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There’s a wildness in us

23 October 2010

Another poem that struck me from The Best American Poetry 2009 was Maud Kelly’s “What I Think of Death, If Anyone’s Asking.” It describes a nineteen-year-old girl’s boozy experience with a boy in a field of cows, cows that had been used for invasive scientific experiments. There are two moments that especially resonate with me in this poem. The first:

I am telling you how I reached the point I always knew
would come, when I was at once too old and far
too young, how I knew, really knew for the first time
that there’s a wildness in us…

I, too, have felt moments where I suddenly sensed that wildness we all have, and I’d be surprised if anybody hasn’t felt that before. There’s a wildness in scientists, who do experiments on animals to pursue their hunger for knowledge; there’s a wildness in those of us who abandon everything we have and move suddenly to Alaska to live with bears, or sail alone for six months; and in those of us who live our lives wishing and planning what we’d do if we had the guts to make ourselves uncomfortable. There’s a wildness in those of us who create art instead.

The other line that captured me:

…from nowhere and all at once the long arm
of time’s elliptical arc swooped in, wrapped me
in its cello-thin line…

This is a line of pure poetry, one of those lines that shocks you even as you write it, wondering where it came from and how lucky you are to have been the one to discover its linguistic beauty. It’s one of those all-encompassing lines, where image and words combine to make perfect sense of time and place and emotion.

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