Poem for the Week: Love After Love
February 3, 2011
This poem has been hand-written and given to me by two different friends at very different times in my life. The first time I read it, I was 19 and had just broken up with my first serious boyfriend. I was convinced that I would never be happy again. I felt like all the joy had left my body, and from the very first line, this poem talked to me about hope and the inevitable passage of time.
The second time I read it, I had just undergone a kind of spiritual and physical crisis. I was waking up to the ways in which my old habits no longer fit me, were tight and worn as old clothes. The poem told me a different story, about greeting yourself arriving at your own door. This time, it was telling me less about picking up the pieces after losing the love of another, and more about renewing love for the self.
I find it remarkable that this poem meant enough to two dear friends that they would write it down and slip it into my tightly-closed fist. I find it a testament to the power of poetry that Walcott’s words are able to speak truth on many different levels, and follow closely enough on the deer-path of human longing that a reader like me can feel found and accompanied across a distance of nine years.
Where does this poem find you?
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes.
Peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.