Posts Tagged ‘loss’


Lose something every day.

            —Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”



Lose something every day, the poet said—

and how I laughed the first time that I read

her words. My keys? My gloves? My place in line?

My favorite socks? A name? My glass of wine?

I’ve got that down, I thought, and shook my head.


But then I thought of passing time, the threads

of dates unraveling—and how I try to wind

them back, reclaim those squandered hours as mine.

Lose something every day?


And then I thought of certainty, how wed

I am to thoughts, convictions, faith. Instead

of losing them, I cling. Then they confine.

Some things are better lost—my rigid mind,

my prejudice, old chains of shame, my dread—

lose something every day.

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She said my eyes had a golden gleam,

but it was her eyes, her eyes that redeemed

the world—the way she translated all she saw

into slender verse. I still hear her voice, soft as rain,

as she’d say, 0 Il faut, voyez-vous,

nous pardonner les choses—reciting Verlaine

as we sat beneath my old black umbrella

in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I knew,

even then, she would leave me. Knew

that although she threw red roses onto my floor

she would always return to Russia, her home.

Oh, but the tapered length of her. Like a candle,

a dancer, an Egyptian queen. How

her figure astonishes me. I draw her always

by memory. She, with the poise

of a Siamese cat. She with her stray dog soul.

When she left me, she took a single scroll

with her portrait sketched in pencil.

She tells me she’s taped it above her couch.

But she never returned. She never

returned. Now all my lines are ghosts.


To see some of Modigliani’s images of Anna Akhmatova, visit:


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One the Day After




on my lap

the emptiness refuses to purr—

it is all that I hear


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Shelf Life




Like milk kept in the fridge too long—

the carton beginning to bloat,

what was healthy, nourishing, wholesome,


now yellowed and curdled and sour.

It wasn’t on purpose, this spoiling,

but forgetting is its own kind


of aggression, and what

to do with it now,

this promise that can’t be kept.

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The Mother Remembers

The Mother Remembers

One thing you must never do is call a girl standing in or near the water by name, for that is like delivering a written invitation to the water king to steal your loved one.
—from “The Maiden Rescued by the Moon,” a Siberian myth, in The World’s Greatest Nature Myths by Gary Ferguson

I didn’t mean to call her name so loud.
Of course I was angry. The girl
was always so slow about her chores
and there was always so much to do.
Our wooden pail was emptied of water again
and the sun had nearly disappeared
beneath the Arctic Ocean waves.
Oh I wanted to smack her with that ladle,
I did, but I handed it to her instead.
“Now go, daughter, go get the water,” I said,
“and mind you come back soon.”
She always was a dreamy thing,
staring off into the surf
as if there were another place
that she would rather be.
On that last night we were together,
I had just finished stitching her
a new wool dress, blue as the deepest swells.
I wanted to give it to her by the fire.
Why did she stay so long by the shore
before coming back with the bucket full?
It was in anger, yes, when I called her name
to bring her out of her reverie,
but there was more. The water king took no time
to snag her from the shore with his long,
cold arms. “The ladle, daughter, the ladle!”
I cried, and she reached
it as high as she could and caught it
on a bush on the moon.
How strangely beautiful she looked, dangling there
as the moon made its trek toward the heavens.
On clear nights I can see her in the sky,
the ladle still in her hand.
How alone I am with this blue dress.
I stare at it now so long sometimes
it might be hours before I move
to fill the bucket with water.

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(an erasure poem written by deleting most of the words in the article, “The Magnetic Nature of Disk Accretion onto Black Holes,” written by Jon Miller, John Raymond, Andy Fabian, Danny Steeghs, Jeroen Homan, Chris Reynolds, Michiel van der Klis and Rudy Wijnands in Nature, Volume 44, 22 June 2006. The words in this poem were taken from their article in this exact order. No words not found in the article were were added.)


Here we report that it is common to decompose,

strength taken from our figures.

This is the nature of wind.

We are scattering and scattering,

a luminous dilution.

Where is our value?

In our loss—

luminous instability.

O the wind to infinity,

the wind remarkably driven,

the wind that is difficult.

The wind to infinity,

clear wind, rare and crucial,

the wind, driving wind,

ubiquitous, illuminated,

accelerating wind.

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The fawn has lost its mother.
The doe, she was spooked.
She swam across the river this morning
and has not returned.
The fawn was turned back to our bank,
the current too strong.

This evening my daughter
squeals with delight
to see the fawn alone in the field.
She laughs as it sproings
along the edge of the grass,
all four of its legs up at once.

I do not tell her the story
of how the mother has left.
Is it my own fear I project?
The fawn, it vanishes
into the woods. I watch my daughter
watch it disappear.

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Just before
it disappears
it’s ten times
the moon—

oh love
is it any wonder
our shine
frightens me?

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When October Goes

And now we come to the part of autumn
which is more fell than falling.

It’s hard to not miss the gold,
just as it’s hard to not miss the lips

of your lover when he’s gone.
You tell yourself that absence

makes the heart grow. Your self
is not impressed. You tell yourself

that the absence
is beautiful. But absence today is

absence—an inability to be present,
and your thoughts are anywhere

but here—in fact, they have gone to one
specific anywhere where it’s still

gold and warm and the heart
is so full it can’t hear a word anyone says

in an attempt to warn it
about how things change.

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Bouquet of Small Losses

My daughter plays with the crystal box
in the shape of a heart
that my grandmother gave
me many years ago.
And in one brief
homage to gravity, it
is broken. I would rather
hold my girl than the box,
and I do. Still, I can’t help
but look at the empty space on the shelf
where the heart once was
and feel a little pull.

I remember when I was a girl
who played with her mother’s
green crystal dish and dropped
it on the kitchen floor
where it shattered into a hundred
green bits. Oh, how my mother
cried. And I tried to make her
a replacement one with salt-dough
I dyed green. I could not understand
why, no matter how I shaped it,
I could not make the dough look clear,
could not fashion it into crystal
no matter how I kneaded or pinched.

Out the window, the sunflower
leaves are flagging. I’ve deadheaded
all the blooms. And there’s more
space between the limbs
of the cottonwood trees
than there was just yesterday.
More sky comes through
through the emptiness.
I let my eyes rest there.

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