Surely You Remember
by Dahlia Ravikovitch
After they all leave,
I remain alone with the poems,
some poems of mine, some of others.
I prefer poems that others have written.
I remain quiet, and slowly
the knot in my throat dissolves.
Sometimes I wish everyone would go away.
Maybe it's nice, after all, to write poems.
You sit in your room and the walls grow taller.
A blue kerchief becomes a deep well.
You wish everyone would go away.
You don't know what's the matter with you.
Perhaps you'll think of something.
Then it all passes, and you are pure crystal.
After that, love.
Narcissus was so much in love with himself.
Only a fool doesn't understand
he loved the river, too.
You sit alone.
Your heart aches, but
it won't break.
The faded images wash away one by one.
Then the defects.
A sun sets at midnight. You remember
the dark flowers too.
You wish you were dead or alive or
Isn't there a country you love? A word?
Surely you remember.
Only a fool lets the sun set when it likes.
It always drifts off too early
westward to the islands.
Sun and moon, winter and summer
will come to you,
- translated by Chana Bloch and Ariel Bloch
The poem above is one I've lived with for a very long time. I first read it in an anthology of world poetry when I was doing my undergraduate degree and when I worked at a bookstore. A friend, who also worked at this bookstore, typed it out on a typewriter - on a thick piece of paper and sent it to me in the mail. Only one small error in the typing. I have a wooden file folder on my desk and it's lived there all this time. I mention this poem in an essay in my book Calm Things. I take the book it's in off the shelf every now and then. (The Window).
So many years later, still this aching need to sit in my room alone, with the poems of others, and the possibility of writing. Still very often, the knot in my throat, the heartache for nothing in particular, for everything in the world.
And always, this too, winter and summer have come to me, infinite treasures.
I didn't so much choose this poem as one that I'd live with, that I'd keep coming back to. It chose me, I think. Or maybe I put myself in its way. But it's something I'd recommend. Select a poem or let it find you. And then keep going back to it. Maybe a few times a year. I suppose I'll forget about this poem from time to time, but then I'll be riffling through my file folder and there it will be. Or the words, the window, will call to me from the book's spine.
I read it again, it's new. It's old, it's a comfort. A different line pops out, seems more prevalent.
"You don't know what's the matter with you."
"it all passes, and you are pure crystal."
Sometimes being alone does feel very selfish, narcissistic. But the river is truly what calls. Only a fool believes otherwise.
The poem, you see, has been good company for me. Maybe most importantly as a reminder that my heart won't break.