11 August 2007

Good Poetry

From today's edition of The Writer's Almanac:

Take Care

When a man dies, it's not only of his disease;
he dies of his whole life. -Charles Péguy

Our neighbor Laura Foley used to love
to tell us, every spring when we returned
from work in richer provinces, the season's
roster of disease, bereavement, loss. And all
her stars were ill, and all her ailments worth
detailing. We were young, and getting up
into the world; we feigned a gracious
interest when she spoke, but did
a wicked slew of imitations, out
of earshot. Finally her bitterness drove off
even such listeners as we, and one by one the winters nailed
more cold into her house, until the decade crippled her,
and she was dead. Her presence had been
tiresome, cheerless, negative, and there was little
range or generosity in anything she said. But now that I

have lost my certainty, and spent my spirit in a waste
of one romance, I think enumerations have their place,
descriptive of what keeps on
keeping on. For dying's nothing
simple, single. And the records of the odd
demises (stone inside an organ, obstacles to brook,
a pump that stops, some cells that won't,
the fevers making mockeries of lust)
are signatures of lively
interest: they presuppose
the life to lose. And if the love of life's
an art, and art is difficult, then we
were less than laymen at it (easy come
is all the layman knows). I mean that maybe
Laura Foley loved life more, who kept
so keen an eye on how it goes.

"Take Care" by Heather McHugh, from Hinge & Sign I Prefer © Wesleyan University Press.

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