Never, never, never, never, never.
—King Lear

Even now I can’t grasp “nothing” or “never.”
They’re unholdable, unglobable, no map to nothing.
Never? Never ever again to see you?
An error, I aver. You’re never nothing,
because nothing’s not a thing.
I know death is absolute, forever,
the guillotineguttingnever to which we never say goodbye.
But even as I think “forever” it goes “ever”
and “ever” and “ever.” Ever after.
I’m a thing that keeps on thinking. So I never see you
is not a thing or think my mouth can ever. Aver:
You’re not “nothing.” But neither are you something.
Will I ever really get never?
You’re gone. Nothing, never—ever.


Copyright © 2015 by Meghan O'Rourke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote ‘Ever’ as a kind of self-punishing exercise after thinking about the perfection and tragedy of Lear’s line ‘Never, never, never, never, never’—uttered as he realizes his daughter Cordelia is dead. It’s a line that pierces the soul (and is in perfect trochaic pentameter). So I thought about how I might, in a sonnet, play on that line as Shakespeare riffed on a theme in his sonnets. The speaker of this sonnet is in denial about loss—her shock prevents her from being able to speak it, and leads her to obsess over the concept. And who can really speak loss?”
Meghan O’Rourke