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"Your Birthday in the California Mountains," by Kenneth Rexroth

A broken moon on the cold water,

And wild geese crying high overhead,

The smoke of the campfire rises

Toward the geometry of heaven -

Points of light in the infinite blackness.

I watch across the narrow inlet

Your dark figure comes and goes before the fire.

A loon cries out on the night bound lake.

Then all the world is silent with the

Silence of autumn waiting for

The coming of winter. I enter

The ring of firelight, bringing to you

A string of trout for our dinner.

As we eat by the whispering lake,

I say, "Many years from now we will

Remember this night and talk of it."

Many years have gone by since then, and

Many years again. I remember

That night as though it was last night,

But you have been dead for thirty years.


Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was a major figure in American poetry and an important influence on the Beat Poets and the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and '60s. A notable essayist and important translator from the Chinese and Japanese, he was a pacifist, a conscientious objector during World War II, and a zealous political progressive. Rexroth, who lived for many years in San Francisco and spent his later years in Santa Barbara, often celebrates in his poetry the grandeur of the California Coast Range. "Your Birthday in the California Mountains" was written in memory of Rexroth's first wife, the painter Andrée Schafer, whom he married in 1927 and who died in 1940. It is from The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, published by Copper Canyon Press, and is reprinted by permission.

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A broken moon on the cold water,

And wild geese crying high overhead,

The smoke of the campfire rises

Toward the geometry of heaven -

Points of light in the infinite blackness.

I watch across the narrow inlet

Your dark figure comes and goes before the fire.

A loon cries out on the night bound lake.

Then all the world is silent with the

Silence of autumn waiting for

The coming of winter. I enter

The ring of firelight, bringing to you

A string of trout for our dinner.

As we eat by the whispering lake,

I say, "Many years from now we will

Remember this night and talk of it."

Many years have gone by since then, and

Many years again. I remember

That night as though it was last night,

But you have been dead for thirty years.


Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was a major figure in American poetry and an important influence on the Beat Poets and the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s and '60s. A notable essayist and important translator from the Chinese and Japanese, he was a pacifist, a conscientious objector during World War II, and a zealous political progressive. Rexroth, who lived for many years in San Francisco and spent his later years in Santa Barbara, often celebrates in his poetry the grandeur of the California Coast Range. "Your Birthday in the California Mountains" was written in memory of Rexroth's first wife, the painter Andrée Schafer, whom he married in 1927 and who died in 1940. It is from The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, edited by Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, published by Copper Canyon Press, and is reprinted by permission.

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Comments
2

this sent an arrow thru my heart

for i was once the bound loving slave of an angler...who captured both tasty fish and me upon his magical hook...to pierce my memory forever

this is wonderful Kenneth...blessings to thee for this sharing ;-D

March 5, 2011

Everytime I come across this poem, it makes me think about MY window. It makes me appreciate wherever I am, that I still am. I feel as if he is so very close to her that he can feel the dirt trail under his feet and sense the clanging of his fish string. But she is alive in his memory only I wonder if he went back to the place he is remembering ,and wrote this poem with the ghosts of his past swirling around a ring of fire. Thirty years later and he laments her still. I'm just fascinated by his poem. Thanks for sharing this which allowed me to come across it once more

March 15, 2013

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