In Defense of Loneliness
“You’re wondering if I’m lonely”:
after Adrienne Rich
Are you asking about this second
when the blue between clouds is so spare
I could be imagining it,
not the blue but the loneliness,
the space between what’s missing
and what’s there.
Not what’s there, really,
but more the way birch bark separates
and peels like sunburned skin
how it turns white and prickles and blisters,
not bark underneath but skin,
not new skin, but the pain
of what’s left behind.
So sometimes in the quiet emptiness
of early morning
when everyone’s asleep,
I listen for their breathing,
And then my own
and I am alone but not lonely,
because the space between breaths
is never lonely.
But that fall through empty space
love and its foolish act of faith,
that leap across a chasm,
like I’m an eagle whose talons
cannot be trusted to hold onto the branch,
not just any branch
but the most important branch.
Sometimes I miss my mother’s laugh
and I feel a cavern in the base of my belly,
not just my belly but everywhere
and it opens inside me
and then, yes, I think I am lonely.
Sometimes I miss my daughter
or my husband and they are sitting
two feet away and I am lonelier still.
And sometimes I would do anything
to speak in that shadow language:
fur and bone,
wing and feather,
that tongue of peeling bark.
If we could all just listen
when the silence was unbearable.
Not quiet which is different,
which is full and open
and sometimes haunting.
If we could bear the silence though,
together, all of us,
that would be something, wouldn’t it?
Donna Prinzmetal is a poet, psychotherapist and teacher. She has taught poetry and creative writing for more than 25 years to adults and children. Donna often uses writing to facilitate restoration and healing in her psychotherapy practice. Her poems have appeared in many magazines including Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, and The Journal. Her first book, Snow White, When No One Was Looking, was published with CW Books in May of 2014.