It's fast and cool as running water, the way we forget the names of friends with whom we talked and talked the long drives up and down the coast. I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window will not close. However, the hawk searches for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire. Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow still smells like M_____'s hair. In a bus station, a child is staring at L____'s rabbit tattoo. I've bartered everything to keep from doing my soul's paperwork.
Here is a partial list of artifacts:
mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn't attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.
Forgetfulness means to be full of forgetting, like a glass overflowing with cool water, though I'd always thought of it as the empty pocket where the hand finds nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change. One night, riding the train home from the city, will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times will I ask Is it you? before I realize it's my own reflection in the window?
Copyright © 2011 by Nick Lantz. Used with permission of the author.
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.
An odor in the breeze—spruce; palosanto; silver dust
of a hard freeze. This isn’t love-love, I say back. But
what do I know—except
I’ve gotten close enough to too far
enough times to know
it is possible to pull back, and for that thrill
to be enough. But what damage that moment does, the having of it
—the halving of it—again and again in the mind,
I cannot say. How leaves,
no matter how long they soak in the river,
will never turn truly black—though how could I be sure of this, either,
without staying the weeks to watch.
As the day drains
out the window, I become more and more
the focus of my own gaze. Light leaches from every
silvered feather; every bone-bright twig
now grey as silt—the great equity
of darkness coming down.
How you can find that what you believed was singular, and needed
to be, is not—
This, too, a trick of light or distance—
the burst cattail no cattail at all, but a stalk
of lush grass weighted with snow.
This, too—how could you.
Copyright © 2022 by Emily Pittinos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
This neighborhood was mine first. I walked each block twice:
drunk, then sober. I lived every day with legs and headphones.
It had snowed the night I ran down Lorimer and swore I’d stop
at nothing. My love, he had died. What was I supposed to do?
I regret nothing. Sometimes I feel washed up as paper. You’re
three years away. But then I dance down Graham and
the trees are the color of champagne and I remember—
There are things I like about heartbreak, too, how it needs
a good soundtrack. The way I catch a man’s gaze on the L
and don’t look away first. Losing something is just revising it.
After this love there will be more love. My body rising from a nest
of sheets to pick up a stranger’s MetroCard. I regret nothing.
Not the bar across the street from my apartment; I was still late.
Not the shared bathroom in Barcelona, not the red-eyes, not
the songs about black coats and Omaha. I lie about everything
but not this. You were every streetlamp that winter. You held
the crown of my head and for once I won’t show you what
I’ve made. I regret nothing. Your mother and your Maine.
Your wet hair in my lap after that first shower. The clinic
and how I cried for a week afterwards. How we never chose
the language we spoke. You wrote me a single poem and in it
you were the dog and I the fire. Remember the courthouse?
The anniversary song. Those goddamn Kmart towels. I loved them,
when did we throw them away? Tomorrow I’ll write down
everything we’ve done to each other and fill the bathtub
with water. I’ll burn each piece of paper down to silt.
And if it doesn’t work, I’ll do it again. And again and again and—
Copyright © 2021 by Hala Alyan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.