Opened Are

A New Poem by Cole Swenson

May 25, 2016  By Cole Swensen

One of my favorite painting titles is Willem de Kooning’s Door to the River, in part because it seems to me the appropriate title to every work of art, as such. In Cole Swenson’s new poem, “Opened Are,” the strange anagrammatical title reminds me of that door, and how poetry is always a kind of privileged, holy entrance — off center, overheard. The poet’s breaks and spacing, the primordial nouns of skin, carve, animal, hill, rain, each combines to exert a gravity of attention that is hard to place but ultimately planted firmly enough I believe somewhere inside the house of being. That poetry can afford this absolute attention remains a total gift. 

Article continues below

—Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor


Opened Are



Article continues below


At first it was a star in going there a mark   and the skin opened, open carve

the route all west the route through bone      will be less open then and we’ll break


the map on a wheel of home   and home will roll down the long hill and home

Article continues below

rolled down the long hill and was never heard from again.   Start again.


It was a fine summer morning and we ignored the rain.   it was fine, it finely,

and the final thing said, what said to end     will be less open and then we break


Article continues below

every little thing, everything small, all of it.





Article continues below

at first would shout, a shout as round. Rounded on

as if an animal there, as if there were          all the animals found


there was nothing here. Is the end of, could find in, we wanted an

animal a little less the tooth set, could forge on. We had hopes then


was an age of, so forge the beat     and beat     and slowly

the heated form.   Who dreamed

wrenched. And the new shape shuddered on. Or simply shut


Slam. Start again: Again a man

herded a series of animals across an open plain, open animals, they say


I have in my hand an animal that will not open now.

Cole Swensen
Cole Swensen
Cole Swensen is the author of eleven previous books of poetry. She is also a translator and has won the PEN USA Award in Literary Translation. Her poetry has won the Iowa Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Book Award, and she teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

More Story
LitHub Daily: May 24, 2016 Rufi Thorpe will steal the details of your life and put them into books (even cigarette brands, orgies, and your...

Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.