Stanley Kunitz: The Layers

I love hearing poetry from the voice of the poet. This one, by Stanley Kunitz is both sad and celebratory. Of it, Roger Housden writes, in Ten Poems to Set You Free:

“It is not possible fully to embrace the gift of love without also accepting the inevitability of loss.” He (Kunitz) asks, if we can also be generous and “substantial in our love, that we are willing to hold nothing back, even though everything shall eventually be taken away?”

I’m grateful that at midlife I’ve learned to be brave, even with the tender heart of loving. I think of romantic love because I’m just getting out of a relationship. But the poem is about all types of losses and changes. It makes me think of aging and death as well as changes in geography and friendships.

I love this line:

“Live in the layers, not on the litter.”

So today, I celebrate the brave hearts and risk takers and the experiences that both build and strengthen the muscle of my heart as well as stretch and expand and challenge the contents inside and the very shape I know as love. When I was younger, if a relationship ended, I would have thought, “Waste of time,” or felt wounded or ripped off somehow that it didn’t work out which only meant stay forever.

Today, I am glad for more kayaking, shopping for lamps at antique stores and listening to Celtic music. I learned to make bread from a bread machine. I am glad for Wagamama noodles and feeling desired, for long walks in Boston and a bookstore visit and kissing from the 14th floor of an observatory station. Those aren’t experiences I’d have had, at least in the last year, as often, without the pull of love.

Expanded, alive, touched by the passions of another is a gift I got to have.

I learned and was exposed to another precious life and was graced by that soul’s lessons and experiences.

I also got to know myself, values and preferences more intimately and share deeply and honestly physically, intellectually and emotionally. My feet hurt from dancing now and I’m coming off the floor but it felt good to shake, jump, sway and move in unison.

Though scared – I let someone all of the way into my heart, without secrets or bribes or false promises that more was there than is. I let someone all of the way into my heart without rearranging the furniture when my style wasn’t theirs. And when it didn’t work out I felt (feel) sad and disappointed but not shattered.  These are all human victories and triumphs.

So dear universe, if you are listening, I want a love as cuddly and energetic as a puppy and as warm, reliable and stable as a blanket and who sees the work of love as a calling from the soul to grow – an honor and an opportunity – as I do. If that’s possible, please put me on the waiting list for the next litter of that breed.

I’ll do my part, and make a life full of the people and things I value and cherish and stay open. I don’t have to wait for a man to fall in love with life. I’m grateful for loved ones, art, animals, flowers and yoga to keep me growing strength and flexibility in all areas.

Growing, showing up open and putting words on the page – these are gifts and joys and practices I love. Hopefully forever. Like Kunitz said, “I’m not done with my changes” yet either. I hope I never am.

What does the poem say to you? Does it stir or speak or resonate?

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