My dear friend,

1.
I found myself saying every now and then: “What a terrible year.” I repeat it often, and loudly, as if I couldn’t say it enough. What a terrible year this has been, and now there are only a few more hours left until it is over. I am gripped with suspended relief, if that makes sense somehow. I am anxiously waiting for the worst of it all to seize me in the last few moments but also crossing all my fingers and toes that I have passed through the last of it.

2.
Truth be told there have been some good things, too, and haven’t I talked about that? It’s just—there had been tremendous and awful things in our lives, and we have suffered huge losses. It became impossible to see the light sometimes. The emptiness was a weight we carried with us.

3.
What is holy, I ask myself. Questions visit me nightly before bed. What is here and what is yours and will I make it. Questions upon questions, trying to sift through the day to find the blessing from the rubble.

I am alive, I answer back. I am living and I am choosing to live and I am working on being alive. My life is here and this is the life I have and a thousand yeses.

4.
Sometimes I no longer know if I’m making up answers as I go farther along in life, but it’s the best I can do. Isn’t that what any one of us ever really does?

5.
When I said in your presence, “What a terrible year,” I hope you can forgive me. Because we are alive, you see, and your life has meaning and your presence in mine surpasses the embrace of the deep dark. You have had joys, too, and you are loved. Our love for one another is what kept the world going, truly—and I am saying it because it’s my one anchor this year while I struggle not to drown: you are loved.

6.
Listen: the year is ending. Let us be done with it. Tomorrow we begin again.

The Round
Stanley Kunitz

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
“Light splashed . . .”

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

This is from Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected by Stanley Kunitz, published by W.W. Norton, 1995.

1.
My dear friend, you who are here right now reading this, carving a tiny pocket of time for yourself, a small space where you and I and this poem will reside for a moment: I am hugging you.

2.
My dear friend, it has been such a tremendously terrible year. I know it. You know it. And yet here we are. We are reading poetry and we are discovering that we still have a little bit more to give. That life, somehow, refuses to give up, so why should we?

3.
My dear friend, I am holding you and your pain, as you are holding mine. I promise that this place will always be here to embrace you. I am here to enfold you in my arms and let my love reach the corners where your hurts reside. You are not alone.

4.
My dear friend, if it is at all possible to love you, I do.

5.
My dear friend: it is midnight, and it is now Christmas on my side of the world. I am hugging you.

The Hug
Tess Gallagher

A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too.
with our arms around each other.

Suddenly a hug comes over me and I’m
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn’t
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. “Can I have one of those?” he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I’m surprised,
surprised you don’t tell him how
it is – that I’m yours, only
yours, etc., exclusive as a nose to
its face. Love – that’s what we’re talking about, love
that nabs you with “for me
only” and holds on.

So I walk over to him and put my
arms around him and try to
hug him like I mean it. He’s got an overcoat on
so thick I can’t feel
him past it. I’m starting the hug
and thinking, “How big a hug is this supposed to be?
How long shall I hold this hug?” Already
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my
shoulders, my hands not
meeting behind his back, he is so big!

I put my head into his chest and snuggle
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes
into him. He stands for it. This is his
and he’s starting to give it back so well I know he’s
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly
we stop having arms and I don’t know if
my lover has walked away or what, or
whether the woman is still reading the poem…

Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing.
But when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button
on his coat will leave the imprint of
a planet in my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.

1.
I guess that’s really how it is to love, yeah? I said, just now to a friend. You let go again and again.

2.
I extend my arms, my fingers tapping an invisible thread, a bit unresponsive some days. This day. And maybe more days in the future. I hope not. I’m hoping not.

3.
I am told I am the kind of person who sets herself up for disappointment. I feel I have been told this before, and I’ve forgotten.

4.
Why do I set myself up for that, it’s fucking cruel, I said.

5.
Maybe I am always told this, and maybe I always choose to forget. Maybe the thing I should remember is that my self is also someone I should love.

A Letter in October
Ted Kooser

Dawn comes later and later now,
and I, who only a month ago
could sit with coffee every morning
watching the light walk down the hill
to the edge of the pond and place
a doe there, shyly drinking,

then see the light step out upon
the water, sowing reflections
to either side—a garden
of trees that grew as if by magic—
now see no more than my face,
mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,

startled by time. While I slept,
night in its thick winter jacket
bridled the doe with a twist
of wet leaves and led her away,
then brought its black horse with harness
that creaked like a cricket, and turned

the water garden under. I woke,
and at the waiting window found
the curtains open to my open face;
beyond me, darkness. And I,
who only wished to keep looking out,
must now keep looking in.



