Tom Kirlin – Two Poems



Fresh are the sweets my love drives like geese in the rain before me, dark is her desire, white white hot the young sighs she shames from me bright as the hearth’s red fire. Withered my sides, wild with bees that ache in me withered this mountain steep I walk, naked, in open sleep as I comb high honey from her ribbed tree. Deep the sleep that dulls death’s keep, dumb the sting of night’s blunt speech, sweet sweet her tongue’s lashings when I wake & she rises, and I must go & we go, yet no one leaves. Come, light, come bright candle burn your heat. Come sun, come burnt night, let childish light wake sorrow from its need—drive sorrow like snow geese. Scatter your seeds that flock & swell in me when I look deep into her bright eyes and see harbors no man sees. Go, roads, gather your cobble stones & rough thoughts—walk on bare feet. Let nothing come between my love and me, nothing hard or calloused as speech. Guide her white ankles to my bed, these sheets, so, silent, we may lean against each other like a fine Irish mist of linen, sheltered from islands of grief.

Marriage Song

Earth in all its sudden rapture stands still. I have no more promises to give or take or spill, no more promises to make or spill. My life runs full with you. My heart runs full. My love grows bold with you. I touch the soul in you. I have no more promises to give or take or spill. Outside, Earth builds her chambered hills with song. Garden days grow bright and strong. Solitude in all its weary fury is gone. Love wraps us in starlit arms. Earth in all her sudden rapture has captured us. Our hands grow black with work to be done. Our minds are made and strong. I marry every sorrow in your heart, in sudden rapture. I have no more promises to make or break or spill. I have no more promises to give or take or spill. I marry all of you, all Earth and gardened air. I marry sudden rapture and you. We stand tall. Still.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty always is a surprise, a vigor, a person, place, thing or expression that concentrates and harmonizes our body, soul and mind. When I first saw a Botticelli in the Uffizi, I wept. No response in its true presence is either adequate or wrong. We may laugh, cry, make love, dine. It little matters because beauty is a unity that reveals itself in everyday life, celebrating symmetry, vitality, insight.

We relax in true beauty’s presence, attentive to higher forms and meanings of daily life. In nature, the Romantics called it the sublime. In people and artistic expression, I think beauty assembles in our spirit the perfect pieces needed to create a whole and fix our attention. In memory, these occasions may become ideal forms that we may seek to achieve for the rest of our life. Day by day, beauty is a minefield. Best we step and look like peacocks–beautiful ourselves in every way; careful; head cocked, ready to take flight.


Tom Kirlin, a lapsed farmer and iambic fundamentalist, is a reluctant transcendentalist. Raised in Iowa, he ate rolled oats with horses, taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and studied on a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at Yale University. After moving to Washington, D.C., he won the Larry Neal Award for Poetry, received a grant from the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and studied at Bread Loaf. Following policy work on energy and the environment during a decade of United Nation’s climate change negotiations, he helped rebuild and served as Vice President of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the Presidency. Under the Potato Moon, a 2013 first book of poems by Little Red Tree Publishing, LLC, was sponsored by the William Meredith Foundation. Tom now serves on that Board. His poems have appeared in such anthologies as Hungry as We Are, The WPFW Poetry Anthology and Cabin Fever. He also collected stories and recipes and co-edited the Smithsonian Folklife Cookbook.