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I Am Learning to Abandon the World by Linda Pastan


Have been staring at this for hours trying to find a way back to my words—to tell you where I’ve been and how I am. They come slowly to me these days—language, I mean. Feels so much like the energy being pushed by roots out the stems, where the wound is, to grow leaves again. 

I’ve been good. I think. Most days a blessing. Some days an ache. Some days I’m doubled over with grief. That’s the treacherous part—when you start to live again, and you forget that you were holding an absence, a wooden bowl begging for fruit. The jolt that goes through your body when you remember what isn’t there. Or who. 

Tell me how you have been. Are you taking good care of yourself? What’s one good thing that has happened that felt so precious, you almost didn’t want to believe it?

Have I ever told you about abandon. I mean: what you give up and cast to the wind. I mean: the body that yields. I mean: the risk you take. 

One morning I woke up my face wet with tears and I wanted to surrender all the grief that belongs to me, I wanted to be discarded of it like weapons being handed over at the gate before they allow you through. I wanted to be at the other side relieved of all the weight I have had to carry from there to here. Take them all, I shout at my window. Sunlight filters through the curtains, it warms and cups my ankle, and I know I am being given it all back.

What do I know thinking all this time I can do without it.

I Am Learning to Abandon the World
Linda Pastan
I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.

This poem appeared in PM/AM: New and Selected Poems by Linda Pastan, published by W.W. Norton & Company, 1982. Shared here with profound gratitude.


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