Northwest Schools of Literature: Texts

10. Carolyn Kizer, “Singing Aloud”

Carolyn Kizer, "Singing Aloud," in Midnight Was My Cry: New and Selected Poems (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1971), 10-11.

We all have our faults. Mine is trying to write poems.
New scenery, someone I like, anything sets me off!
I hear my own voice going on, like a god or an oracle,
That cello-tone, intuition. That bell-note of wisdom!

And I can’t get rid of the tempting tic of pentameter,
Of the urge to impose a form on what I don’t understand,
Or that which I have to transform because it’s too grim as it is.
But age is improving me: Now, when I finish a poem

I no longer rush out to impose it on friendly colleagues.
I climb through the park to the reservoir, peer down at my own
Shake a blossoming branch so I am covered with petals,
Each petal a metaphor. . . .

By the time we reach middle life, we’ve all been deserted and robbed.
But flowers and grass and animals keep me warm.
And I remind myself to become philosophic:
We are meant to be stripped down, to prepare us for something

And, often, I sing aloud. As I grow older
I give way to innocent folly more and more often.
The squirrels and rabbits chime in with inaudible voices.
I feel sure that the birds make an effort to be antiphonal.

When I go to the zoo, the primates and I, in communion,
Hoot at each other, or signal with earthy gestures.
We must move further out of town, we musical birds and animals,
Or they’ll lock us up like the apes, and control us forever.

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