The Boiling Water by Kenneth Koch
It’s a funny thing, where I found this. Someone was wondering if people ever get back together after they’ve broken up. Well, it hasn’t happened to me yet.
The Boiling Water
A serious moment for the water is when it boils
And though one usually regards it merely as a convenience
To have the boiling water available for bath or table
Occasionally there is someone
Around who understands
The importance of this moment for the water — maybe a saint,
Maybe a poet, maybe a crazy man, or just someone temporarily disturbed
With his mind “floating” in a sense, away from his deepest
Personal concerns to more “unreal” things…
A serious moment for the island is when its trees
Begin to give it shade, and another is when the ocean washes
Big heavy things against its side. One walks around and looks at the island
But not really at it, at what is on it, and one thinks,
It must be serious, even, to be this island, at all, here.
Since it is lying here exposed to the whole sea. All its
Moments might be serious. It is serious, in such windy weather, to be a sail
Or an open window, or a feather flying in the street…
Seriousness, how often I have thought of seriousness
And how little I have understood it, except this: serious is urgent
And it has to do with change. You say to the water,
It’s not necessary to boil now, and you turn it off. It stops
Fidgeting. And starts to cool. You put your hand in it
And say, The water isn’t serious any more. It has the potential,
However — that urgency to give off bubbles, to
Change itself to steam. And the wind,
When it becomes part of a hurricane, blowing up the beach
And the sand dunes can’t keep it away.
Fainting is one sign of seriousness, crying is another.
Shuddering all over is another one.
A serious moment for the telephone is when it rings.
And a person answers, it is Angelica, or it is you.
A serious moment for the fly is when its wings
Are moving, and a serious moment for the duck
Is when it swims, when it first touches water, then spreads
Its smile upon the water…
A serious moment for the match is when it bursts into flame…
Serious for me is that I met you, and serious for you
That you met me, and that we do not know
If we will ever be close to anyone again. Serious the recognition of the probability
That we will, although time stretches terribly in between…
T., I deeply appreciate all the poetry you post here. I also wanted to point out I think there is a typo where the words “one things” should, I believe, read “one thinks.” I may be wrong. Happy new year. Liz