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The Gift

Summer 2013 - Vol. 55, No. 3


This poem appears in the Summer 2013 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.


I had a gift once that I then refused.
Now, when I take it, though I be accused
Of softness, cant, self-weariness at best,
Of failure, fear, neurosis, and the rest,
Still, I am here and I shall not remove.
I know my need. And this reluctant love,
This little that I have, is something true,
Sign of the unrevealed that lies in you.
Grace is the gift. To take it my concern—
Itself the only possible return.


Helen Pinkerton is a poet and scholar of Herman Melville and of the American Civil War. Her books include Melville’s Confidence Men and American Politics in the 1850s and Taken in Faith: Poems. She has taught at Stanford University and elsewhere.