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What are your favorite poems about the end of a relationship?
September 25, 2011 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me your favorite poems about the demise of a relationship, breaking up, and letting go of someone.
posted by invisible ink to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
 
Telephone Booth Number 301 by Pedro Pietri

When I was very young
I used to have many
imaginary girlfriends
now that I am an adult
I miss them very much
posted by OmieWise at 5:46 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

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.
posted by sincerely-s at 5:48 PM on September 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


Oh, obviously -- The Break by Anne Sexton.
Fun fact: Both my daughter and I can recite it from memory.

If you'll take a song, one really beautiful, charitable one is Days, by the Kinks.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:51 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Break

It was also my violent heart that broke,
falling down the front hall stairs.
It was also a message I never spoke,
calling, riser after riser, who cares

about you, who cares, splintering up
the hip that was merely made of crystal,
the post of it and also the cup.
I exploded in the hallway like a pistol.

So I fell apart. So I came all undone.
Yes. I was like a box of dog bones.
But now they've wrapped me in like a nun.
Burst like firecrackers! Held like stones!

What a feat sailing queerly like Icarus
until the tempest undid me and I broke.
The ambulance drivers made such a fuss.
But when I cried, "Wait for my courage!" they smoked

and then they placed me, tied me up on their plate,
and wheeled me out to their coffin, my nest.
Slowly the siren slowly the hearse, sedate
as a dowager. At the E. W. they cut off my dress.

I cried, "Oh Jesus, help me! Oh Jesus Christ!"
and the nurse replied, "Wrong name. My name
is Barbara," and hung me in an odd device,
a buck's extension and a Balkan overhead frame.

The orthopedic man declared,
"You'll be down for a year." His scoop. His news.
He opened the skin. He scraped. He pared
and drilled through bone for his four-inch screws.

That takes brute strength like pushing a cow
up hill. I tell you, it takes skill
and bedside charm and all that know how.
The body is a damn hard thing to kill.

But please don't touch or jiggle my bed.
I'm Ethan Frome's wife. I'll move when I'm able.
The T. V. hangs from the wall like a moose head.
I hide a pint of bourbon in my bedside table.

A bird full of bones, now I'm held by a sand bag.
The fracture was twice. The fracture was double.
The days are horizontal. The days are a drag.
All of the skeleton in me is in trouble.

Across the hall is the bedpan station.
The urine and stools pass hourly by my head
in silver bowls. They flush in unison
in the autoclave. My one dozen roses are dead.

The have ceased to menstruate. They hang
there like little dried up blood clots.
And the heart too, that cripple, how it sang
once. How it thought it could call the shots!

Understand what happened the day I fell.
My heart had stammered and hungered at
a marriage feast until the angel of hell
turned me into the punisher, the acrobat.

My bones are loose as clothespins,
as abandoned as dolls in a toy shop
and my heart, old hunger motor, with its sins
revved up like an engine that would not stop.

And now I spend all day taking care
of my body, that baby. Its cargo is scarred.
I anoint the bedpan. I brush my hair,
waiting in the pain machine for my bones to get hard,

for the soft, soft bones that were laid apart
and were screwed together. They will knit.
And the other corpse, the fractured heart,
I feed it piecemeal, little chalice. I'm good to it.

Yet lie a fire alarm it waits to be known.
It is wired. In it many colors are stored.
While my body's in prison, heart cells alone
have multiplied. My bones are merely bored

with all this waiting around. But the heart,
this child of myself that resides in the flesh,
this ultimate signature of the me, the start
of my blindness and sleep, builds a death crèche.

The figures are placed at the grave of my bones.
All figures knowing it is the other death
they came for. Each figure standing alone.
The heart burst with love and lost its breath.

