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.
If Life Goes On 223
My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie. He says that he believes a person can love someone and still be able to murder that person. I say, No, that's not love. That's attachment. Michael says, No, that's love. You can love someone, then come to a day when you're forced to think "it's him or me" think "me" and kill him. I say, Then it's not love anymore. Michael says, It was love up to then though. I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word. Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous heart. I say that what he might mean by love is desire. Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it? We're walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to him. Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone you want to eat and not eat them. Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby. Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to live in purgatory. Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight. I can't drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I've just bought— again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from the hole the flip top made. What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says. But what I think he's saying is "You are too strict. You are a nun." Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of me even if he's not thinking them? Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder. Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen, we both know the winter has only begun.
for matthew z and matthew r
I remember telling the joke about child molestation and seeing the face of the young man I didn't know well enough turn from something with light inside of it into something like an animal that's had its brain bashed in, something like that, some sky inside him breaking all over the table and the beers. It's amazing, finding out my thoughtlessness has no bounds, is no match for any barbarian, that it runs wild and hard like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande. No, the Columbia. A great river of thorns and when this stranger stood up and muttered something about a cigarette, the Hazmat team in my chest begins to cordon off my heart, glowing a toxic yellow, and all I could think about was the punch line "sexy kids," that was it, "sexy kids," and all the children I've cared for, wiping their noses, rocking them to sleep, all the nieces and nephews I love, and how no one ever opened me up like a can of soup in the second grade, the man now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering his body, a ghost unable to hold his wrists down or make a sound like a large knee in between two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.
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Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.
I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed. but all I could do was to get drunk again. worse, the bar patrons even ended up liking me. there I was trying to get pushed over the dark edge and I ended up with free drinks while somewhere else some poor son-of-a-bitch was in a hospital bed, tubes sticking out all over him as he fought like hell to live. nobody would help me die as the drinks kept coming, as the next day waited for me with its steel clamps, its stinking anonymity, its incogitant attitude. death doesn't always come running when you call it, not even if you call it from a shining castle or from an ocean liner or from the best bar on earth (or the worst). such impertinence only makes the gods hesitate and delay. ask me: I'm 72.
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there. And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of. It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off. For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking, I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve, I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning. What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it. But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless: I am living. I remember you.
We find out the heart only by dismantling what the heart knows. By redefining the morning, we find a morning that comes just after darkness. We can break through marriage into marriage. By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond affection and wade mouth-deep into love. We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars. But going back toward childhood will not help. The village is not better than Pittsburgh. Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh. Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound of racoon tongues licking the inside walls of the garbage tub is more than the stir of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not enough. We die and are put into the earth forever. We should insist while there is still time. We must eat through the wildness of her sweet body already in our bed to reach the body within the body.
We are looking for your laugh. Trying to find the path back to it between drooping trees. Listening for your rustle under bamboo, brush of fig leaves, feeling your step on the porch, natty lantana blossom poked into your buttonhole. We see your raised face at both sides of a day. How was it, you lived around the edge of everything we did, seasons of ailing & growing, mountains of laundry & mail? I am looking for you first & last in the dark places, when I turn my face away from headlines at dawn, dropping the rolled news to the floor. Your rumble of calm poured into me. There was the saving grace of care, from day one, the watching and being watched from every corner of the yard.