How Could She Not


In Memory of Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)

The air glitters. Overfull clouds
slide across the sky. A short shower,
its parallel diagonals visible
against the firs, douses and then
refreshes the crocuses. We knew
it might happen one day this week.
Out the open door, east of us, stand
the mountains of New Hampshire.
There, too, the sun is bright,
and heaped cumuli make their shadowy
ways along the horizon. When we learn
that she died this morning, we wish
we could think: how could it not
have been today? In another room,
Kiri Te Kanawa is singing
Mozart’s Laudate Dominum
from far in the past, her voice
barely there over the swishing of scythes,
and rattlings of horse-pulled
mowing machines dragging
their cutter bar’s little reciprocating
triangles through the timothy.

This morning did she wake
in the dark, almost used up
by her year of pain? By first light
did she glimpse the world
as she had loved it, and see
that if she died now, she would
be leaving him in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did her hold loosen a little?

Having these last days spoken
her whole heart to him, who spoke
his whole heart to her, might she not
have felt that in the silence to come
he would not feel any word
was missing? When her room filled
with daylight, how could she not
have slipped under a spell, with him
next to her, his arms around her, as they
had been, it may then have seemed,
all her life? How could she not
press her cheek to his cheek,
which presses itself to hers
from now on? How could she not
rise and go, with sunlight at the window,
and the drone, fading, deepening, hard to say,
of a single-engine plane in the distance,
coming for her, that no one else hears?

~ Galway Kinnell

(Note: There are many versions of this poem. Even the title differs - some are called How Could You Not. I chose the one from Strong Is Your Hold: Poems published in 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.) 

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