“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Had we nothing to prove
we might have leaned all night at that window,
merely beside each other,
watching Peel Street, wrought-iron gates
and weather vanes, black lace of trees
between cautious Victorian silhouettes;
but there were obligations, the formalities
of passion; so we sealed the shutters
and were expedient in the brevity of night;
reading with empty sockets moonlight in dull hair,
softness to chafed thighs;
both of us anxious and shaking the night,
with all my arm, she with fingers and gentle;
no hope for silver leaves in the morning.
And always a glance for the brightening windows,
a suspension of breath for the hearing of birds
and incantations to the sun
which stirs in dust behind stone horizons.
- Leonard Cohen
When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.
- CP Cavafy
We don’t know how to say goodbye.
We wander all over, shoulder to shoulder.
It is already starting to get dark,
You’re thoughtful, and I remain quiet.
Let’s go inside a church, and watch
A baptism, a wedding, a funeral.
Why can’t we live like that?
Let’s leave, not looking at each other.
Or, let us sit in the cemetery,
Quiet in the trampled snow.
And watch you trace with a stick,
Places where we will always be together.
- Anna Akhmatova
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns’ first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
- Adrienne Rich
I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread
Why is the word yes so brief?
It should be
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it.
—Sing me The Song of Songs.
—Don’t know the words.
—Then sing the notes.
—Don’t know the notes.
—Then simply hum.
—Forgot the tune.
—Then press my ear
to your ear
and sing what you hear.
And with knees like that
You won't live long
“Beauty is often spoken of as though it only stirs lust or admiration, but the most beautiful people are so in a way that makes them look like destiny or fate or meaning, the heroes of a remarkable story.”
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
The moon did not become the sun.
It just fell on the desert
in great sheets, reams
of silver handmade by you.
The night is your cottage industry now,
the day is your brisk emporium.
The world is full of paper.
Write to me.
- Agha Shahid Ali
Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
"Leaving is not enough; you must stay gone. Train your heart like a dog. Change the locks even on the house he’s never visited. You lucky, lucky girl. You have an apartment just your size. A bathtub full of tea. A heart the size of Arizona, but not nearly so arid. Don’t wish away your cracked past, your crooked toes; your problems are papier mache puppets you made or bought because the vendor was so compelling you just had to have them. You had to have him. And you did. And now you pull down the bridge between your houses. You make him call before he visits. You take a lover for granted, you take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic. Make the first bottle you consume in this place a relic. Place it on whatever altar you fashion with a knife and five cranberries. Don’t lose too much weight. Stupid girls are always trying to disappear as revenge. And you are not stupid. You loved a man with more hands than a parade of beggars, and here you stand. Heart like a four-poster bed. Heart like a canvas. Heart leaking something so strong they can smell it in the street."
“Yet you still value the things you’ve lost the most. Because the things you’ve lost are still perfect in your head. They never rusted. They never broke. They are made of the memories you once had, which only grow rosier and brighter, day by day. They are made of the dreams of how wonderful things could have been and must never suffer the indignity of actually still existing. Of being real. Of having flaws. Of breaking and deteriorating. Only the things you no longer have will always be perfect.”
― Iain Thomas