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About this Poem 

“I wrote ‘Ever’ as a kind of self-punishing exercise after thinking about the perfection and tragedy of Lear’s line ‘Never, never, never, never, never’—uttered as he realizes his daughter Cordelia is dead. It’s a line that pierces the soul (and is in perfect trochaic pentameter). So I thought about how I might, in a sonnet, play on that line as Shakespeare riffed on a theme in his sonnets. The speaker of this sonnet is in denial about loss—her shock prevents her from being able to speak it, and leads her to obsess over the concept. And who can really speak loss?”
Meghan O’Rourke


Never, never, never, never, never.
—King Lear

Even now I can’t grasp “nothing” or “never.”
They’re unholdable, unglobable, no map to nothing.
Never? Never ever again to see you?
An error, I aver. You’re never nothing,
because nothing’s not a thing.
I know death is absolute, forever,
the guillotineguttingnever to which we never say goodbye.
But even as I think “forever” it goes “ever”
and “ever” and “ever.” Ever after.
I’m a thing that keeps on thinking. So I never see you
is not a thing or think my mouth can ever. Aver:
You’re not “nothing.” But neither are you something.
Will I ever really get never?
You’re gone. Nothing, never—ever.

Copyright © 2015 by Meghan O'Rourke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Meghan O'Rourke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Meghan O'Rourke

Meghan O'Rourke

Born in New York in 1976, Meghan O'Rourke's first book of poetry, Halflife, was a finalist for Britain's Forward First Book Prize

by this poet

Grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1970s.
Always making margaritas in the kitchen,
always laughing and doing their hair up pretty,
sharing lipstick and shoes and new juice diets;
always splitting the bills to the last penny,
stealing each other’s clothes,
loving one another then turning and complaining
as soon

Because I was born in a kingdom,
there was a king. At times
the king was a despot; at other times,
not. Axes flashed in the road

at night, but if you closed your eyes
sitting on the well-edge
amongst your kinspeople
and sang the ballads
then the silver did not appear
to be broken.  

Such were the
We had a drink and got in bed.
That’s when the boat in my mouth set sail,
my fingers drifting in the shallows of your buzz cut.
And in the sound of your eye 
a skiff coasted—boarding it
I found all the bric-a-brac of your attic gloom,
the knives from that other island trip, 
the poison suckleroot lifted from God