“All is courtesy and horror.”

I haven’t heard of Sharon Olds until today—the article this poem came ensconced in was probably found through Twitter or Reddit, like it usually is, but oh my goodness. Sometimes things you see and read and hear about come together serendipitously (I spelt that right on my first try, high-fives for me!) and it’s just a perfect confusion around the same subject. This PostSecret card below and the poem below that just click together for me.

PostSecret Card

Originally, I wanted to share articles about the Delhi rapes and students actively protesting against creationism, but sometimes I think poetry is more inspiring to me than reality is in its horror and consequence. These stories are equally worthy of your attention, but if you’re feeling calm, read on.

If your resolution, like mine this year, was to be more still; take a moment to yourself right now and read this.


from Stag’s Leap, published by Jonathan Cape

Now I come to look at love

in a new way, now that I know I’m not

standing in its light. I want to ask my

almost-no-longer husband what it’s like to not

love, but he does not want to talk about it,

he wants a stillness at the end of it.

And sometimes I feel as if, already,

I am not here – to stand in his thirty-year

sight, and not in love’s sight,

I feel an invisibility

like a neutron in a cloud chamber buried in a mile-long

accelerator, where what cannot

be seen is inferred by what the visible

does. After the alarm goes off,

I stroke him, my hand feels like a singer

who sings along him, as if it is

his flesh that’s singing, in its full range,

tenor of the higher vertebrae,

baritone, bass, contrabass.

I want to say to him, now, What

was it like, to love me – when you looked at me,

what did you see? When he loved me, I looked

out at the world as if from inside

a profound dwelling, like a burrow, or a well, I’d gaze

up, at noon, and see Orion

shining – when I thought he loved me, when I thought

we were joined not just for breath’s time,

but for the long continuance,

the hard candies of femur and stone,

the fastnesses. He shows no anger,

I show no anger but in flashes of humour

all is courtesy and horror. And after

the first minute, when I say, Is this about

her, and he says, No, it’s about

you, we do not speak of her.

Sharon Olds, first female American poet to win the T.S. Eliot Prize

My mother and my grandmother and every woman who I’ve ever respected in my life, while they may not have been poets or philosophers and were instead steadfast and hardworking rationalists, has told me that love needs to be grown into. When women married men they didn’t know now and in the past, there were some cases where love blossomed, under a variety of circumstances that I’ve heard about. I am slowly learning not to disregard this. When I was fourteen, “why would you make it happen if it doesn’t naturally do so?” seemed rational because emotions were the only rationale I could identify with.

Now, I realize that sometimes the effort of making something work makes the relationship worth more through the whole process. The process of love, of mania and the inevitable fade and re-ignition, is tumultuous and humbling. It is the most trying thing that I’ve ever attempted in my life.

Edit: this article on the BBC hits the nail on the head, albeit several week after my post, about “standing in love” instead of falling into it.


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