What do I know now? I have lost what I feared all along I was losing, seeing plenty of warning signs, but I waited to see it through. Now I know...this much, and it feels...this bad, and it can only be true that a new period of adjustment will follow, in the knowledge that like any loss it could be compounded so many times over; in the whole wide world losses do come to so many of the most wretched in multiples. The earth seethes with the shock and bereavement of all manner of beings, human and non-human, even less noticed than oozing above the courses of dark underground springs.
News articles summarize or detail slaughters, introducing to us their desolated victims, but after the most high-profile reporting and up before, through and after the investigations and trials--should crime victims be lucky enough to have recourse to criminal justice--we almost never read about the evolution of the pain suffered, the bouts of escape from it and the return, the ways time periods and happenings are reconciled in the minds, the moves and severings and fresh starts made for better or for worse. What if there were a separate news bureau devoted to the long-term aftermaths of survivors from yesterday's best- or less-documented crises? But instead this is the stuff of private diaries, where it's ever recorded at all.
But really here I'm only talking about major, grievous disappointment, not murder or mayhem.
O the love relationships that each of us may have sanctified based on rosy assessments that had taken root most of all in our own private minds! Oh, and the writers who have written that they knew a fellow person's thought, could just see it, or knew what would come next, when the fulfillment of that knowledge, so emboldening to the writer, owed itself instead to well-informed guesswork. There is no science of what people will do, or how things will turn out in the end, after so many lesser, day-to-day ends.
If we felt sure that we read someone's heart, saw the delight in it that corresponded to our own, then noticed it recede or learned that we misread the face and the words, how are we ever to know the degree to which our intuitions about the loved person or the potential in becoming a couple were wrong, or how much the obstacles to a shared future lay more in that person than in ourselves? And are we safe in trusting our intuitions about new love again?
In July 1990, another agonizing time, I wrote this poem about the lasting power of infatuation, called
A Panorama of Loves:
Stars! Near, immense stars, far, far sown--
each one, unknown jewelwork of hovering starlets--
each a beloved, replete in its majesty.
Forces do breach and strew them, bursting them
from within, sometimes, off through the gape of stars.
One star may dazzle another, but does it escape and flare,
star of its own fate, or smother itself in strange starfire?
Shooting-stars flee across ages of waiting space--
breathtaking traces unfurl through their wakes, decades long.
Some time near that same date came this other poem, Grief: The Exile:
The old boat rises,
and settles, its timbers controlled by
the waves that divide them and nails that uphold their oneness.
Why hast thou left me to rupture away from thy pillar?
Thou couldst have hefted me loose long ago, with thy hand
unsnagging my anchor.
The old boat straggles,
and wallows, the stub of a rope floating
hopeless to anchor me ever again.
Blessed is a long memory, or shared remembering, for dicing up and scattering the thoughts that humiliate us or freeze us in a place we'd best be moving beyond. Blessed every bit as much are the tricklings of well-being when we least expected them and can't account for them: thoughts of space and opportunity, or realizations that we pre-grieved for a while so this latest, really, came more as heart-ache than shock.
Blessed are old, timeless things--how many can this industrialized world protect, unwittingly or determinedly?--since they reliably gave comfort when sought. The sore thoughts may be at bay now but raw pain, its special loneliness, won't leave till sometime--I trust--we notice that it has departed the way a body ache has healed and gone; we suddenly remember that we haven't been suffering that thing lately.