Seven hundred moons or more
or less in sixty years, though most
of them rose and shone unseen
on the roof of the house.
And I will tell you a secret:
the mind does not remember pain.
It might recall the lurid shadows
where pain rose and the light
that drove it away. So we should
go out when the moon is full
and pray for the sun to rise.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Draft 4, 5.07.2021
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Trouble in Mind

When trouble strikes, head to the library. You will either be able to solve the problem, or simply have something to read as the world crashes down around you.

Lemony Snicket

Ides of March

After a year everything seems the same
except the light in this room keeps changing.
On sunny days it reflects from the neighbor’s
garage, so people and cars cast shadows
on the ceiling and the walls.
I live in Plato’s Cave.

Now there must be clouds moving in
to block the sun. Yes, but here it comes
again, the light on this page, and then
it’s gone. The bands of brightness
on the ceiling flash and my pencil
moves across the paper,
signifying time.

In the room the shadows come and go
and are your people still alright?
And have you had your shots?
Then here comes spring with plans
to travel, feel the world go warm again,
which in our case we have not got.

I have been indoors too long, alone.
But that will be my story; it has always
been my story: How I outlived the year
to see today amidst
the boredom and the horror and the glory.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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First Covid Elegy

Half a million are dead in America
and what is a poet supposed to say?

We have only words,
only the icons of grief.

I have this pencil and paper,
so small in a world which I thought

was benign, beautiful and interlaced with light.
I have never felt more useless

except that I can offer what’s holy.
I can utter the word Love and hope

that somewhere on the Earth
a bell happens to ring

or a meadowlark cries out in wonder.
I’m sorry I don’t have more to give

except maybe to say
May they rest in peace.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
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