I am ridiculously in love with poetry; I even write it when I meet a metaphor that won’t let me go . . . and I’ve had enough wine. I was reminded of that part of me (the poetry-loving part) one morning last week. A woman hosting a morning TV show shared that while attending a large, day-long event, she heard a poem that made her cry. Her tears were unexpected and heartfelt; she talked about her experience in ways that made me think that both reading, and crying over poetry are unusual happenings for her. But not for me.
Poetry is such a beautifully dense medium – so much meaningful, vital and imperfect life stuff, carrying its own rhythm, expressed in small spaces. It was that kind of message that brought her to tears. I smiled and even mouthed a few words as she read it aloud because this same poem had long before landed on my top ten list of favorites . . . probably not for the same situation that motivated the poet to compose it, but for the understanding it gives me each time I encounter it. It’s by Derek Walcott, 1992 Nobel Prize winner for literature, and is titled, “Love After Love.”
I’m gifting this poem to you with my fingers crossed – not only because I hope there is a part of you that might also have some affinity for the poetic in life – but because I’m also counting on you understanding that, depending on what you ask of and hope for yourself, you consist of parts that morph and drift, disappear and reappear.
Take me, for example: I can fall into my perfectionist self who demands production . . . right now, or my woe-is-me self who needs a hearty dose of sunshine and laughter, or my wondering self who wanders between feeling caught in irrational fears and immensely grateful for life’s gifts, or my dancing alone-in-the-livingroom self, my contented yoga self, my ageist self, or best yet, my kind, forgiving self who finds ways to remind me to come back to love. All the many chips off my block, who linger behind and sometimes within the image in my mirror, travel with me on any given day.
Walcott hands us a mirror and asks us to use some grace to acknowledge and greet all the various pieces of our whole self, even those we know need healing. I picture him with a small smile as he composed this compassionate poem of acceptance. “No, you are not having a breakdown,” he says to me; “you just have parts. So be brave. Bring your appetite to the mirror, acknowledge and feed all the bits and pieces of your best human self. Welcome to the feast that is your life.”
Love After Love
“The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”
Wishing you all the gracious love and understanding you need as you take some time to sit and reflect at your own feast.