Home > Poetry > First Sight
Published: Tue Jan 30 2001
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
AGNI 53 Journeys Nature Relationships
First Sight

We slipped from the group and ran among the ruins,
Rows of olive trees.  I felt

A hand against my arm; then it slipped away.

A scarf dangling from the branches,
Silver, speckled with rain.
We threw down our coats and ran

As if remembering: slivers
Of marble, a voice hidden in the leaves. 

There’s room for one more up here—then
The hand, the slender branches. 
Clothing on the grass and in the distance

Rubble thinning out to fields, little towns,
The ocean rippling silently: the moment 

Channeled into time before I entered it, a hollow

Opening, dark water draining
From the inlet, tides—I can’t remember your face

Without remembering that moment.
When we first touched earth

We saw tiny drifts of snow
Beside the tarmac.  Olive trees.

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James Longenbach (1959–2022) published six poetry collections in his lifetime—Threshold (1998), Fleet River (2003), Draft of a Letter (2007), The Iron Key (2010), Earthling (2017), and Forever (2021)—along with nine books of literary criticism, including The Lyric NowHow Poems Get Made, and The Art of the Poetic Line. His fifth book of poems, Earthling, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he was he was Joseph Henry Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester until his death.

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