Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Three Poems on Loss

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Read this in "In Her Shoes" by Jennifer Weiner.

Losing things. Losing you. Was it like this? No voice, no gesture, really. Only the possibilities of them. No time, no touch, no chance to study you. But yes, returning to my everyday life ... I am afraid I will forget the tremors of that disaster. But how can one forget?

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


Was it like this? The grief of putting away a whole lifetime. No, this grief was for someone else. It reminds me of how life can survive a series of deaths. Little deaths. Even profound ones. There was a time that I thought the world would end. But it did not. And so I know that I may be able to go on, having survived (barely survived) another loss in another lifetime.

Death Experience

We know nothing of this going away,
that shares nothing with us. We have no reason,
whether astonishment and love or hate,
to display Death, whom a fantastic mask

of tragic lament astonishingly disfigures.
Now the world is still full of roles which we play
as long as we make sure, that, like it or not,
Death plays, too, although he does not please us.

But when you left, a strip of reality broke
upon the stage through the very opening
through which you vanished: Green, true green,
true sunshine, true forest.

We continue our play. Picking up gestures
now and then, and anxiously reciting
that which was difficult to learn; but your far away,
removed out of our performance existence,

sometimes overcomes us, as an awareness
descending upon us of this very reality,
so that for a while we play Life
rapturously, not thinking of any applause.

Rainer Maria Rilke(tr. Cliff Crego)


This poem is more like it. This is is perhaps what you have left me. "A strip of reality broke upon the stage." I want to play this Life rapturously, thinking of you and what you have left behind in that brief time that you were with us. A gap in the fabric of my life, our lives. Hardly anything tangible but something real. Something that can never be forgotten. Something that assures us that there is a promise beyond death that can still be fulfilled.

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