In our column Poetry Rx, readers write in with a specific emotion, and our resident poets—Sarah Kay, Kaveh Akbar, and Claire Schwartz—take turns prescribing the perfect poems to match. This week, Sarah Kay is on the line.
I am writing to you for some clarity or company. At thirty, I have found myself in some kind of threshold state. I’m grappling with the tragic loss of a person I loved, mourning a future that got lost in the past, and also celebrating the births of so many of my peers’ new babies. I have been at the hospital witnessing—or on the other side of the phone hearing about—these big ends and big beginnings. I feel like I’m spinning: a compass who doesn’t know whether to point toward the exits or the entrances. Are the exits and entrances are the same? Babies come out of the holes in our bodies, surgical or anatomical, and loss feels the same way: I feel like she was torn from my body somehow, leaving an emptiness, a wound. I guess I don’t really have a question, except to say, does this seem familiar to you? Are you spinning, too?
Caught in A twirl
Dear Caught in A Twirl,
So much of your letter does indeed sound familiar. During a bout of despair I once asked my mother whether growing older was just one wound piled upon another until we are just a collection of hurt, and she answered, unironically, “No, sometimes someone gets married or has a baby!” At the time I probably rolled my eyes or laughed at her stubborn optimism, but I have since grown to take her answer quite genuinely. My best friends are also having babies or getting married, big beginnings I am grateful to witness. And at thirty we are both already starting to encounter some big endings, too. I am very sorry for your loss. I want to share with you Robin Beth Schaer’s poem “Holdfast” which begins,