‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ appears in Galway Kinnell’s collection of poetry, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words, published in 1980. It is the second poem related to the opening piece, ‘Fergus Falling’. This poem is written from the perspective of Fergus’ wife. She describes their married life after having a child. There is no sense of dissatisfaction when the kid disturbs their intimate hours. Rather, the child makes them feel fulfilled.
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‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ by Galway Kinnell is about how a couple remains attentive to their child’s “come-cry” while making love.
In this poem, the speaker describes the moment after making love. Their kid probably sleeps in the room close to theirs. It seems their sound might have woke him up. The speaker’s husband, Fergus, has already fallen asleep after having a good time. But, his child’s distress call wakes him up, and he rushes to fetch him. After he takes him in, the child snuggles between his parents, and he falls asleep. With the kid sleeping beside, the speaker thinks about how the kid is drawn to the place of his creation.
You can read the full poem here.
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
Galway Kinnell’s poem ‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ begins with the scene of a couple lying side by side after making love. They are married and have a child as well. The speaker of this piece describes what she does after they have made love. She humorously comments on her habit of snoring in the very first line. Besides, she can also play loud music or sit up talking to a reasonable Irishman. So, making love somehow charges her up and boosts her happiness. She somehow wants to express this happiness.
While she thinks so, her husband, Fergus, sinks deeper in his sleep. He does not have a sound sleep to have a dream. They have to remain alert even after making love as their child is sleeping in the other room. He can need them at any moment. Parenthood comes with these challenges that train the mind not to be forgetful of their duties in utter satisfaction.
When their child calls for something, Fergus wakes up in a flash. However, at times, there are genuine concerns. The kid might be in fear of something or crying in a stifled tone for having some trouble. Then, his father would wrench him out of his sleep and run towards his room.
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the present context, the speaker and her husband are lying together after making love. They quietly touch each other. These touches are familiar to the speaker. After some years of marriage, the wife grew accustomed to her husband’s moves on her body. But his touch never gets old.
While they are invested in each other, suddenly, their child appears at the door. He is in his usual baseball pajamas. The opening of his shirt’s neck is so small that it seems he has struggled to put it in. He jumps between them and hugs both. Then he snuggles himself to sleep. The speaker observes her son’s face that gleams with satisfaction. While he sleeps, his face fills the speaker with a sense of satisfaction.
In the half darkness we look at each other
this blessing love gives again into our arms.
The last stanza of ‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ is about the speaker’s thoughts after her son has come to sleep with them. In the half darkness of the room, they look at each other. They smile inwardly. Then they try to touch arms across their child. Through the phrase “startlingly muscled body,” the speaker hints at the fact that her child is growing fast. One day, he would be in a similar situation to his parents.
In the next line, the speaker explores the reason behind her child’s arrival into their room. She thinks that his memory of infancy would draw him to the “ground of his making.” It is a metaphorical reference to his parents’ bed, where they made love before he was born. Their sounds can sing him awake as they did before. These thoughts remind the mother of the blessing bestowed upon them in the form of their son.
Kinnell’s ‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ is a free-verse lyric poem. It consists of two stanzas. The first and second stanzas contain 15 and 6 lines, respectively. Kinnell uses an unconventional style in this poem. The first stanza is written in continuation. This whole section interestingly contains only a single sentence, filled with a number of parenthetical clauses. The following stanza follows the same scheme. Besides, the text is written from the perspective of a first-person speaker. She details the moments after making love with his husband.
‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ showcases a number of literary devices. These are:
- Enjambment: It occurs throughout the text that makes readers go through the lines in order to grasp the overall idea. For instance, all the lines of the first stanza are connected beautifully by this device.
- Anaphora: Kinnell uses this device in the second and third lines. These lines begin with “or.”
- Simile: It can be found in the first line, “For I can snore like a bullhorn.”
- Alliteration: It occurs in “come-cry,” “so small,” “he has,” “arms across,” etc.
Galway Kinnell’s poem ‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’ details how a speaker makes love with her husband and lies beside him ruminating on the precious hours. Their son comes to sleep with them, and his arrival fills her heart with happiness.
The poem was first published in 1980 in Galway Kinnell’s one of the best-known collections of poetry, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words. This complimentary piece can be read with the first poem of the collection, ‘Fergus Falling’.
This piece explores a number of themes that include parenthood, making love, family, the mother-son relationship, and love. The main idea of the poem revolves around the act of making love after marriage.
It is a free-verse lyric poem that is written from a first-person speaker’s perspective. This piece consists of two stanzas and has a total of 21 lines. Besides, there is no regular rhyme scheme or meter in the text.
The following list contains a number of poems that include the themes present in Galway Kinnell’s ‘After Making Love We Hear Footsteps’.
- ‘My Son, My Executioner’ by Donald Hall — This poem describes how a father looks at his child’s innocent face and wishes to die in order to get immortality.
- ‘Long Finish’ by Paul Muldoon — This poem is about the relationship between a speaker and his wife through complex ephemeral narratives.
- ‘Rising Five’ by Norman Nicholson — In this poem, Nicholson describes how one’s perspective on life and time changes from birth to childhood, adulthood, and to old age.
You can also explore these beautiful poems about motherhood.