This little town, this little country is real
and thus it is so of the post and the cup
and thus of the violent heart. The zeal
of my house doth eat me up.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is the situation The Hell With Love was designed for!
posted by charmedimsure at 5:57 PM on September 25, 2011


How about a whole book? Marilyn Hacker's Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons is really something: a collection of sonnets chronicling a love affair, including its end.
posted by not that girl at 6:01 PM on September 25, 2011


Derek Walcott's "Love after Love." Easily Googleable and highly, highly recommended.
posted by chicainthecity at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2011


"Failing and Flying" by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
posted by Vibrissa at 6:18 PM on September 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


Winged Purposes
by Dean Young

Fly from me does all I would have stay,
the blossoms did not stay, stayed not the frost
in the yellow grass. Every leash snapped,
every contract void, and flying in the crows
lingers but a moment in the graveyard oaks
yet inside me it never stops so I can’t tell
who is chasing, who chased, I can sleep
into afternoon and still wake soaring.
So out come the bats, down spiral swifts
into the chimneys, Hey, I’m real, say the dream-
figments then are gone like breath-prints
on a window, handwriting in snow. Whatever
I hold however flies apart, the children skip
into the park come out middle-aged
with children of their own. Your laugh
over the phone, will it ever answer me again?
Too much flying, photons perforating us,
voices hurtling into outer space, Whitman
out past Neptune, Dickinson retreating
yet getting brighter. Remember running
barefoot across hot sand into the sea’s
hovering, remember my hand as we darted
against the holiday Broadway throng,
catching your train just as it was leaving?
Hey, it’s real, your face like a comet,
horses coming from the field for morning
oats, insects hitting a screen, the message
nearly impossible to read, obscured by light
because carried by Mercury: I love you,
I’m coming. Sure, what fluttered is now gone,
maybe a smudge left, maybe a delicate under-
feather only then that too, yes, rained away.
And when the flying is flown and the heart’s
a useless sliver in a glacier and the gown
hangs still as meat in a locker and eyesight
is dashed-down glass and the mouth rust-
stoppered, will some twinge still pass between us,
still some fledgling pledge?
posted by rockstar at 6:19 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Morning
Frank O'Hara

I've got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow

At night on the dock
the buses glow like
clouds and I am lonely
thinking of flutes

I miss you always
when I go to the beach
the sand is wet with
tears that seem mine

although I never weep
and hold you in my
heart with a very real
humor you'd be proud of

the parking lot is
crowded and I stand
rattling my keys the car
is empty as a bicycle

what are you doing now
where did you eat your
lunch and were there
lots of anchovies it

is difficult to think
of you without me in
the sentence you depress
me when you are alone

Last night the stars
were numerous and today
snow is their calling
card I'll not be cordial

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go
posted by in a dark glassly at 6:27 PM on September 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


Also (in a different mood) Richard Brautigan's "Love Poem":

It's so nice
to wake up in the morning
all alone
and not have to tell somebody
you love them
when you don't love them
any more.
posted by Vibrissa at 6:28 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


It’s looking like a limb torn off
Or altogether just taken apart
Were reeling through an endless fall
We are the ever-living ghost of what once was

But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do
No one’s gonna love you more than I do

And anything to make you smile
It is my better side of you to admire
But they should never take so long
Just to be over then back to another one

But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do
No ones gonna love you more than I do

But someone,
They could have warned you
When things start splitting at the seams and now
The whole thing’s tumbling down
Things start splitting at the seams and now
If things start splitting at the seams and now,
Its tumbling down
Hard.

— “No One’s Gonna Love You,” Band of Horses
posted by hermitosis at 6:29 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Getting Out, Cleopatra Mathis

That year we hardly slept, walking like inmates
who beat the walls. Every night
another refusal, the silent work
of tightening the heart.
Exhausted, we gave up; escaped
to the apartment pool, swimming those laps
until the first light relieved us.

Days were different: FM and full-blast
blues, hours of guitar "you gonna miss me
when I'm gone." Think how you tried
to pack up and go, for weeks stumbling
over piles of clothing, the unstrung tennis rackets.
Finally locked into blame, we paced
that short hall, heaving words like furniture.

