Robert Pinsky

It can be a way of thinking. Some shy people
Fear it more than flying or heights or dying.
To be all talk is being less than nothing but
“Now you’re talking” is more than you were before.

“I like how when he takes me to the market
He talks to all the packages,” Debbie said
Not long before she died. “He talks to lettuce.”

In the cold queue of grief at Stalin’s prison
The question to Akhmatova: Can you
Describe this? “Yes” the poet answers “I can.”

The child’s hand on her throat can feel her voice
Vibrate. It means to her she is there, inside.
The stammerer finds relief in speaking verses
Because it’s less like talking. More like singing.

I mutter flakes of meaning. Foofaraw,
Shmagegeh. Blah-blah-blah.

A way of thinking a way of avoiding something.
Articulated grunts of grief and rage.
Even the Iliad yacks.

The baby rehearses melodies of speech,
The tunes of chat, of menace. Vocal
Without words Morricone’s music
Speaks for the iron faces of ugly cowboys.

Does her legendary “Yes, I can” exceed
Requiem itself? It is all one meaning. Now you
Really are saying something yes and can you?

Long before Stalin long before everything,
The new lungs learning to breathe.
Her tongue already studying its mission.

Robert Pinsky is the author of Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet, an autobiography forthcoming in October.
Originally published:
June 1, 2022


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