Kevin Young, Valentine

February 14, 2013   •   By Sean Hill

KEVIN YOUNG'S POEM, “Song of Smoke” from his third book Jelly Roll: A Blues, takes off with the pronouncement that “To watch you walk / cross the room in your black // corduroys is to see / civilization start—” The sound of that “strut is flint / striking rock,” igniting the fire that spreads through the rest of these short lines with their sharp, hairpin turns. Like the speaker here, I’m no Boy Scout in the face of such flames. We’re both grateful somehow to be almost completely consumed by them even when the flames “threaten” to “burn all // this down.” Here we have danger, vulnerability, and surrender—everything needed for passionate love.


— Sean Hill


 


Kevin Young, "Song of Smoke"


 


To watch you walk


cross the room in your black


corduroys is to see


civilization start—


the wish-


whisk-whisk


of your strut is flint


striking rock—the spark


of a length of cord


rubbed till


smoke starts—you stir


me like coal


and for days smoulder.


I am no more


a Boy Scout and, besides,


could never


put you out—you


keep me on


all day like an iron, out


of habit—


you threaten, brick-


house, to burn


all this down. You leave me


only a chimney.


 [more Valentine's Day poems]