You know when you're having one of those days, when everything seems just too much to deal with, when it seems like everything hurts somehow? Yeah---I'm having one of those days today. I've a million things that must get done but all I can seem to do is sit and think about things. (Such a laden word, "things," holding all the dirty laundry and closet skeletons and secrets and experiences no one else might understand.) I finally decided to just do one thing, which was add some poems, from a book I borrowed from the library, Poem A Day Volume 2, to my personal little anthology of poems I keep on my computer, works that have had that magical "it" quality for me. As I worked on this project I thought of a poem that has been a sort of solace for me. It makes me feel less alone because some of the lives that people the poem are bits of my life. For one of my classes in college, I memorized it, and while I can't recite the entire thing anymore, it is those lives that aren't forgotten and sometimes randomly pop into my head. I know it's strange to feel that poems can bring a comfort---but for me, they do. So today I'm just going to share this poem, just because it happens sometimes: you're feeling lost, and there's nothing to do save read some poems, and then there is a path to follow.
from An Atlas of The Difficult World
I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.