Kenneth Koch

(27 February 1925 – 6 July 2002 / Ohio / United States)

The Boiling Water - Poem by Kenneth Koch

A serious moment for the water is
when it boils
And though one usually regards it
merely as a convenience
To have the boiling water
available for bath or table
Occasionally there is someone
around who understands
The importance of this moment
for the water—maybe a saint,
Maybe a poet, maybe a crazy
man, or just someone
temporarily disturbed
With his mind 'floating'in a
sense, away from his deepest
Personal concerns to more
'unreal' things...

A serious moment for the island
is when its trees
Begin to give it shade, and
another is when the ocean
Big heavy things against its side.
One walks around and looks at
the island
But not really at it, at what is on
it, and one thinks,
It must be serious, even, to be this
island, at all, here.
Since it is lying here exposed to
the whole sea. All its
Moments might be serious. It is
serious, in such windy weather,
to be a sail
Or an open window, or a feather
flying in the street...

Seriousness, how often I have
thought of seriousness
And how little I have understood
it, except this: serious is urgent
And it has to do with change. You
say to the water,
It's not necessary to boil now,
and you turn it off. It stops
Fidgeting. And starts to cool. You
put your hand in it
And say, The water isn't serious
any more. It has the potential,
However—that urgency to give
off bubbles, to
Change itself to steam. And the
When it becomes part of a
hurricane, blowing up the
And the sand dunes can't keep it
Fainting is one sign of
seriousness, crying is another.
Shuddering all over is another

A serious moment for the
telephone is when it rings.
And a person answers, it is
Angelica, or is it you.

A serious moment for the fly is
when its wings
Are moving, and a serious
moment for the duck
Is when it swims, when it first
touches water, then spreads
Its smile upon the water...

A serious moment for the match
is when it burst into flame...

Serious for me that I met you, and
serious for you
That you met me, and that we do
not know
If we will ever be close to anyone
again. Serious the recognition
of the probability
That we will, although time
stretches terribly in

Comments about The Boiling Water by Kenneth Koch

  • Dr.subhendu Kar Dr.subhendu Kar (11/23/2015 7:41:00 AM)

    Really a mind blowing poem yet serious as when idle match inflames to fire, as moon is serious by its full moon, (Report) Reply

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  • Jazmin Woo (3/3/2015 10:00:00 PM)

    I really get this because I'm always thinking these types of things... most people believe something is how it is. Why doesn't everyone else see beneath the surface, looking at an everyday object a different way? Awesome poem :) (Report) Reply

  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (2/5/2015 3:49:00 AM)

    A good poem and likes. (Report) Reply

  • Jerry Buckley (3/22/2010 4:00:00 PM)

    wow.....I could hear the match strike and smell the phosphorous after it flared and blinded my sight momentarily.....the master strikes again thanks K K (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: water, change, crazy, beach, weather, ocean, smile, wind, sea, swimming, tree

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

Poem Edited: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

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