(from Poetry Foundation)

1.
Dear K.,

I received word from A. about J. I am so sorry, my darling. I am here.

Love,
T.

2.
Dear K.,

I am hugging you and holding your hand. I know it’s not much comfort but I am here for you, and you are not alone. Language falls short often when it comes to grief and loss…

I hope you find your own anchor during this time. You are loved.

Yours,
T.

3.
Hi K.,

Thinking about you today. Sending you a hug all the way from here.

Love,
T.

4.
My dear K.,

I don’t know how you do it. But you do it, nonetheless. To go out the door alone takes strength.

Understand that I’m thinking of myself if I was in your shoes; it’s a selfish thought, the temerity of comparing your life to mine. But a loss is a loss is a loss, and language fails, and I’m flailing each time I write you, wanting to tell you that you are loved and I am here, because I know all of this pales to the reality that’s before you.

Tomorrow, maybe it’s a different story again. And the day after that. And the day after that. The days will arrive one after the other. Some stories will change, and some stories will remain the same. You are loved. I am here.

Yours,
T.

Grief
Richard Brostoff

Somewhere in the Sargasso Sea
the water disappears into itself,
hauling an ocean in.

Vortex, how you repeat
a single gesture,
come round to find only

yourself, a cup full of questions,
perhaps some curl of wisdom,
a bit of flung salt.

You hold an absence
at your center,
as if it were a life.

1.
I lost track of time. Suddenly the hours are so short. Daylight is coming and I’ve yet to pack my bags. I tried to go out and walk around, as a tourist should, I suppose, but I only ended back in my room to write and think. But that’s exactly why I think you’re here, K. told me yesterday. When you said you were writing, I thought, take all the time you need.

2.
Went down to the hotel lobby at one in the morning to send off my postcards. My letters no longer say, “I wish you were here.” Instead it is this: “This is what I’m doing…fortifying my spirit.” It is: “Ten years later, and here I am.”

3.
We’re going to a place by the sea later. I cannot wait.

LXV [Once, I knew a fine song]
Stephen Crane

Once, I knew a fine song,
—It is true, believe me,—
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.

1.
Breakfast with K., and we are the only two people here. A moment I can stay in for awhile. It comes to you out of the blue, perhaps just like this, while in the middle of a conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in months, how lucky you are to be here. And not just here, but here, arriving at this point with your eyes wide open. The sureness that you are not that alone—and even if you are, some day in the future, some day sooner than you think, you have all of this.

2.
I must’ve done something good, I once wrote to R.

3.
My self, now, thinking, echoing Mary Oliver: You do not have to be good.

4.
Perhaps we just need to be.

our happiness
Eileen Myles

was when the
lights were
out

the whole city
in darkness

& we drove north
to our friend’s
yellow apt.
where she had
power & we
could work

later we stayed
in the darkened
apt. you sick
in bed & me
writing ambitiously
by candle light
in thin blue
books

your neighbor had
a generator &
after a while
we had a little
bit of light

I walked the
dog & you
were still
a little bit
sick

we sat on a stoop
one day in the
late afternoon
we had very little
money. enough for
a strong cappuccino
which we shared
sitting there &
suddenly the
city was lit.

(from Poets.org)

1.
Honest question, says K., while we’re having late lunch. And I need an honest answer, she continues. Why do you stay? I stared at my Cuban sandwich, knowing that it was more than just a query about my current state, more than just about my work and my client. I can’t remember what I said now, to be honest. There might be some truth there, but I know for a fact that I haven’t figured it all out yet. How long do we figure things out, do you think?

2.
But I am here now. I got on a plane and landed somewhere else, an hour and a half later. Hoping I’ll meet the pieces of myself that I left here last year. Or perhaps hoping that those pieces will meet me and discover what changed and not changed.

3.
Material, material, material, I tell her, snapping my fingers. We were talking about something else, although it could still be the same thread of conversation. It always arrives on the same path anyway—the world, life, poetry.

Today
Frank O’Hara

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
You really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they’ve always talked about
still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers. They
do have meaning. They’re strong as rocks.