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The Round by Stanley Kunitz

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My dear friend, I found myself saying every now and then: “What a terrible year.” I repeat it often, and loudly, as if I couldn’t say it enough. What a terrible year this has been, and now there are only a few more hours left until it is over. I am gripped with suspended relief, if that makes sense somehow. I am anxiously waiting for the worst of it all to seize me in the last few moments but also crossing all my fingers and toes that I have passed through the last of it.

Truth be told there have been some good things, too, and haven’t I talked about that? It’s just—there had been tremendous and awful things in our lives, and we have suffered huge losses. It became impossible to see the light sometimes. The emptiness was a weight we carried with us.

What is holy, I ask myself. Questions visit me nightly before bed. What is here and what is yours and will I make it. Questions upon questions, trying to sift through the day to find the blessing from the rubble.

I am alive, I answer back. I am living and I am choosing to live and I am working on being alive. My life is here and this is the life I have and a thousand yeses.

Sometimes I no longer know if I’m making up answers as I go farther along in life, but it’s the best I can do. Isn’t that what any one of us ever really does?

When I said in your presence, “What a terrible year,” I hope you can forgive me. Because we are alive, you see, and your life has meaning and your presence in mine surpasses the embrace of the deep dark. You have had joys, too, and you are loved. Our love for one another is what kept the world going, truly—and I am saying it because it’s my one anchor this year while I struggle not to drown: you are loved.

Listen: the year is ending. Let us be done with it. Tomorrow we begin again.

The Round
Stanley Kunitz

Light splashed this morning
on the shell-pink anemones
swaying on their tall stems;
down blue-spiked veronica
light flowed in rivulets
over the humps of the honeybees;
this morning I saw light kiss
the silk of the roses
in their second flowering,
my late bloomers
flushed with their brandy.
A curious gladness shook me.

So I have shut the doors of my house,
so I have trudged downstairs to my cell,
so I am sitting in semi-dark
hunched over my desk
with nothing for a view
to tempt me
but a bloated compost heap,
steamy old stinkpile,
under my window;
and I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
“Light splashed . . .”

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
when a new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

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This poem appeared in Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected by Stanley Kunitz, published by W.W. Norton, 1995. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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