“To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”
Ellen Bass (b. 1947)
I know what you’re thinking – there is a considerable amount of fromage dripping from this poem. True, but always remember that a little cheese never killed anyone. In fact, taken in moderation, like, say, one large portion of poutine a month, it’s actually quite healthy for you.
This Quote of the Day comes from the award-winning American poet Ellen Bass, who is also the co-author of the self-help book The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
What I like about this poem is that it reminds us not to glamourize life when we are stuck in one of its many sinkholes. Acceptance, hope, life and love can coalesce, just not always in that romantic way we like to think when things seem shitty to quite shitty. Sometimes it’s best to simply reexamine life for what it is, a Plain Jane face lacking any charm or sparkle to the eye. But re-embrace it, we do, because it is our life. And as William Ernest Henley reminded us so eloquently almost a century and a half ago: