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The Consolations of Poetry

January 4, 2010

A comment on my penultimate post offered a stunningly apt poem, right when I needed it. I had never heard of the author, so I’m doubly grateful. It is always a relief to find that one’s confused and confusing sentiments have been niftily transmuted into poems. “You are not the first to feel this way,” the poems say–which is a comfort in itself, and helps one keep perspective. And chanting the lines over and over, like a mantra, soothes the soul.

Here is another. I read it first in college, while moping over an ex-boyfriend. (He left me–and yet I was as consoled by the poem then as I am now, reading it from the opposite point of view. Good writing is nothing if not versatile….)

For the Dead

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have often wondered about the leftover
energy, water rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting there long after midnight

–Adrienne Rich

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Claire permalink
    January 4, 2010 6:13 pm

    This poem is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting it.

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