'Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight' by Galway Kinnell

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Imperfect Thirst1994Talking with my beloved in New York
I stood at the outdoor public telephone
in Mexican sunlight, in my purple shirt.
Someone had called it a man/woman
shirt. The phrase irked me. But then
I remembered that Rainer Maria
Rilke, who until he was seven wore
dresses and had long yellow hair,
wrote that the girl he almost was
"made her bed in his ear" and "slept him the world."
I thought, OK this shirt will clothe the other in me.
As we fell into long-distance love talk
a squeaky chittering started up all around,
and every few seconds came a sudden loudbuzzing. I half expected to find
the insulation on the telephone line
laid open under the pressure of our talk
leaking low-frequency noises.
But a few yards away a dozen hummingbirds,
gorgets going drab or blazing
according as the sun struck them,
stood on their tail rudders in a circlearound my head, transfixed
by the flower-likeness of the shirt.
And perhaps also by a flush rising into my face,
for a word -- one with a thick sound,
as if a porous vowel had sat soaking up
saliva while waiting to get spoken,
possibly the name of some flower
that hummingbirds love, perhaps
"honeysuckle" or "hollyhock"
or "phlox" -- just then shocked me
with its suddenness, and this time
apparently did burst the insulation,
letting the word sound in the open
where all could hear, for these tiny, irascible,
nectar-addicted puritans jumped back
all at once, as if the air gasped.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight by Galway Kinnell

Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a classic poem written by Galway Kinnell. It is a powerful and poignant work that captures the beauty and complexity of the human experience. With its vivid imagery and compelling narrative, this poem has become a beloved classic in the world of literature.


At its core, Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a meditation on the nature of identity and the struggle to define oneself in a world that is constantly shifting and changing. The poem is structured around a series of phone conversations between the speaker and a woman named Toi. Through these conversations, we get a glimpse into both the speaker's internal struggle and his external surroundings.

The poem is set in Mexico, and Kinnell does an amazing job of capturing the vibrant colors and lively energy of the country. He describes the "red and white plumes of the bougainvillea" and the "blue and white tiles of the pool" in vivid detail, transporting the reader to a place of warmth and beauty.

But despite the idyllic setting, the speaker is consumed by a sense of restlessness and uncertainty. He questions his own identity, wondering "who am I this time / the person opening the door / to the sun that now has his knife in me?" He struggles to define himself in a world that seems to be constantly changing.

The poem is also a reflection on the power of language and the ways in which it can both unite and divide us. The speaker is engaged in a conversation with Toi, but it quickly becomes apparent that they are speaking different languages. The tension between them is palpable, as they struggle to understand each other and find common ground.

This tension is mirrored in the larger cultural context of the poem. Mexico is a country with a rich history and complex cultural identity, and the poem grapples with the challenge of reconciling different cultural perspectives. The speaker is an outsider in this world, struggling to find his place and make sense of the country's vibrant and complex culture.


Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a powerful work that speaks to the universal human experience. It is a poem about identity, language, and the struggle to find one's place in the world. But it is also a poem about the beauty and complexity of the human experience.

At its core, the poem is a reminder that we are all connected, even when we speak different languages or come from different cultures. The speaker and Toi may be struggling to understand each other, but their conversation is a reminder that we are all human, and we all share the same basic desires and struggles.

The poem is also a reflection on the power of language to shape our understanding of the world. The speaker is grappling with a sense of dislocation and uncertainty, but his struggle is rooted in his inability to express himself fully in a language that is not his own. It is a reminder that language is not just a tool for communication, but also a means of shaping our understanding of the world.

Finally, the poem is a celebration of the beauty and complexity of the human experience. Kinnell's descriptions of Mexico are vivid and evocative, capturing the vibrant colors and lively energy of the country. But even as he celebrates this beauty, he also acknowledges the complexity and challenges of the human experience. The speaker is struggling to find his place in the world, but he is also embracing the beauty and wonder that surrounds him.


Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. Its themes of identity, language, and the human experience are as relevant today as they were when the poem was first published. Kinnell's vivid imagery and compelling narrative make this poem a timeless masterpiece that will continue to captivate and inspire readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight: A Masterpiece of Imagery and Emotion

Galway Kinnell's Poetry Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a poem that captures the essence of human emotions in a way that is both beautiful and haunting. Through vivid imagery and powerful metaphors, Kinnell takes the reader on a journey through the depths of the human soul, exploring themes of love, loss, and the search for meaning in life.

The poem begins with a description of a telephone booth in the middle of a Mexican desert. The image of the booth, standing alone in the vast expanse of sand and sky, immediately sets the tone for the poem. It is a symbol of isolation and loneliness, a reminder that even in the midst of beauty and wonder, we can still feel disconnected from the world around us.

As the poem progresses, Kinnell introduces us to the speaker of the poem, a man who is calling his lover from the telephone booth. The speaker's words are filled with longing and desperation, as he tries to bridge the distance between himself and his beloved. He speaks of the heat of the sun, the sound of the wind, and the beauty of the landscape, all in an effort to convey the depth of his feelings.

One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the way in which Kinnell uses imagery to create a sense of intimacy between the speaker and his lover. He describes the way the sun "burns through the wire" of the telephone line, as if the heat of their passion is so intense that it can transcend even the physical barriers between them. He speaks of the "dust of the desert" that clings to his lover's voice, as if her very essence is present in the air around him.

Throughout the poem, Kinnell also explores the theme of mortality and the fleeting nature of life. He speaks of the "long shadows" that stretch across the desert, a reminder that even in the midst of beauty, darkness is always present. He describes the way the wind "whips the sand into the air," as if to suggest that everything in life is constantly in motion, always changing and shifting.

Despite these themes of loss and impermanence, however, the poem ultimately ends on a note of hope. The speaker tells his lover that he will "come to her soon," and that they will be together again. It is a promise that is both romantic and poignant, a reminder that even in the face of death and separation, love can still triumph.

In many ways, Poetry Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a poem about the power of language and communication. The telephone booth, with its wires and connections, is a symbol of the way in which we can use words to connect with one another, even across great distances. The speaker's words, filled with passion and longing, are a testament to the way in which language can convey the deepest emotions and desires of the human heart.

At the same time, however, the poem is also a reminder of the limitations of language. No matter how eloquent our words may be, they can never fully capture the complexity and depth of human experience. The speaker's attempts to describe the beauty of the desert and the intensity of his feelings are ultimately inadequate, as he acknowledges when he says, "I can't say it right."

In the end, Poetry Telephoning In Mexican Sunlight is a masterpiece of imagery and emotion, a poem that captures the essence of what it means to be human. Through its vivid descriptions and powerful metaphors, it speaks to the deepest longings and fears of the human heart, reminding us of the beauty and fragility of life, and the power of love to transcend even the greatest of barriers.

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