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, Claire Schwartz is on the line.
I am a poet myself; I write about the strength and love my family provides for me, and about my identity as a daughter. A few months ago, I found out that my father has a second family and has been hiding years worth of lies. Since confronting him, he has become offensive, threatening, and hurtful. He refuses to acknowledge what’s happened and insults me instead. Even more than feeling betrayed and rejected, I feel like my sense of self and of reality is crumbling. I keep second-guessing my father and our family’s life together. I would love to read a poem that provides some comfort or affirmation as everything familiar falls apart.
Dear Former Child,
We are accustomed to thinking of the future as unknown. The past, on the other hand, often feels like a stable coordinate from which any number of futures might be charted. Your father’s betrayals have complicated that clean narrative line from where you’ve been to where you’re going—a line that often constitutes a central pillar of identity. But you are a poet. You have practiced something other than narrative.
I want to offer you a poem I turn to when the coordinates of my life feel unmoored, not because it directs me to feel more grounded, but because it nourishes the possibility of being exactly where I am, wherever that is: Seamus Heaney’s “Postscript”:
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other