It snowed on the end of town I work in Thursday night, so when I got over there Friday morning, the roads were wet and there was a very thin layer of snow still on the grass and parking lot. It’s now warmed up into the 50s-60s, so my tiny fleeting glimpse of winter didn’t last. But for a brief moment Friday morning, it looked and felt like winter.
Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving Into the Wreck is among my absolute favorite poems – so much so that I have three lines from it tattooed on my ribcage. I think what I like best about it is that it works on so many different levels, and continues to take on new meaning each time I read it.
If you’re not familiar, you can read it here.
Once upon a time I was in a graduate Literature program, in which I was introduced to the German poet Novalis, and this work written after the death of his fiance, Sophie von Kuhn, at the age of 15.
A lot of things are interesting about Novalis – particularly that he fell in love with his fiance when he was 22 and she was only 12, as the story goes, after seeing her out with her parents. They became engaged on her 13th birthday.
Though some of his friends attempted to praise her beauty, Sophie was apparently neither particularly beautiful nor particularly intelligent (as her own diaries seem to show) and many have wondered what it was that drew the poet to this seemingly ordinary, bland young girl. Yet Novalis saw *something* in Sophie that no one else seemed to see – whether it was some subtle spark that others tended to miss, or whether he merely built her up within his own imagination, remains lost to time.
But what gets me every time I read passage this is the footnote to the word “nachtbegeisterung,” translated as Night-Inspiration. It could also (I think) be translated to Night-Rapture. This word comes after the poet describes freeing himself from “Light’s chains” – inversing the binary of light/good vs. dark/bad. Night brings about transformation, and reunion with the beloved.
Nachtbegeisterung. I love that.
I was going through some bookmarks that I haven’t looked at in a while, and came across a poem called The Cello by Ruth Padel. It’s an amazing poem as a whole, but these lines were the reason why I bookmarked it:
Every choice is a loss. The past is not where you left it. That corridor you didn’t follow, the gate to unknown woods, shadow grin of a winding stair, the door you never found time to open—they whirl within, cracking the floor.
Every choice is a loss is such a simple yet such a profoundly true idea. Every decision we make means that there are decisions we didn’t make…and sometimes the decisions we make can’t be unmade, and decisions we didn’t make don’t always stick around and allow us to have a second chance.
Every choice is truly a loss…but there’s something empowering about that.