I have the last unshredded pictures
of our matching eyes and hair. We've kept
to separate sides of the map,
still I'm startled by men who look like you.
And in the yearly letter, you're sure to say
you're happy now. Yet I think of the lawyer's bewilderment
when we cried, the last day. Taking hands
we walked apart, until our arms stretched
between us. We held on tight, and let go.
posted by liketitanic at 6:30 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines by Pablo Neruda

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.
posted by Saminal at 6:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Seconding Marilyn Hacker- Nearly a Valediction came immediately to mind:

You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.

I don't want to remember you as that
four o'clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.

While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days' routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.
posted by questionsandanchors at 7:02 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Stanley Kunitz's After the Last Dynasty. Because, you know. Ponies.

Reading in Li Po
how "the peach blossom follows the water"
I keep thinking of you
because you were so much like
Chairman Mao,
naturally with the sex
transposed
and the figure slighter.
Loving you was a kind
of Chinese guerilla war.
Thanks to your lightfoot genius
no Eighth Route Army
kept its lines more fluid,
traveled with less baggage
so nibbled the advantage.
Even with your small bad heart
you made a dance of departures.
In the cold spring rains
when last you failed me
I had nothing left to spend
but a red crayon language
on the character of the enemy
to break appointments,
to fight us not
with his strength
but with his weakness,
to kill us
not with his health
but with his sickness.
Pet, spitfire, blue-eyed pony,
here is a new note
I want to pin on your door,
though I am ten years late
and you are nowhere:
Tell me,
are you stillmistress of the valley,
what trophies drift downriver,
why did you keep me waiting?
posted by drlith at 7:08 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


AFTER THE STORM

We used to call what ruined us the storm,
Though that suggests we could have seen it break
And barred the door. But it was multiform:
It got inside, it made a teacup shake,
It sought us out where we lay half awake.
Now it was here, what would it make us do?
When we were thrown together, then we knew.

It sometimes hit us even while we fought.
One sideways look, and soon the skin and hair
Were flying in a different sense. I thought
The consequences too extreme to bear:
This was the lion's den, the dragon's lair,
The storm. You used to say you felt the same,
When you could speak again, and spoke my name.

When the storm raged, I tried to hide in you.
Your only refuge was to cling to me.
The way we rode it out was why it grew
In fury, until you began to see
Your only chance to live was liberty.
So now you have the life you should have had,
And I am glad. No, I am very glad.

Visiting you, I see that it was worth
My loss. A family picnic on the beach.
Your beauty, still like nothing else on earth,
Here shows its purpose. No regrets. Yet each
Of us is well aware that your sweet speech
Is only tender, my glance merely warm.
This is just love. It's nothing like the storm.

- Clive James


NOTE SLIPPED UNDER A DOOR

I saw a high window struck blind
By the late afternoon sunlight.

I saw a towel
With many dark fingerprints
Hanging in the kitchen.

I saw an old apple tree,
A shawl of wind over its shoulders,
Inch its lonely way
Toward the barren hills.

I saw an unmade bed
And felt the cold of its sheets.

I saw a fly soaked in pitch
Of the coming night
Watching me because it couldn't get out

I saw stones that had come
From a great purple distance
Huddle around the front door.

- Charles Simic

SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE

You met me to apologise, you were saying
as we waited in the drizzle for the slow train.
When it focused in we said goodbye and we kissed
and from the window you were caught; teary and fixed.

You ran across the wooden bridge, I knew you would,
to get down on the other platform and to wave,
but as you did the eastbound Leeds train flickered past
and ran you like a movie through its window-frames.

I keep those animated moments of you as
our catalogue of chances rushed and chances missed.

- Simon Armitage
posted by herrdoktor at 7:14 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Driving
by Dina Ben-Lev

1.

The summer our marriage failed
we picked sage to sweeten our hot dark car.

We sat in the yard with heavy glasses of iced tea,
talking about which seeds to sow

when the soil was cool. Praising our large, smooth spinach
leaves, free this year of Fusarium wilt,

downy mildew, blue mold. And then we spoke of flowers,
and there was a joke, you said, about old florists

who were forced to make other arrangements.
Delphiniums flared along the back fence.

