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Dearest One

December 5, 2011

After the exertion and grief of the last couple of weeks, things have calmed down. I went back to work in the library at the college, and even made time to wander upstairs and look at the new poetry books, where I picked one up from the shelf because I liked the title, The World Falls Away, and opened it at random, as I usually do, to be absolutely hit in the face by how deeply I feel this poem by Wanda Coleman right now:

Dearest One

i am writing this note with sincere wishithadn’ts.
i will not be coming to visit. The story goes like so—i regret
to report that I’ve desisted, not my feet, although
they are certainly well on their way to toes-up status, not
my eyes, altho the peering is weakened, not my brain—altho it
writhes in a stew of disappointments, not yet,
my heart, altho it bulges under the weight of familial woes
and in that deep makes strange valvular clicks.
take a guess. yes, that’s it! my enthusiasm is a departed thing
of the immediate past. putting one foot before the other
has become a Herculean task, the hard work that sustained me
with its challenges has become an ungodly chore.
the dream delight winged into my mind has morphed into
a turgid lump that anchors my spirit in fire. no, friend, i will not
be coming to see you. i want you blind to my diminishment.
unable to see this dread, unable to wince at this shrillness
clearing my life of worthwhile companions. Remember
me as i was—with huge appetites and ideas, my womanly
lust for the flesh of men, how adventure thrilled
me, how i was so unshakably unshakable, keep that me. Find
comfort in memories of her. believe it when i say the upstart
vixen you once knew still rages, somewhere. know she’s fighting,
always fighting—blood in her teeth, bang in her eyes

Starting with the uncomfortable admission that someone is “well on their way to toes-up status,” proceeding to the state where “enthusiasm is a departed thing” and thence to the “shrillness/clearing my life of worthwhile companions,” I feel like this is me. If you haven’t heard my shrillness, it’s only because late in life, I’ve finally learned that sometimes it’s possible to not say anything at all.

The other poems in this volume fell away, at least for me. Published in 2011, it’s eligible for the Indie Lit Awards, and there might be other good ones, but the me that would have looked for them will not be coming anytime soon. She will be sitting here reading this poem while you finish your semester and put up your Christmas tree and do whatever else needs to get done.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    December 5, 2011 7:17 am

    Wow. That’s a powerful ending, for sure.

    i want you blind to my diminishment.
    unable to see this dread, unable to wince at this shrillness
    clearing my life of worthwhile companions. Remember
    me as i was—with huge appetites and ideas, my womanly
    lust for the flesh of men, how adventure thrilled
    me, how i was so unshakably unshakable, keep that me.

    It’s been a rough autumn for you, and I know you don;t much care for autumn and winter in the best of times. Hold on for spring. It will come again.

  2. December 5, 2011 8:11 am

    That’s one amazing poem, all right.

    • December 6, 2011 8:23 am

      It is. I think I was initially arrested by the word “bang”

  3. December 5, 2011 8:29 am

    [insert my gobsmacked admiration here]

  4. December 5, 2011 10:40 am

    This is the highest praise I can offer you: this poem and your comments about it have been stuck in my head all morning, ever since you posted the link to this post on FB. I saw it immediately and immediately jumped over to your site.

    Two thoughts: First, this line

    i want you blind to my diminishment.

    Says it all to me.

    Second, shrill is not ever a word I would use in conjunction with you, because it’s a negative word to me. I see you as fully present, intensely aware of the current moment, highly curious about everything while also being empathetic without saccharine.I haven’t seen any diminishment there.

    Once again, you’ve made the non-poetry loving person stop and think about life and things that matter with a poem.

    • December 6, 2011 8:25 am

      That is very high praise indeed! *beams*
      I’ve been kind of shrill with family members–the ones you think (hope) you can’t push entirely away.

      • December 6, 2011 8:41 am

        Oh, also I was shrill with a student, as I reveal in today’s post. She didn’t deserve it. She was just the winning number 12 in the line of cheery girls wanting to know if I’d had a “good holiday weekend.”

  5. freshhell permalink
    December 5, 2011 11:51 am

    Not sure I can add anything to these comments. I think the poem came to you when you needed it. If circumstances had been different, you may not have paid it as much attention as you did.

    • December 6, 2011 8:26 am

      Definitely. That’s one of the reasons for rereading poetry. The other one I thought of (partly because of the string of people inquiring cheerily about my holiday weekend–see the post on The Leftovers) was Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts. But I’ve written about it before and besides, it seemed a little histrionic.

  6. December 5, 2011 1:00 pm

    I’m agreeing with Karen — Spring will come again.

    • December 6, 2011 8:27 am

      Easy for you to say, living in the land of eternal spring/fall! 🙂

  7. December 5, 2011 1:05 pm

    Hang in there. I really wouldn’t wish this poem speaking to anyone … as wonderful as it is.

    • December 6, 2011 8:28 am

      Oh, the huge appetites and ideas always come back, as I think you, in particular, know.

  8. December 5, 2011 8:00 pm

    I hope you find a place of peace and calm soon.

    • December 6, 2011 8:29 am

      Thank you. That sounds nice, although it would be a bit unlike me. My friend in London said he thought of me when he saw a parody of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan that said something like “Panic and Throw Your Hands Up in the Air.”

  9. trapunto permalink
    December 5, 2011 9:17 pm

    You know what you need. I am glad poems can reach you like this. My un-pushed-away-able worthwhile companions were sleep. Caffeine. Orderly, cerebral writing time. Fiction. Arty foreign documentaries when I couldn’t stand fiction were especially good friends. It’s all trial and error, huh?

    • December 6, 2011 8:32 am

      I did go watch Elizabethtown, and sent it to my brother. And people who know me well have been sending me books I need to read.

      • trapunto permalink
        December 6, 2011 8:02 pm

        Elizabethtown was sweet. Black humor was one of my friends too, I liked when Orlando Bloom’s character gets his suicide interrupted.

        • December 7, 2011 8:40 am

          My favorite part is when she tells him he should have the courage to fail big and stick around. “Make them wonder why you’re still smiling.”

  10. December 6, 2011 6:16 am

    Poem has punch.

  11. December 7, 2011 10:34 am

    I’m sorry this poem is you right now, although it is perversely lovely and old fashionedly sweet in the way the poet addresses her friend. I always feel people should be able to hibernate when things are going badly, but sadly everyone has to keep on in body and that means people can only hibernate emotionally, pulling the covers over our inside selves. It’s tough to go on that way and it’s mean of the world to ask people to, which I guess is where poetry comes in because it can tell us it’s ok not to want to keep moving, to be feeling sad and unenthusaistic.

    • December 7, 2011 9:32 pm

      The Victorians knew how to do mourning–hibernating was mandatory. My niece, who is eleven and evidently immersed in the world of Victorian children’s books, asked how long she would have to wear black.

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