Love of My Life

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I have a rare form of cancer. I only have a few months left. Can you offer any consolation?
— Yuki M.

I will try. I don’t know if you’re afraid or not, but I would be, and maybe what you’re afraid of is not dying, but rather love. I guess that does sound a little far-fetched, but when you look at it another way, it’s the only thing that makes sense.

Crater Lake

There was a war between good and evil.
We decided to call the body good.

That made death evil.
It turned the soul
Against death completely.

Like a foot soldier wanting
to serve a great warrior, the soul
wanted to side with the body.

It turned against the dark,
against the forms of death
it recognized.

Where does the voice come from
that says suppose the war
is evil, that says

suppose the body did this to us,
made us afraid of love—

(Louise Glück)

How can you really, totally, utterly and completely love when you’re a part of this world, inextricably linked to the current violence, pain, and disease? I suppose there are measures we could take to catch brief moments of love during meditation and love-making, but to love full-time — devoid of the cranky wise-cracks or dirty looks — requires death. One thing you can be certain of when you die is that you will no longer be part of the continuum of suffering, which, since no one can really describe it anyway, might as well be called love. Of course there are other ways of looking at it, but this way is just as valid, and probably a hell of a lot more comforting.

You are a braver person than I, Yuki, and probably a lot braver than many on this Earth. I hope I have consoled you. If not, read more poems. That’s what they’re there for.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

(Mary Oliver)

24 August 2009

 

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.
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