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About this Poem 

"'Demeter in Paris' began, as many poems do, while I was avoiding writing something else. (In this case, it was an essay on the idea of '40' for my British publisher.) Some of the lines started as a meditation on being in the middle of one's life, but then something else took over. I began to think about an archetypal mother, who is at the mythical heart of our seasons, our ideas about how time passes, who also spends a lot of time alone. What does that solitude do to her sense of self? I wanted us to see her as more than a mother, or other than one. And lately I have been interested in poems that reflect a mind thinking and experiencing the world through representation, as this one does."
—Meghan O'Rourke

Demeter in Paris

Meghan O'Rourke

You can only miss someone when they are present to you.

The Isle of the Dead is both dark and light.

Henry Miller told Anaïs Nin that the only real death is being dead while alive.

The absent will only be absent when they are forgotten.

Until then, absence is a lie, an oxymoron.

Therefore it is entirely unclear what absence means, or consists of.

Sometimes I want to be famous once more, and then I think about the paparazzi.

I value my solitude. But I fear I am dead while alive.

Forgetting is a kind of blessing: It would [         ].

To avoid living, worry about all you’ve forgotten.

Then worry about what you will forget.

I have lived long enough to want to do it over.

When I miss my daughter, it’s as a kind of idea. Then she comes to me unexpectedly:
           in her corduroy red parka, hair sticking out,
           smiling at the geese, eating her shoelaces,
           pointing, crying, More!

When I saw the movie, in the dark center of winter, I thought:

The son wasn’t trying to say goodbye to his dying father. He was trying to say forever.

Alone so much, I think about the people whose stories I learn in books.

Often I think of the grandmother of one of Picasso’s lovers. Her granddaughter

did not understand why she went so often to the graves of her children and husband.

Just wait, her grandmother said. You will see.

No, what she said is there comes a time when, past your moment,

you live for external things: the sky, a piece of grass, a smell.

A painting, I would say. A painting where the colors are                         everything.

Copyright © 2013 by Meghan O'Rourke. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 30, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Meghan O'Rourke

Meghan O'Rourke

Born in New York in 1976, Meghan O'Rourke's first book of poetry, Halflife, was a finalist for Britain's Forward First Book Prize

by this poet

poem
Grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1970s.
Always making margaritas in the kitchen,
always laughing and doing their hair up pretty,
sharing lipstick and shoes and new juice diets;
always splitting the bills to the last penny,
stealing each other’s clothes,
loving one another then turning and complaining
as soon
poem
We had a drink and got in bed.
That’s when the boat in my mouth set sail,
my fingers drifting in the shallows of your buzz cut.
And in the sound of your eye 
a skiff coasted—boarding it
I found all the bric-a-brac of your attic gloom,
the knives from that other island trip, 
the poison suckleroot lifted from God
poem
I.

Because I was born in a kingdom,
there was a king. At times
the king was a despot; at other times,
not. Axes flashed in the road

at night, but if you closed your eyes
sitting on the well-edge
amongst your kinspeople
and sang the ballads
then the silver did not appear
to be broken.  

Such were the