Poem of the Week: The Layers by Stanley Kunitz

Weekly poems come via Alison McGhee– with a great deal of gratitude for her wonderful curation.

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.


For more information about Stanley Kunitz, please click here.

Blog: alisonmcghee.com/blog

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7 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

7 responses to “Poem of the Week: The Layers by Stanley Kunitz

  1. beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing it Tessa. I love it.

    • Thanks Nicole. I get these poems from a friend who gets them from Alison McGhee who is dedicated to curating these each week. I really like getting them and sharing them.

  2. Alison

    Tessa, your site popped up via Google. I’m so glad you like the poems! Thanks for spreading them on. – Alison

    • HI Alison,

      I’ve actually posted quite a few more and I have now rightly attributed their curation to you. I have been getting them via Janet Murie and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They’re beautiful and I think it’s a wonderful way to bring poetry more regularly into my (and perhaps) other people’s lives.

  3. Alison

    Tessa, isn’t Janet Murie just one of the greatest things about being in the world?

    I started sending a poem a week to a few friends about ten years ago and it slowly mushroomed. Poem hunting is one of my favorite activities. . . feel free to spread them far and wide, no attribution required.

    • Hey Alison,

      Janet Murie is one of the most wonderful people in the world. I’m starting a movement to repatriate her to Vancouver. Just saw her here and realized how much I miss her. Thanks for your poems. I will continue to share the love.

  4. Pingback: Silent Sunday « Silverwalking

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