Two Poems by Joanna Klink

From The Nightfields

July 8, 2020  By Joanna Klink

On Kingdoms

Who is ever at home in oneself.
Land without mercy. Interstates
set flickering by night. When I speak to you
I can feel a storm falling blackly to the roads,
the pelting rains the instant they
hit. Devotion is full of arrows.
Most weeks I am no more than the color of the walls
in the room where we sit, or I am blind to clocks,
restless, off-guard, accomplice to the weathers
that burn and flee, foamless, across a sky
that was my past, that is
what I was. I am always too close.
I am not sure I will ever be
wholly alive. Still—we are faithful.
Small birds hook their flights into the fog.
The heat crosses in shoals over these roads
and this evening the cottonwoods may sway
with that slow darkgold wind
beyond all urgency. I am listening to you.



We were given a book, and the book stripped
the world down to dirt and to rain, captivity,
color. The sky must have followed us
into the grove where we sat and felt happy
that the grasses were empty, the olive trees empty.
We were given some salt, a warehouse, a river,
and when we rose the birds stayed
with us all night. If you were given a burden,
if you were given a rock, an omen, would you know
it too could go missing, it too could be broken.
If you knew just what you were given, would the ache
break out of it. Would it help you. Would you open.


You were given a book and inside the book
was a road leading to orchards and snow,
tiny dustings of sun. You must have
followed the flashlights and felt you’d been offered
proof, or else hope, which itself is not simple.
There are great bays in the thoughts of old men,
there are winds that break leaves into cool wheels of shade.
You were given a latchkey, an x-ray, you were given
the means to fly and the means not to crawl.
Why would you even listen for trains or pay attention
to branches. Why would you root into yourself
when the rain could, any moment, coax light into color.


I was given a book. I was given two bells
to make a pact with the air. I was given
the smell of new rain, a small stack of paper,
some gold leaf and glue. If you were given some yarn,
some wire, if you were given a whole night of snow,
would you even know how to hold it.
Go easy on that old red oak. Go easy
on the man at the corner who just asked for money,
he is probably hungry, and what would he do
if he were given a boat, a breeze, and what would he
usher into himself if he thought life would help him.


Excerpted from The Nightfields by Joanna Klink. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Penguin Books.

Joanna Klink
Joanna Klink
Joanna Klink is the author of four books of poetry. She has received awards and fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation, Jeannette Haien Ballard, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She is teaching at the Michener Center in Austin.

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