Astonishment Explication

Oarlocks knock in the dusk, a rowboat rises
and settles, surges and slides.
Under a great eucalyptus,
a boy and girl feel around with their feet
for those small flattish stones so perfect
for scudding across the water.

A dog barks from deep in the silence.
A woodpecker, double-knocking,
keeps time. I have slept in so many arms.
Consolation? Probably. But too much
consolation may leave one inconsolable.

The water before us has hardly moved
except in the shallowest breathing places.
For us back then, to live seemed almost to die.
One day a darkness fell between her and me.
When we woke, a hawthorn sprig
stood in the water glass at our bedside.

There is a silence in the beginning.
The life within us grows quiet.
There is little fear. No matter
how all this comes out, from now on
it cannot not exist ever again.
We liked talking our nights away
in words close to the natural language,
which most other animals can still speak.

The present pushes back the life of regret.
It draws forward the life of desire. Soon memory
will have started sticking itself all over us.
We were fashioned in a hurry,
poor throwing may mean it didn’t matter
to the makers if their pots cracked.

On the mountain tonight the full moon
faces the full sun. Now could be the moment
when we fall apart or we become whole.
Our time seems to be up―I think I even hear it stopping.
Then why have we kept up the singing for so long?
Because that’s the sort of determined creature we are.
Before us, our first task is to astonish,
and then, harder by far, to be astonished.
By Galway Kinnell, The New Yorker; July 23, 2012

Tufts of thinned out, hazy clouds are smeared across a deep sky flushed with billions of varying stars. They all look the same from here. We can’t touch them, can never hope to. Do people often stare up at this sky and feel amazed? Inferior? More directly, do we ever feel like those faceless stars? When do our minds define...