Poetry Friday: “Crowning” by Kevin Young


Long into each winter I reach a point where I am drawn to believe that the weather and I will never be warm again. I often make it through the holidays and the year end/beginning before this moment of existential despair overtakes me, most often after several days of unseasonable cold and unrelenting winds. I can hardly be blamed for wanting to give up.

I am reminded now, also unseasonably, of my winter angst because this springtime has been sluggish to arrive. It’s May (hello?) and I would have expected leaves, by now, grandly unfurling, and temperatures, you know, measurably warm.

The flowers did arrive, thank you — crocuses and daffodils and tulips (some of the latter nearly as large as baseballs). The flowering trees are, yes, in bloom and I’m grateful for the pink and purple and white canopies. A month ago, to the day, I was once around the dance floor with Edna St. Vincent Millay and that experience was quite helpful and awakening. It seems, though, that something is still missing for me, something transformative.

Elsewhere, Kevin Young (wise and prolific poet, editor, essayist) has honored the birth of his son with great and boisterous joy in Crowning:

… since I’ve seen
your hair deep inside mother,
a glimpse, grass in late
winter, early spring, watching
your mother’s pursed, throbbing,
purpled power, her pushing
you for one whole hour, two,
almost three, almost out,
maybe never, animal smell
and peat, breath and sweat
and mulch-matter …

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. He observes, with great care, the episode of sacred turbulence unfolding before him and offers a breathtaking image (flower as verb) —

… her face
full of fire, then groaning your face
out like a flower, blood-bloom,
crocused into air …

Deep in winter, how improbable that spring will arrive. From deep within mother, how inevitable that we do arrive.

How did this happen?

Some primordial momentum; no small dose of courage; and trust that both of those will deliver. Open mind and open heart and open eyes, clear sight in a world renewed but changed:

warming now, now opening
your eyes midnight
blue in the blue black dawn.

Do you see?


Kevin Young is Atticus Haygood Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University. Most recently, he is editor of The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink and author of Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels.

(“Crocus” from Geert Orye / cc by)


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