All summer it hurt to look at you.

2.

I heard a woman on the bus say, "He and I were going
in different directions." As if it had something to do

with a latitude or a pole. Trying to write down
how love empties itself from a house, how a view

changes, how the sign for infinity turns into a noose
for a couple. Trying to say that weather weighed

down all the streets we traveled on, that if gravel sinks,
it keeps sinking. How can I blame you who kneeled day

after day in wet soil, pulling slugs from the seedlings?
You who built a ten-foot arch for the beans, who hated

a bird feeder left unfilled. You who gave
carrots to a gang of girls on bicycles.

3.

On our last trip we drove through rain
to a town lit with vacancies.

We'd come to watch whales. At the dock we met
five other couples—all of us fluorescent,

waterproof, ready for the pitch and frequency
of the motor that would lure these great mammals

near. The boat chugged forward—trailing a long,
creamy wake. The captain spoke from a loudspeaker:

In winter gray whales love Laguna Guerrero; it's warm
and calm, no killer whales gulp down their calves.

Today we'll see them on their way to Alaska. If we
get close enough, observe their eyes—they're bigger

than baseballs, but can only look down. Whales can
communicate at a distance of 300 miles—but it's

my guess they're all saying, Can you hear me?
His laughter crackled. When he told us Pink Floyd is slang

for a whale's two-foot penis, I stopped listening.
The boat rocked, and for two hours our eyes

were lost in the waves—but no whales surfaced, blowing
or breaching or expelling water through baleen plates.

Again and again you patiently wiped the spray
from your glasses. We smiled to each other, good

troopers used to disappointment. On the way back
you pointed at cormorants riding the waves—

you knew them by name: the Brants, the Pelagic,
the double-breasted. I only said, I'm sure

whales were swimming under us by the dozens.

4.

Trying to write that I loved the work of an argument,
the exhaustion of forgiving, the next morning,

washing our handprints off the wineglasses. How I loved
sitting with our friends under the plum trees,

in the white wire chairs, at the glass table. How you
stood by the grill, delicately broiling the fish. How

the dill grew tall by the window. Trying to explain
how camellias spoil and bloom at the same time,

how their perfume makes lovers ache. Trying
to describe the ways sex darkens

and dies, how two bodies can lie
together, entwined, out of habit.

Finding themselves later, tired, by a fire,
on an old couch that no longer reassures.

The night we eloped we drove to the rainforest
and found ourselves in fog so thick

our lights were useless. There's no choice,
you said, we must have faith in our blindness.

How I believed you. Trying to imagine
the road beneath us, we inched forward,

honking, gently, again and again.
posted by Cue the Strings at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, tonight!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging.
I may remember him!

-- Emily Dickinson
posted by mynameisluka at 7:44 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I asked a very similar question a year and a half ago (Gee, it's been awhile!). My personal favorite:

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 own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

—Derek Walcott

I don't want to post too much here, but De Capo by Jane Hirshfield is also very good.
posted by yaymukund at 8:01 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Nothing

I take a jewel from a junk shop tray
And wish I had a love to buy it for.
Nothing I choose will make you turn my way.
Nothing I give will make you love me more.

I know that I've embarrassed you too long
And I'm ashamed to linger at your door.
Whatever I embark on will be wrong.
Nothing I do will make you love me more.

I cannot work. I cannot read or write.
How can I frame a letter to implore.
Eloquence is a lie. The truth is trite.
Nothing I say will make you love me more.

So I replace the jewel in the tray
And laughingly pretend I'm far too poor.
Nothing I give, nothing I do or say,
Nothing I am will make you love me more.

--James Fenton


The Onion, Memory


Divorced, but friends again at last,
we walk old ground together
in bright blue uncomplicated weather.
We laugh and pause
to hack to bits these tiny dinosaurs,
prehistoric, crenelated, cast
between the tractor ruts in mud.

