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Pilgrimage

by Kevin Young


Your love,
Two-headed cow —R.E.M.

We were west of it,
home I mean, and I was trying

near Death Valley
to write a poem called Heaven

and failing. Impossible,
Paradise—

which is why
we keep reaching.

Instead, the desert

we’d soon enter,
windows down, driving, the heat

blowing us drier
than ever, shirt soaked through.

We’d stopped earlier to see
the sheep with two faces

who lived only an hour—

a six-legged steer
and the World’s Largest

Prairie Dog. Which wasn’t
ever alive, but worth the price.

It was almost autumn—

sturgeon moon
lifting above the mountains

and mesas—even its light
seemed full of heat.

Paradise was promise,
the poem thankfully lost.

All signs read: Here
was fought the battle

no one won.
Thinner then, I believed

in something moving beyond

the wind. What
did I know then

of extinction? It was all
I wrote about.

Envy the dead—
the flowers, their unmade beds.

How well they dress.

Here I was writing a poem
called Heaven

actually about the earth.
It shook beneath us.

Almost there, windmills
rose up

out of the desert,
churning, rowing

the very air
they made power

out of, and for—
an unseen that made them

move, and mean.

 

Kevin Young is the author of six books of poetry, inlcuding Black Maria (Knopf, 2007) and most recently, The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Handling (Bloomsbury, 2010), and editor of five others, including Dear Darkness, winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Award in poetry, and Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003), a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize. His anthology The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing appeared in March 2010; his book The Grey Album won the 2010 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and is forthcoming in 2012. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Kenyon Review, and Graham House Review. A member of the Dark Room writers’ collective in Boston, he is also co-founder and publisher of Fisted Pick Press, a fine-press poetry chapbook series. Young is the Atticus Haygood Professor of Creative Writing and English and curator of Literary Collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at Emory University. (10/2010)


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