Tuesday, 28 June 2022

American Life in Poetry: Visitors

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Each line in “Visitors” is a gift for meditation that is accessible. In the end we arrive at the conclusion that Joan Naviyuk Kane is seeking to articulate in symbolic language an understanding of the fleeting nature of our brief “visit” to the earth as humans.

The comic tragedy is that we are here for a while, and yet we are here forever when we pass on our rituals of survival to the next generation.

There is, though, a warning at the end of the poem. Often, she says, there are forces — small in spirit in the face of the grand generosity of an open door — that seek to bar our entry. We grow weary, and must be wary of such forces.

Visitors
By Joan Naviyuk Kane

Every door stands an open door:
our human settlements all temporary.

We share together the incidental shore
and teach the young to tend the lamp's wick,

weary of anyone small enough to bar our entry.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Joan Naviyuk Kane, “Visitors” from Dark Traffic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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