On the green, a junior Douglas Fairbanks,
swinging on the chestnut's unlit chandelier,
defies the corporation spears--
a single rank around the bole,
rusty with blood.
Green, tacky phalluses curve up, romance
A gust--the old flag blazes on its pole.

In the village bakery
the pastry babies pass
from milky slump to crusty cadaver,
from crib to coffin--without palaver.
All's over in a flash,
too silently...

Tonight the arum lilies fold
back napkins monogrammed in gold,
crisp and laundered fresh.
Those crustaceous gladioli, on the sly,
reveal the crimson flower-flesh
inside their emerald armor plate.
The uncooked herrings blink a tearful eye.
The candles palpitate.
The Oistrakhs bow and scrape
in evening dress, on Emi-tape.

Outside the trees are bending over backwards
to please the wind : the shining sword
grass flattens on its belly.
The white-thorn's frillies offer no resistance.
In the fridge, a heart-shaped jelly
strives to keep a sense of balance.

I slice up the onions. You sew up a dress.
This is the quiet echo--flesh--
white muscle on white muscle,
intimately folded skin,
finished with a satin rustle.
One button only to undo, sewn up with shabby thread.
It is the onion, memory,
that makes me cry.

Because there's everything and nothing to be said,
the clock with hands held up before its face,
stammers softly on, trying to complete a phrase--
while we, together and apart,
repeat unfinished festures got by heart.

And afterwards, I blunder with the washing on the line--
headless torsos, faceless lovers, friends of mine.

Craig Raine
posted by FunGus at 8:13 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crush

Maybe my limbs are made
mostly for decoration,
like the way I feel about
persimmons. You can’t
really eat them. Or you
wouldn’t want to. If you grab
the soft skin with your fist
it somehow feels funny,
like you’ve been here
before and uncomfortable,
too, like you’d rather
squish it between your teeth
impatiently, before spitting
the soft parts back up
to linger on the tongue like
burnt sugar or guilt.
For starters, it was all
an accident, you cut
the right branch
and a sort of light
woke up underneath,
and the inedible fruit
grew dark and needy.
Think crucial hanging.
Think crayon orange.
There is one low, leaning
heart-shaped globe left
and dearest, can you
tell, I am trying
to love you less.

-Ada Limon
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:34 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding Pablo Neruda's I can write the saddest verses tonight - most accurate description of every significant breakup I've ever had.
posted by slide at 8:51 PM on September 25, 2011


I marked a few as best answer because they resonated to me in particular, but please do not stop posting. Thank you everyone.
posted by invisible ink at 9:44 PM on September 25, 2011


I should have known you'd bid me farewell
There's a lesson to be learned from this and I've learned it very well
Now I know you're not the only starfish in the sea
If I never hear your name again, it's all the same to me

And I think it's gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball

You never care for secrets I confide
To you, I'm just an ornament, something for your pride
Always running, never caring, that's the life you live
Stolen minutes of your time were all you had to give

And I think it's gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball

The story's in the past with nothing to recall
I've got my life to live, and I don't need you at all
The roller coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my tickets with my tears, that's all I'm gonna spend

And I think it's gonna be all right
Yeah, the worst is over now
The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball

the Cyrkle (Paul Simon)
posted by Rash at 9:51 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Two from Marty McConnell:

Survival Poem #17

because this is what you do. get up.
blame the liquor for the heaviness. call in late
to work. go to the couch because the bed
is too empty. watch people scream about love
on Jerry Springer. count the ways
it could be worse. it could be last week
when the missing got so big
you wrote him a letter
and sent it. it could be yesterday, no work
to go to, whole day looming.
it could be last month
or the month before, when you still
thought maybe. still carried plans
around with you like talismans.
you could have kissed him last night.
could have gone home with him, given in,
cried after, softly, face to the wall, his heavy arm
around you, hand on your stomach, rubbing.
shower. remember your body. water
hotter than you can stand. sit
on the shower floor. the word
devastated ringing the tub. buildings
collapsed into themselves. ribs
caving toward the spine. recite
the strongest poem you know. a spell
against the lonely that gets you
in crowds and on three hours’ sleep.
wonder where the gods are now.
get up. because death is not
an alternative. because this is what you do.
air like soup, move. door, hallway, room.
pants, socks, shoes. sweater. coat. cold.
wish you were a bird. remember you
are not you, now. you are you
a year from now. how does that
woman walk? she is not sick or sad.
doesn’t even remember today.
has been to Europe. what song
is she humming? now. right now.
that’s it.

