Didn’t The Night End?

October 30, 2009 § 2 Comments


The New York Times has an article by Gordon Marino about Kierkegaard and the difference between despair and depression, the main point being that despair is of the spirit, depression of the mind.  Certainly one can be very unhappy yet spiritually joyous: artists, monks, priests and their ilk often find themselves in this condition.

I remember it well. I call it youth. I was miserable yet the world was so glorious! So beautiful—autumn leaves in the mountains, the full moon over water, the rocking cradle of a subway car late at night. So strange, changeable, fascinating…far more alluring than the rancid charms of suicide, which has always been nattering at my elbow.

Yet if, as Kierkegaard says, despair is the result of refusing (or not knowing how) to be oneself, I must differ. Certainly, in my teens, 20’s and 30’s, there were big parts of myself I was denying out of shame and fear. And if I had been able to embrace them, I would have been much happier. Yet it’s now that I feel despair—now when I’m much more accepting and open about who I am.

Or have I only accepted my limitations? Am I still squashed by fear, this time that it’s too late for literary acclaim (among other things)? Perhaps. But there’s also my confusion about what approach to take to death. Like our President, I inherited this mess, it was never my idea, and I’m dithering.

McChrsytal wants troops to focus on protecting Afghans, not killing insurgents. I want the same thing in my spiritual life, such as it is. But I spent so many years zealously protecting parts of myself that only needed light and air, and then became furiously angry at my mistake; I’m not sure how to get back in the game properly.

I need a posse for guidance. And Joe Lieberman’s head on a stick.

Oh, sorry. That’s a topic for another day.

October (Section One)

Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn't Frank just slip on the ice,
didn't he heal, weren't the spring seeds planted

didn't the night end,
didn't the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters

wasn't my body
rescued, wasn't it safe

didn't the scar form, invisible
above the injury

terror and cold,
didn't they just end, wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted--

I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren't the seeds planted,
didn't vines climb the south wall

I can't hear your voice
for the wind's cries, whistling over the bare ground

I no longer care
what sound it makes

when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound

what it sounds like can't change what it is--

didn't the night end, wasn't the earth
safe when it was planted

didn't we plant the seeds,
weren't we necessary to the earth,

the vines, were they harvested?

--Louise Gluck

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§ 2 Responses to Didn’t The Night End?

  • Gina says:

    Love them both, post and poem. xxoo

  • Margaret Diehl says:

    Thank you. It is a great poem.I remember reading Louise Gluck’s first book, when I was a very young poet; being so envious of he: so talented and smart, so pretty, so hip. There was plenty of grief in that book, Firstborn, but wasn’t obvious then that grief was her great, enduring subject.

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