wake-up call

this poem is probably my favorite of all the poems i've managed to read in my life (probably very few compared to all those sitting on library shelves and in anthologies everywhere). i actually cried the first time i read it because i feel like it perfectly captures life and the inescapable passage of time. in every experience i feel like there's something we'll miss. a little part of ourselves that is left behind in a specific moment as we move forward and take only the memory of the experience with us. but at the same time, the opportunity to live those experiences is worth the pain of leaving them behind. enjoy...

wake-up call

The water is slapping wake up, wake up, against the boat
chugging away from Venice, infinite essence
of what must end because it is beautiful,

Venice that shrinks to a bobbing, pungent postcard
and then to nothing at all as the automatic
doors at the airport obligingly shut behind you.

Re-enter a world where everything is the same,
where you’ve gone slack again, and don’t even know it,
so unaware that you actually shrug to yourself,

I’ll be back, and yes, for some lucky stiffs it’s true,
sometimes it’s you, you’re sure to get more chances
at Venice, and Paris, and that blessed, unmarked place

where you sat on a bench and he kissed you that first time,
so many kisses, you hoped he would never stop,
you can hope, at least, not ever to forget it,

or forget how your babies, latching onto your breast,
would roll up their eyes in an ecstasy that was comic
in its seriousness, though your joy was no less grave,

but you’re not going back to so much, and more and more,
the more you live there’s more not to go back to,
and what you demand in your gratitude and greed

is more life in which to get so attached to something,
someone or someplace, you’re sure you’ll die right then
when you can’t have it back, something you don’t even know

the name of now, but will be yours before receding
as an indispensable ache; what you’re saying
is Lord, surprise me with even more to miss.

- mary jo salter

image via maryjanes and galoshes

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