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
at the market 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.
posted by Cue the Strings at 10:03 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

- e e cummings
posted by sergeicheddar at 10:12 PM on September 25, 2011


This poem, which I was introduced to by way of Bjork making it into a song came into my life when I was going through a divorce, so my feelings may be biased, but damn is it powerful:

it may not always be so;and i say
by e.e. cummings

it may not always be so;and i say
that if your lips,which i have loved,should touch
another's,and your dear strong fingers clutch
his heart,as mine in time not far away;
if on another's face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know,or such
great writhing words as,uttering overmuch,
stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;
if this should be,i say if this should be--
you of my heart,send me a little word;
that i may go unto him,and take his hands,
saying,Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall i turn my face,and hear one bird
sing terribly afar in the lost lands.
posted by iurodivii at 10:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, I Have Lost You, by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that's permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.
posted by GaelFC at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


let it go-the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise-let it go it
was sworn to
go
let them go-the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers-you must let them go they
were born
to go
let all go-the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things-let all go
dear
so comes love.

- e.e. cummings
posted by Juicy Avenger at 10:38 PM on September 25, 2011


You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

--Margaret Atwood

The piercing chill I feel:
my dead wife's comb, in our bedroom,
under my heel . . .

--Taniguchi Buson

Never offer your heart
to someone who eats hearts
who finds heartmeat
delicious
but not rare
who sucks the juices
drop by drop
and bloody-chinned
grins
like a God.

Never offer your heart
to a heart gravy lover.
Your stewed, overseasoned
heart consumed
he will sop up your grief
with bread
and send it shuttling
from side to side
in his mouth
like bubblegum.

If you find yourself
in love
with a person
who eats hearts
these things
you must do.

Freeze your heart
immediately.
Let him—next time
he examines your chest—
find your heart cold
flinty and unappetizing.

Refrain from kissing
lest he in revenge
dampen the spark
in your soul.

Now,
sail away to Africa
where holy women
await you
on the shore—
long having practiced the art
of replacing hearts
with God and Song.

--Alice Walker
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anne Carson's "The Glass Essay" is a must read.

Also, I like this one, by Kim Addonizio:

You Don't Know What Love Is

but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she'll try to eat solid food. She'll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she's headed, you know she'll wake up
with an ache she can't locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.
posted by parapluie at 11:03 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know it's a song, not a poem, but rarely have lyrics so eloquently described my feelings about a breakup.

Your Ex-Lover Is Dead by Stars

God that was strange to see you again
Introduced by a friend of a friend
Smiled and said 'yes I think we've met before'
In that instant it started to pour,
Captured a taxi despite all the rain
We drove in silence across Pont Champlain
And all of the time you thought I was sad
I was trying to remember your name...

This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin
Tried to reach deep but you couldn't get in
Now you're outside me
You see all the beauty
Repent all your sin

It's nothing but time and a face that you lose
I chose to feel it and you couldn't choose
I'll write you a postcard
I'll send you the news
From a house down the road from real love...

Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...
Live through this, and you won't look back...

There's one thing I want to say, so I'll be brave
You were what I wanted
I gave what I gave
I'm not sorry I met you
I'm not sorry it's over
I'm not sorry there's nothing to save


I'm not sorry there's nothing to save...
posted by sarae at 4:54 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Stephen Edgar: Man on the Moon.

Hardly a feature in the evening sky
As yet—near the horizon the cold glow
Of rose and mauve which, as you look on high,
Deepens to Giotto’s dream of indigo.

