Kenneth Koch
To Jewishness, Paris, Ambition, Trees, My Heart, and Destiny

Now that you all have gathered here to talk with me,
Let’s bring everything out into the open.
It’s almost too exciting to have all of you here—
One of you physically and another spiritually inside me,
Another worn into me by my upbringing, another a quality
I picked up someplace west of here, and two of you at least fixed things outside me,
Paris and trees. Who would like to ask the first question?
Silence. Noble, eternal-seeming silence? Well, destiny, what do you think?
Did you bring Jewishness here or did it bring you, or what?
You two are simply smiling and stay close together. Well, trees and Paris
You have been together before. What do you make of being here
With Jewishness, my heart, ambition, and destiny? It’s a frightening, even awe-inspiring thing,
Don’t you think so? Ambition you’ve been moving my heart
For a long time—will you take some time off now?
Should we go to lunch? Just sit here? or, perhaps, sing
A song about all of you. “Including you?” one of you speaks for the first time
And it is you, my heart, a great chatterbox all the same! And now you, Jewishness, chime in
With a Hebrew melody you’d like us to enjoy and you Paris and you trees stop out
Of the shadows of each other and say “Look
At these beautiful purple and white blossoms!” Destiny you wink at me and shrug
A shoulder toward ambition who (you) now begin to sing
“Yes, yes it will include all of us, and it is about time!”
Jewishness and ambition go off to a tree-greened-out corner
And start their confab. Destiny walks with Paris and me
To a house where an old friend is living. You, heart, in the padded dark as usual,
Seem nonetheless to be making a very good effort. “Oh, this stirs me,” you say, excitedly—
“To be with Jewishness and trees and destiny at the same time makes me leap up!”
And you do. Ambition, you return but don’t take hold. 
Destiny, you have taken my heart to Paris, you have hidden it among these trees.
Heart, the rest of this story is yours. Let it go forward in any way it needs to go.

Found In Volume 29, No. 03
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Kenneth Koch
About the Author

Associated with the New York School of poetry, Kenneth Koch wrote nearly twenty collections of poetry over his lifetime, including Straits (1998), On the Great Atlantic Railway: Selected Poems 1950-88 (1994), and The Art of Love (1975).  He also wrote several plays and books teaching young children about writing poetry.  Among the numerous honors Koch received are the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Library of Congress in 1996, as well as awards from the Fulbright, Guggenheim, and Ingram-Merrill foundations.  He was inducted as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996.  He died from leukemia in 2002.