If I had to pick a poem that captures all the reasons I am in love with and terrorized by this world, it would be Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s poem “Song” from her 1995 collection of the same name from BOA Editions. From the deceptively simple title to the brilliant directness of the opening line (“Listen: there was a goat’s head hanging by ropes in a tree.”) there isn’t a single moment in this poem that doesn’t put me in awe, doesn’t make me tremble before the dread sacred. It remains surprisingly new with each reading.
The shocking violence of the boys to the tenderness of the girl, the wonderfully, lovingly named Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry to the hurried “they” who try (misguided as they are) to quickly move past such tragedy, “Song” gives us a universal story: we love, we are vulnerable, there is cruelty. But it isn’t the cruelty we are left with in the end. It would have been a natural, possibly predictable route for Kelly to write. Instead, she gives us a song that “Is Sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.” She gives us music that plays long after the final line.
Have you read “Song?” Is there one great thing about the poem you particularly enjoy? Let me know.
Yours in words,