Hardly a star as yet. And then that frail
Sliver of moon like a thin peel of soap
Gouged by a nail, or the paring of a nail:
Slender enough repository of hope.

There was no lack of hope when thirty-five
Full years ago they sent up the Apollo—
Two thirds of all the years I’ve been alive.
They let us out of school, so we could follow

The broadcast of that memorable scene,
Crouching in Mr Langshaw’s tiny flat,
The whole class huddled round the TV screen.
There’s not much chance, then, of forgetting that.

And for the first time ever I think now,
As though it were a memory, that you
Were in the world then and alive, and how
Down time’s long labyrinthine avenue

Eventually you’d bring yourself to me,
With no excessive haste and none too soon—
As memorable in my history
As that small step for man onto the moon.

How pitiful and inveterate the way
We view the paths by which our lives descended
From the far past down to the present day
And fancy those contingencies intended,

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone. When really it’s all chance
And the special one might have been anyone.

The paths that I imagined to have come
Together and for good have simply crossed
And carried on. And that delirium
We found is cold and sober now and lost.

The crescent moon, to quote myself, lies back,
A radiotelescope propped to receive
The signals of the circling zodiac.
I send my thoughts up, wishing to believe

That they might strike the moon and be transferred
To where you are and find or join your own.
Don’t smile. I know the notion is absurd,
And everything I think, I think alone.
posted by Decani at 8:13 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


For A New Beginning - John O'Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire

Awaken your spirit to adventure
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you wiull be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
posted by Twicketface at 9:54 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lyrics, but breaks my heart all over again every time I hear it ...

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path
I can read the sign
Stay right with it when the road unwinds
I can handle whatever
I stumble upon
I don't even notice she's gone
Most of the time.

Most of the time it's well understood
Most of the time I wouldn't change it if I could
I can make it all match up
I can hold my own
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone
I can survive and I can endure
And I don't even think about her
Most of the time.

Most of the time my head is on straight
Most of the time I'm strong enough not to hate
I don't build up illusion 'til it makes me sick
I ain't afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind
Don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine
Most of the time.

Most of the time she ain't even in my mind
I wouldn't know her if I saw her
She's that far behind
Most of the time I can even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was ever with her
Most of the time I'm halfway content
Most of the time I know exactly where it went
I don't cheat on myself I don't run and hide
Hide from the feelings that are buried inside
I don't compromise and I don't pretend
I don't even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time.

-- Bob Dylan, Most of the Time
posted by thinkpiece at 12:16 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I Was One-And-Twenty by A.E. Housman

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.
posted by jabes at 4:45 PM on September 26, 2011


Maybe this scenario could lead to the end of a relationship:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
posted by dracomarca at 12:06 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the LORD directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
posted by dracomarca at 11:19 AM on September 30, 2011


This sonnet of Edna St. Vincent Millay's:

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,--so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
posted by Devika at 11:37 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is an Elvis Costello/Burt Bachrach song called "Painted From Memory" (album of the same name) that qualifies as poetry for me on this subject:


Such a picture of loveliness
Didn't you notice the resemblance?
Doesn't it look like she could speak?
Those eyes I tried to capture
They are lost to me now forever
They smile for someone else

Funny, how looks can be deceiving
But she's not easily
Painted from memory

. . .

She is gone, and I must accept it
She is lost to me now
But I can't look away just yet though
She smiles for someone else

And so this had to be
Painted from memory



The rest of the tracks on that record, which is a sustained exploration of romantic loss that approaches operatic depth, are also superb accompaniments to heartbreak, especially "My Thief" and "This House is Empty Now."

Much of the greatest 20th c. "poetry" on this subject is found in popular music. But this record is unique.
posted by spitbull at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


From "My Thief," may I just add:


I feel almost possessed
So long as I don't lose this glorious distress then
You can take all I have left
I know it's over
If you can't be my lover
Be my thief

posted by spitbull at 7:52 AM on October 5, 2011


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