Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Remind me who I am

Stanley Kunitz won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 63, became the United States Poet Laureate at 95 and published his last book in 2005 when he was 99 years old.  He died the following year at age 100.  His passion for language and his powers of observation were every bit as acute at the twilight of his career as they were at the dawn.

Kunitz was fortunate that his faculties never failed him.  I'm not sure to what degree his genetic makeup and health habits contributed to his vitality, but his work as both a poet and an avid gardener clearly sustained him.

"Touch Me" is the final poem in his Collected Poems.  With Valentine's Day coming up next Monday and spring right around the corner, today felt like the perfect time to share it.  If you read to the end, you'll understand why I titled this post "Remind me who I am."

The above video was filmed in 2002 at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.  Here's the text of the poem:
Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am. 


  1. Last book at age 99? Now that's impressive.

  2. I thought so, too, Diane. xoxo

  3. One of my favorites.

  4. So impressive he wrote a book at 99 AND this poem is simply divine- very touching. Thanks for sharing!