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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to

This poem is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Two Poems Brigit Pegeen Kelly

On this side of the dunes, there is no wind.   On the other
side, the sea side, the wind comes across the water, and
always, soft or hard, it blows.   But on this side, even when a
little wind finds its way here, you can hide from it,
because in back of the dunes, which are like pyramids, great
white pyramids, there are many small dunes, the dunes’
offspring, and in the small dunes there are countless
windless hollows in which you can lie down and listen to
crow cry and the low sound of the sea.   There is a gun
range, too, on this side, tangles in barbed wire, but no
guns are ever fired on it, and so on some days the grey deer
leap over the wire and graze on the grass, though the grass
is sparse and yellow, and sometimes they sleep in the
old stands of stunted trees.   I like to think of this, the
sleeping deer lying down next to the sleeping guns, like the
lamb and the lion, as if those caged acres were part of a
better world.   On this side of the dunes, the sand is
soft, and it is so quiet, the wind blocked by the sand, and
the sound of the sea dampered, so that it sounds like muffled
organ music, or retreating thunder, or sometimes I think it
sounds like swarming bees, and then it seems there must be a
giant hive hanging over the sea, a slowly swinging hive
swollen with insects and honey, and maybe sometimes the
honey falls down into the black water below, and that is a
good thing, because the black waters are bitter, and maybe
in some lights sailors can see the honey in the swells, and
be comforted, as we are comforted by the unending hum.   But
it is different on the other side of the dunes.   The sound
is different.   If you climb the largest dune – and it is a
hard climb – for the dune is high and steep, and the sand
pulls at your heels, when your head at last rises above the
sand, the wind hits your face, soft and hard, and the sound
of the sea, a sound that was a moment ago sweet, is so loud,
magnified beyond reckoning, it almost drives you to your
knees.   And it is as if you have been deaf all your life and
then someone rips the stoppers from your ears and you hear
not the thing you imagined music to be – something like the
wings of a bird as it dives and circles which seem to be
both part of the bird, and something that has captured the
bird’s shining body and is carrying it away – but all the
world’s music, all of it, the drums, and trigons, and harps,
and sackbuts, and whistles, and cymbals, and chants, and
dirges, and rattles, and love cries, and paeans – crashing
before you.   And it is unbearable. It is unbearable.   But
still, you want to run toward it, or run into it, and maybe
be tossed in the air like a bird, or have your head drummed
against the sea’s sandy floor, but more than that you want
to run back to where you came from.   And why not?   Didn’t
some poet say that, or some condemned man? Better the
windless hollow, where you catch your breath, and curl
on your side like a deer, and maybe, after a time, according
to your own lights, fashion from what is at hand a little
Jew’s harp, and begin to play.   


for Pirkko Markula

Lepers are outolintu, of course, but there
are not so many lepers now.   And none
have bells.   The bells of the lepers have gone.
And someone who steals your parking place
is outolintu, or someone who steals
the one you love.   But in that case you
are outolintu, too.   Sitting with your parrot
on the stoop… A spittoon on an altar
is outolintu.   As is a gun in a nursery.
A dictator is outolintu for the people
he rules, and the people are outolintu
for the dictator.   Not even people, but something
else altogether, penguins, say, or worms.
The poor are always outolintu to some.
As are the maimed, or those halt of speech.
Ham at a bris is outolintu, though there
is a Yiddish word that covers that circumstance
better… Sometimes when you see yourself
in the past, you realize you are outolintu now,
but were not then.   And sometimes you
long to be outolintu, out of it all,
away from the fuss.   A brass door on an igloo
is outolinto.   And an arrow in a gun
is a mistake.   As are the wheels of a bike
on a car.   A Freudian slip is always outolintu:
the guest who shows up uninvited.   And
laughter at a funeral is sometimes outolintu,
as is the one who laughs, and sometimes
not.   It depends on the circumstances.
Some actions are outolintu.   Selling rabbit’s
foot key chains at an Assembly of Atheists,
or cutting off your own head.   Some days
are outolintu; for example, the Day of the Dead,
a day of celebration for an uncountable
number of outolintus.   Sometimes it pays
to be outolintu.   The one who misses by minutes
a plane that will crash.   Or, like Saint Francis,
the one who chooses to disrobe in church.
Sometimes it seems that we, like the dead,
might all be outolintu.   A befuddled race.
One that was left in the wrong place.
Clearly, we can’t take care of ourselves.
We seem to lack the proper equipment.
Perhaps we could repeat the word outolintu
as a kind of mantra to restore us
to sanity: outolintu, outolintu, outolintu,
let us learn to, let us learn to, let us
learn to be good.

*  Outolintu: Finnish for strange bird; also refers to a person or thing that does not belong, that is outside or ‘other’, or has been transplanted into a context that is not ‘natural’ to it.

This poem is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
Further Reading: - Brigit Pegeen Kelly More Poems by... (3)
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