Why Must I be Preyed Upon?

Pain, and grief and heartsickness can be so lonely and isolating. The rollercoaster of emotions settle down, but there are still days when the pain, the memories of what has been lost feels like a harsh punch in the chest. Who can I talk to? Who can I call? To whom can I describe this almost unbearable sensation? It’s nothing new. It’s more of the same. It makes me weary and I feel like a broken record repeating these tiresome things to those in my inner circle. I’m sick of myself, I think, so how can they not be sick of me too?

Writing and reading poetry are what I end up retreating into when the loneliness and isolation set in. I like to think that all of the books of poetry I have voraciously consumed in the last few years are paying off in the form of solace. I share here two recent favorites that have helped me in the hopes that they might be comforting to anyone suffering in any way—there seems to be an abundance of pain everywhere one looks nowadays.

Cuban poet Dulce Maria Loynaz’s collection Absolute Solitude, beautifully translated by James O’Connor and published by Archipelago Books, is full of memorable lines that are worthy of writing in my notebooks and revisiting for those tough days. Here she envisions grief as a wolf to which she falls prey:

There was a lull in the pain. I fled from it as if I were fleeing a wolf suddenly taken with sleep. But when it wakes, it will pick up my scent and follow my trail. I know this. And it doesn’t matter where I hide, it will know how to find me, and when it does, it will pounce on a body too weary to resist it. Why must I be the preyed upon? Why does its mouth water every time it spots me? I have no blood to slake its savage thirst and I carry nothing in my saddlebags but the echoes of dreams grown cold. Where did I lose my way? I can’t remember. What flowers did I step on pretending I didn’t see them? Before me the great jungle grows dense.

And from Kathryn Smith’s Collection Self-Portrait with Cephalopod published by Milkweed Editions a poem that envisions the possibility of being whole again after tragedy. “A Permeable Membrane in the Mutable Cosmos”:

Tell me again of the lepers who learn to shed their disastrous skin by eating the meat of vipers: something transmutable in the flesh. The ancients spent lifetimes considering the resurrection of irretrievable parts: wolf-devoured flank, eyes of martyrs pecked clean in the village square, Tell me again about the new heaven and the new earth, when the bear returns an unblemished arm to its faithful socket, when mountains open their mouths to receive conduits and I-beams and engagement diamonds and the fish ladders the rivers will give up with their dams when the earth is made new. Tell me the formula for feeling whole again after tragedy. The equation for how much time I needed after saying no before I’d tell you yes. Tell me I’ll never be alone, even when I want to be alone.


Filed under American Literature, Opinion Posts, Poetry, Spanish Literature

21 responses to “Why Must I be Preyed Upon?

  1. Kurt Navratil

    Absolute Solitude – Loynaz
    I always watch the sun go down because it takes something, I don’t know what, away from me

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Both such eloquent poems. I’m sure your friends and family are far from sick of listening to you, Melissa. Anyone who’s lost someone close to them knows how it is, and your loss was one of the hardest to bear.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful words. You aren’t a broken record, Melissa. Grief needs time to work itself out and if writing and sharing here helps, we’re here to listen. x

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ll have to order Absolute Solitude; it sounds like a must-read. I’m just a random voice on the Internet, I know — I think you’ve shown a great deal of strength, dealing with a terrible loss. My only thought is if you’d considered a support group for those who are grieving the loss of a spouse. Through a local hospice group, I attended a support group after my dad died — it was six sessions, free, and very helpful in providing some support and some ideas for coping. YMMV

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have no words but to say you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. While we have never met, we are joined by the story of humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My niece, who is about your age and was widowed last year at about the same time as you, goes for long walks and finds solace in doing something that she used to do with her husband. Even if it’s nowhere special, I find walking can bring peace. If nothing else it helps to make me tired and that helps with sleep. Does walking work for you at all?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lisa! Yes, walking is very cathartic. I walk our puppy, even just around my proper, which has been great for me. I was feeling especially low today and the one thing that helped was going outside with Phoebe. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister and I’m glad she has found an activity that gives her comfort. Thank you for sharing that with me.


      • Oops, sorry. I meant your niece, not your sister!


      • Ah yes, *smacks forehead* I’d forgotten about the pup, of course she will be insisting on walks! My dog Amber is a great opportunist… we have to reschedule our walks to take account of the weather, so our autumn, winter, spring late afternoon walk has to be done in summer in the early morning before the heat is too extreme. As far as Amber is concerned, that means *two* walks, even though the pavements would be too hot for her little paws in the afternoon. I still get ‘the P.M. paw’ patting me gently/more insistently whether we’ve already had a walk or not…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Phoebe just loves to go outside and her “hint” is to paw at the door. She has been great for me and I’m so glad I decided to get her.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you, Melissa. I love your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah, Melissa, grief is such a thief, sneaking back in when we least expect. And of course, it is still very recent for you. I remember Joan Didion having this to say about grief:
    ‘Grief, when it comes, is nothing we expect it to be… it has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.’

    Liked by 2 people

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