by Anne Carson
Did you see her mother on television? She said plain, burned things. She said I thought it an excellent poem but it hurt me. She did not say jungle fear. She did not say jungle hatred wild jungle weeping chop it back chop it. She said self-government she said end of the road. She did not say humming in the middle of the air what you came for chop.
—Plainwater (Knopf, 1995)
What if love is no more than
a tangle of muscles
aching to be untied
by knowing fingers?
What if love is made and nothing else -
asked Narcissus, leaning over the green iris of water.
cried Echo from the green cochlea of the woods.
And they were both right.
And they were both lonely.
Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’
My #1 personal tear-jerker of an excerpt.
A thing too perfect to be remembered:
stone beautiful only when wet.
Blinded by light or black cloth—
so many ways
not to see others suffer
Too much longing:
it separates us
like scent from bread
like rust from iron
From very far or very close—
the most resolute folds of the mountain are gentle.
As if putting arms into woolen coat sleeves,
we listen to the murmuring dead.
Any point of a circle is its start:
desire forgoing fulfillment to go on desiring.
In a room in which nothing
The very old, hands curling into themselves, remember their parents.
Think assailable thoughts, or be lonely.
When your new girlfriend tells you that she loves
you for the first time, you call me first. You say you
can’t handle it. You say it’s too soon. You say words
like smothered and clingy and I’m digging my teeth
into my tongue because you must be the last person to
know, aren’t you, you really must be the last fucking
person on this earth to have a clue. You demand to know
what makes you so lovable. I say empty, meaningless
words like nice and funny because the truth is a lump in
the throat. The truth is that I want everything that has
to do with you, that sometimes that want is another
living, breathing organism—a phantom limb of longing.
You press harder, croon promises of everlasting
friendship into your end of the line and I wonder if you
can hear me falling apart at the joints on my end. I don’t
know when I’ll finally be able to stop writing poems
about you but I imagine it will happen when your new
girlfriend tells you that she loves you for a second time
and you don’t call anyone. You swallow the heavy. You
know you’ll get there eventually, that soon she will be
who you call when you want reassurances of love. My
face is already starting to blur. You say it back.
Nobody plans to be a ghost.
Later on, the young people sit in the kitchen.
Soon enough, they’ll be the ones
to stumble Excuse me and quickly withdraw.
But they don’t know that.
No one can ever know that.
Repeat after me:
I am not a problem
to be solved. Repeat after me:
I am worthy I am worthy I am
neither the mistake nor