Having lost it…
When I tell my therapist about having lost it completely three days ago
when my husband gets angry at me because I’ve left a cabinet door open
and he bangs his head on it, says it’s something I’ve done before, I
tell her I don’t understand what set me off so completely, so that
I scream I can’t stand it, threaten to leave, to kill myself, outrageous
unforgivable behavior, and why, all because of his understandable
irritation at the end of a long siege of frustrations, stress, anxiety
in these awful pandemic days.
What was this about, I ask, and she asks me. “My mother,” I say. That
answer that we all come up with in the end, unless it’s “my father.” But
for me, it was her, not him. And somehow, I don’t know how, I have
reached, in these days, a kind of grim unrecognized decision: I reject
her definition of me, my life. I don’t want ever again to feel guilty or
unworthy or incompetent, I am done, finally, with apologizing for my
I’m thinking this morning, as I often
do, of my wish that my husband and I
had known each other decades earlier,
ages before we met, middle-aged, with
years of living behind each of us. But
today for the first time I realize I’ve been
wrong, we do have that knowledge.
Each of us still carries the young self
we were inside, bringing a childhood,
a parentage, family, first marriage, years
of living adult lives. Here and now, in
the present, we see, hear, feel aspects of
that life, that person in the other. Here
and now, in this relationship, we are
each all the selves we’ve ever been.
Climbing a steep hill of iced-over
snow in front of a public building,
library of some kind, I know I have
to extract one book from the depths
of the mound, it’s what I’m here for.
The rest has vanished. We vanish
and don’t. We are alive in the dreams
of others, or dead, dreams which may
be closer to nightmare than dream,
or not. We are strange familiar ghosts
becoming apparitions, visitations.
I lose a hearing aid, the key to my
house, an hour, a morning, a slip of
paper with the name of the nostrum
that could save me, a child’s first all-
accepting love, a friendship that was
never whole but whose fractures still
beckoned. I lose my sense of humor,
my sense of proportion, my way,
my whereabouts, my why.
Do I have anything left to say? Of
course. Do I know how to say it? Of
course not. It’s the not which gives me
the knot to unpick, whose threads can
be woven into patches, forming a
patchwork which can be sewn into
a fabric which will be a statement
of something I don’t know I know.
After ten years of living here, I still
don’t know the weather, its patterns,
where it comes from. Or the domestic
weather: my daughter-in-law’s moods.
Talking to her about the garden, I get
what I’ve asked for and then don’t know
what to do with it. I can accept or reject
it. Whatever. What would whatever be?
There are grave limits not on what I
can want but on how much I can have.
The sky says anything can come along
and will, but not what or where. Our
roses are blossoming today as if there
is no tomorrow. If they’re right I should
be attending not to weather but whether:
what can I create from today’s offerings?
Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word
Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.