'After Making Love We Hear Footsteps' by Galway Kinnell
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Editor 1 Interpretation
After Making Love We Hear Footsteps: A Poem of Intimacy and Vulnerability
As I read Galway Kinnell's "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps," I am struck by the rawness of the poem, its intimate portrayal of love, and the vulnerability it evokes. In just twenty-seven lines, Kinnell captures the essence of a couple's post-coital intimacy, as they listen to the sounds of their child's footsteps outside their bedroom door.
The poem is structured in three stanzas, with varying line lengths and no discernible rhyme scheme. Kinnell's use of enjambment and caesura creates a sense of momentum and urgency, as if the speaker is trying to capture the fleeting moments of intimacy before they slip away.
Stanza 1: The Sounds of Love
In the first stanza, Kinnell describes the sounds of the couple making love:
"For I can snore like a bullhorn or play loud music or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman and Fergus will only sink deeper into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash, but let there be that heavy breathing or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house and he will wrench himself awake and make for it on the run - as now, we lie here, ourselves, in a sudden silence surprised by the strength of it, this need to laugh, but hushed at the same time because there is still somewhere in this house someone who hasn't slept; the street car creeping past unlocked windows"
The contrast between the speaker's ability to make loud noise and Fergus's deep sleep and sudden alertness to the sounds of love creates a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. The couple is aware of the presence of their child and the "someone who hasn't slept" in the house, adding to the sense of urgency and secrecy. The streetcar creeping past their unlocked windows adds to the atmosphere of intimacy and danger, as if the outside world could intrude on their private moment at any time.
Stanza 2: The Intimacy of Love
In the second stanza, Kinnell delves deeper into the intimacy of love:
"A few feet away outside the window he strikes a match and lights the cigarette he put out an hour ago, and now we hear him pacing slowly back and forth on the wooden deck his footsteps gentle on the planks, the ceiling fan in the bedroom lazily ticking over, cooling us, his hand on his forehead, as if in some test of concentration, and the wind rising and falling, and rising again, and still rising, our eyes so wide open in this dark room that everything seems to be happening somewhere else, even as we kiss again"
The image of the child smoking a cigarette outside while pacing back and forth on the deck adds to the sense of vulnerability and danger. The couple is aware of their child's presence and actions, but they are also lost in the intimacy of their love. The description of the ceiling fan lazily ticking over and cooling them adds to the sense of comfort and safety, as if the outside world is being kept at bay. The wind rising and falling and rising again creates a sense of tension and release, as the couple kisses again, lost in the moment.
Stanza 3: The Vulnerability of Love
In the final stanza, Kinnell reveals the vulnerability of love:
"And someplace now, deep within himself, he sees the casual murder of his little boy: his backhand scythes down through the air and just as it strikes the face, the eyes that love you shrink up as if in death, the startled face already retreating into its own silence; he wakes himself up with a sob and weeps into my ear; he is so happy that we are both awake that he speaks to me of those days when he was a boy, and his mother, who had been dead for years, would come into his room at night, and stand beside him for hours, untying her long black hair, brushing it, until it fell down around them like the sleep of trees"
The sudden shift from the intimacy of the previous stanza to the vulnerability of this one is jarring and unexpected. The speaker's partner wakes himself up with a sob and weeps into the speaker's ear, revealing a deep-seated fear and pain. The image of the casual murder of his little boy and the mother who comes into his room at night adds to the sense of vulnerability and trauma. The untying of her long black hair and brushing it until it falls down around them like the sleep of trees creates a sense of comfort and safety, but also a sense of unresolved pain and loss.
Conclusion: Love as Vulnerability
In "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps," Galway Kinnell captures the essence of love as both intimate and vulnerable. The sounds of love, the intimacy of love, and the vulnerability of love are all portrayed in just twenty-seven lines, leaving the reader with a sense of awe and wonder. The rawness of the poem, its honesty and vulnerability, make it a timeless classic that speaks to the human experience of love and intimacy.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry After Making Love We Hear Footsteps: A Masterpiece of Love and Intimacy
Galway Kinnell's "Poetry After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" is a masterpiece of love and intimacy. This poem captures the essence of a moment of pure love and passion between two people, and the aftermath of that moment. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has ever been in love.
The poem begins with the line "For I can snore like a bullhorn" which immediately sets the tone for the poem. The speaker is telling us that he is a man, a human being, with all the flaws and imperfections that come with being human. He is not trying to be perfect, but rather he is embracing his imperfections and showing us that he is just like anyone else.
The next line, "or play loud music," shows us that the speaker is not afraid to be himself. He is not trying to impress anyone or put on a show. He is simply being himself, and that is what makes him so endearing.
The third line, "or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman," is a nod to Kinnell's Irish heritage. It also shows us that the speaker is a man who enjoys good conversation and is not afraid to engage with others.
The fourth line, "and Fergus will be there," is a reference to the Irish mythological figure Fergus mac Róich. Fergus was a warrior and a poet, and he is often associated with love and passion. By mentioning Fergus, the speaker is telling us that he is not alone in his love and passion. He is part of a long tradition of lovers and poets who have experienced the same feelings.
The next few lines of the poem describe the aftermath of the moment of love and passion. The speaker tells us that "we have given our hearts to each other" and that "we are now a couple." This is a powerful statement of commitment and love. The speaker is telling us that he has found someone who he loves deeply, and who loves him in return.
The next line, "in a field snowed by light," is a beautiful image of the aftermath of the moment. The snow represents the purity and innocence of their love, while the light represents the warmth and passion that they have shared.
The next few lines of the poem describe the sounds that the speaker hears after making love. He hears "footsteps" and "the dog scratching at the door." These sounds are a reminder that life goes on, even after a moment of pure love and passion. The speaker is telling us that he is not lost in his love, but rather he is grounded in the reality of the world around him.
The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful. The speaker tells us that "love is proved in the letting go." This is a profound statement about the nature of love. Love is not about possession or control, but rather it is about letting go and allowing the other person to be free.
The final line of the poem, "listen," is a call to action. The speaker is telling us to listen to the sounds around us, to be present in the moment, and to appreciate the beauty of life.
In conclusion, "Poetry After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" is a masterpiece of love and intimacy. It captures the essence of a moment of pure love and passion, and the aftermath of that moment. It is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has ever been in love. Galway Kinnell's use of language and imagery is masterful, and his message is timeless. This poem is a reminder that love is not about possession or control, but rather it is about letting go and allowing the other person to be free. It is a call to action to be present in the moment and to appreciate the beauty of life.
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