The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
We were smoking some of this knockout weed when Operation Memory was announced. To his separate bed Each soldier went, counting backwards from a hundred With a needle in his arm. And there I was, in the middle Of a recession, in the middle of a strange city, between jobs And apartments and wives. Nobody told me the gun was loaded. We'd been drinking since early afternoon. I was loaded. The doctor made me recite my name, rank, and serial number when I woke up, sweating, in my civvies. All my friends had jobs As professional liars, and most had partners who were good in bed. What did I have? Just this feeling of always being in the middle Of things, and the luck of looking younger than fifty. At dawn I returned to draft headquarters. I was eighteen And counting backwards. The interviewer asked one loaded Question after another, such as why I often read the middle Of novels, ignoring their beginnings and their ends. when Had I decided to volunteer for intelligence work? "In bed With a broad," I answered, with locker-room bravado. The truth was, jobs Were scarce, and working on Operation Memory was better than no job At all. Unamused, the judge looked at his watch. It was 1970 By the time he spoke. Recommending clemency, he ordered me to go to bed At noon and practice my disappearing act. Someone must have loaded The harmless gun on the wall in Act I when I was asleep. And there I was, without an alibi, in the middle Of a journey down nameless, snow-covered streets, in the middle Of a mystery--or a muddle. These were the jobs That saved men's souls, or so I was told, but when The orphans assembled for their annual reunion, ten Years later, on the playing fields of Eton, each unloaded A kit bag full of troubles, and smiled bravely, and went to bed. Thanks to Operation Memory, each of us woke up in a different bed Or coffin, with a different partner beside him, in the middle Of a war that had never been declared. No one had time to load His weapon or see to any of the dozen essential jobs Preceding combat duty. And there I was, dodging bullets, merely one In a million whose lucky number had come up. When It happened, I was asleep in bed, and when I woke up, It was over: I was 38, on the brink of middle age, A succession of stupid jobs behind me, a loaded gun on my lap.
From Operation Memory, published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © David Lehman, 1990. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.
yes no maybe sometimes always never Never? Yes. Always? No. Sometimes? Maybe— maybe never sometimes. Yes— no always: always maybe. No— never yes. Sometimes, sometimes (always) yes. Maybe never . . . No, no— sometimes. Never. Always? Maybe. Yes— yes no maybe sometimes always never.
Copyright © 2003 by Lloyd Schwartz. First published in Ploughshares, Spring 2003 and reprinted in How to Eat a Poem (Dover Publications, 2006). Appears courtesy of the author.
I was so small, so very much afraid.
I prayed my father might turn into light.
There was no price that I would not have paid
to pray the way the light knelt down and prayed.
I prayed that I might learn to be like light,
but I was small, and very much afraid,
and he stayed silent. Was I badly made?
His violin made sound turn into light,
and there’s no price that I would not have paid
to hear him play Thais each night. He made
it sound as though the bow was made of light.
Still I was small, and very much afraid
when he got mad and broke the things he’d made.
He tried and tried so hard to do things right,
and there’s no price that he would not have paid
to sit with me at dusk and watch light fade.
Both of us were made from that same light,
And there’s no price we two would not have paid—
we who were small and very much afraid.
Copyright © 2016 by Marilyn Krysl. Originally published in December in 2016. Used with permission of the author.
Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess—in the Ring—
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—
Or rather—He passed us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—
Since then—’tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity—
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.