May 1999

John Kinsella

John Kinsella John Kinsella is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently, The Hunt and Poems 1980-1994. His work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, among many others. As well, he is the editor of Salt.   Currently, he teaches at Cambridge University in England.
Fallow    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

They'll leave this field fallow
Good land while nothing grows.

Not long after burning
A father dropped and was buried.

Without markings and eroded
By extremes it wasn't called a grave.

Later ploughed, nothing came
To the surface but by then

A different people owned it and ignorant
Of its history might have glimpsed

The chunky bones of livestock,
The fine bones of a marsupial,

And thought little of it. But the old family,
Having bought it back, have traced

A genealogy, and family anecdotes
Draw them to a place the size

Of a football field. Anonymity and time
Have made the father the father's father

As large as memory, potentially rich
As a field that's fallow.



Adaptation    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

The chemical body
shielded by foliage
plays havoc with the seasonal
turn-around, the adaptational
quirks of vampire finches
on a small island
of the Galapagos
archipelago. Some species
just won't quit while
they're ahead, damning
definitive statements
for another stab
at fame. Never staying
that way long, loving
others' histories
vicariously, aspects
of warmth and personality
drawing tropical plants
in English hothouses,
dripping sweat and gloating
as a thin film of snow
coats the lawn. Through the glass
deciduous trees don't adapt
that fast, there's more or less
snow than last year.
And the bird sounds that permeate
aren't right and the light
contradicts asymmetrically:
the warmth inside so precise,
a dense Wet, a cloying
measure of precision.
Only a problem with a boiler
or a technician's indecision
will trigger the natural disaster
that will lead to adaptation.      

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John Kinsella: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue SevenThe Cortland Review