The Endless Renewal of Desire

Fall used to be my favorite time of the year; a new year of teaching and meeting students, my birthday, our anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas and my late husband’s birthday all in succession. Now Fall has become my saddest, heaviest part of the year for the same reasons—none of these celebrations seem right without him. I haven’t just mourned the loss of his presence, but I’ve realized how deeply I feel the loss of who we were together in those moments. This fall has been especially tough as I try to shake this heavy melancholy which is juxtaposed with a strange sense of an uncertain future and being untethered. I’m weighed down but not weighed down at the same time—a bizarre uneasiness.

This weekend my daughter played alto sax in her school’s winter concert; she especially misses her dad on occasions like this when he isn’t there to see her perform. But she was so happy to be surrounded by our family and friends whom she invited to the concert and eagerly showed up to lend their support. This got me thinking about all of the people, from around the world, who have offered me comfort and love and hope. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten a card from a retired colleague living in Florida, texts from Alan’s former administrators, a package of coffee from a friend in Maine, an invitation to dinner from family friends, a DM from a friend in France who is himself very sick, a Google chat exchanging poems from a friend living in Canada, and a book from a translator in Prague who knows my love for Hungarian literature. Each of these gestures was done with the utmost care and concern. I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that every time I reach out for support, literary Twitter is always there with kind messages and encouragement.

And so I’ve been slowing digging myself out of this slump, fighting on with every ounce of strength I have, feeling very fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by so many generous people. Poetry has also been a solace to me. I haven’t been able to focus on reading anything of great length but I have been able to concentrate on poetry. I would normally feel chagrined about the number of books I order, but it feels good to be collecting books again and sharing them on Twitter. So I thought I would do a series of posts on poetry and share my latest reading. In addition I’ve been slowly making my way through Paul Valéry Cahiers, which itself reads like poetry. His definition of beauty reminds me why I find such comfort in poetry:


The more I see you, the more I want you. The more I want you, the more I create you—the more I create you, the less I know how to—Your impossibility, your necessity, your presence, struggle over my state of being.

If one of those factors is absent, the work is a failure—or non-existent. It has to create the need and satisfy it. And what is more, make it felt that neither the need nor the satisfaction were within our powers. Hence the endless renewal of desire.

Valéry is accurate about the necessity of poetry. And the necessity of all the people who love me and check in on me is also a thing of beauty. So I continue to fight that heaviness, some days better than others, but fight on I do. Writing and sharing these lines helps. More soon…


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25 responses to “The Endless Renewal of Desire

  1. so glad you’re back at this! I’ll read Rilke in your honor today

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s good to see you back here, Melissa. A hard time, made worse by the pandemic, but I’m glad you have love and support to help you bear it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I know from my own experience of parental loss that certain times of year can be harder, so I’m sending you hugs from overseas, Melissa. I can understand poetry being a comfort, and I’ll look forward to following your journey with it. So glad you are surrounded by love and support, whether close to hand or virtual. xx


  4. This time of year is poignant for it is a time for family and community. A few days ago, I was thinking of all those have gone before, reflecting on how my life has been nuanced by these profound connections, when a poem came to me by Maya Angelou – When Great Trees Fall. The last stanza resonated with me especially.

    “And when great souls die,
    after a period peace blooms,
    slowly and always
    irregularly. Spaces fill
    with a kind of
    soothing electric vibration.
    Our senses, restored, never
    to be the same, whisper to us.
    They existed. They existed.
    We can be. Be and be
    better. For they existed.”

    All the very best of this season – Rebecca


  5. Rohan

    Those lines are lovely, and while I can only imagine how hard it is to get through, not just this season, but all the times of all the days, I am glad you get comfort from writing and reading and from your friends around the world. It is lovely to read you again. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Melissa

    I dont know you, but i remember your blog posts, your story.. i too am struggling.. & id like to extend both friendship & comfort to you..
    Just one day at a time.
    Warmest regards wishing you the very best this season,
    Melissa : )

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing those beautiful words of Paul Valery during this time. Sending you warm thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Melissa,
    as to your grief and mourning, I wondered which poem or lyrics might fit to the situation. First to my mind came these verses of the Beatles song:

    “When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
    And in my hours of darkness, she is standing right in front of me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

    Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be,
    Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

    And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
    There will be an answer, let it be.
    For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see
    There will be an answer, let it be. …

    And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me
    Shines until tomorrow, let it be.
    I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
    Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. …”

    Good wishes and kind regards to you and your family

    P.S. as well as to those fellow Americans affected by the latest Tornados


  9. Grieving has its seasons and I think that for many of us this part of the year carries extra weight. I hit a real low at this point and have to really push into Christmas which is now a fractured shell of what it once was, but it ends up okay, just quieter, more reflective. It is amazing, isn’t it, how the literary community online can be a warm place that knows no borders; a space where the smallest of gestures mean so much.
    Wishing you a joyful Christmas. May you and Claire feel the warmth of Alan’s love and know that it will always be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Patrick Coleman

    Good to see you back! I can imagine it’s been a long road…
    Such a great quote from Valéry! You know how to pick ’em.
    I look forward to hearing about the books you’ve been reading. Since you mention Hungarian literature, allow me to mention Janos Szekely’s Temptation (NYRB Classics). It may or may not be your thing, but it’s one of the most vivid novels I’ve read in a while, and others may wish to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Good to see you back… hang in there, it will get easier.
    Congratulations to your daughter too.


  12. Vishy

    I wanted to wait for a quiet time to read your post and savour it, Mel. I’m so glad you are back to blogging. Thank you for coming back. We missed you, Mel. Beautiful quote by Valéry that you have shared. Loved what you said about Literary Twitter and about friends from across the world. Can’t wait for your next post. Sending you lots of love and hugs 😊


  13. I don’t know you, but I am moved by your words. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that you find comfort and peace

    Liked by 1 person

  14. TheExile

    Dante Aligheiri wrote a small book called De Vulgari Eloquentia–seems like you’d find that book interesting in connection with your love of Latin. For instance, in that book Dante said Italians during his time called all poetry written by Italians “Sicilian”–the Sicilians held their dialect in the highest regard. The work centers around him conglomerating the Italian dialects for what in retrospect we know what would be his eventual Comedy. There’s a Cambridge version of it with the medieval Latin of Dante on one side & their English translation on the other. So you could enjoy it for more reasons than I did–you could say, “that’s interesting” & “I wouldn’t have tranlsated that like that.” Also, there’s a Youtube video, Vilvadi’s Four Seasons with a gal named Alexandra Conunova on violin. I couldn’t have told you who Vilvadi was a year ago. Not ancient Latin/culture, but loosely connected, the medieval/renaissance Italians were always looking back at ancient Rome–but, something potentially new you could delve into; might find some enjoyment out of them during an extremely rough time.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. M.Parsons

    This, for my own reasons, was encouraging to me in a time of grief.
    Hope is present and future….
    The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
    Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
    ‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
    Of all the western stars, until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
    Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

    Liked by 1 person

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