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A Poem for When You’re About Ready to Give Up

Much like “Bog,” this is an oldie, because at the moment I have nothing else.

Honestly. That’s the primary reason. But bear with me, because there’s another reason, this one rather less humiliating.

This is a poem about change … about things ending and beginning, and the scary stage in between. It’s a concept I’m half-battling, half-drowning in, right now.

When I wrote the first draft, it was from another place of fear and uncertainty. It was late summer 2015. I had been a resident of Novosibirsk, Russia, for scarcely two months and did not yet have a social life or comfortable routines. On top of that, my new job was exacerbating my anxiety, sapping my energy and stealing my writing time, to boot.

In fact, I’d had an emotional meltdown the weekend before, crying myself sick on the floor for reasons I couldn’t articulate. The only thing that calmed me down was the decision to abandon ship — to go home in September, when my probation period was up.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

To make a long story short, Providence intervened*, and I decided to stick it out. That decision didn’t come easily. I knew it would be a rough and unfamiliar road. This poem was more or less a letter to self, to say: Be strong. You’ve stepped beyond the borders of what you knew. What do you expect, but that you’ll struggle a bit?

Now I find myself in a similar place, taking on an unfamiliar path and feeling ambivalent about it all. Questions haunt me to no end:

Am I doing the right thing? Did I take a wrong turn? Was I better off where I was before?

It could be I’m just taking on too much at once.

In this time between, some things should be let go. Others should be embraced with ever more passion and courage. I’m just not sure what those things are.

Are you in a similar place?

Are you wading through a difficult decision? Perhaps a mess of decisions? Are growth and change leaving you more frightened than excited? Are you struggling to keep your footing in a rapidly changing situation?

This poem is for you.


Lest You Look Back, at the Dusk of the World

Child, keep crossing the stones,
keep fixing on that green horizon.
Don’t look back to the pooling stars
or regard the darkness lapping your toes—

even when your feet slip, pale fish on stone
and you waver, waver.

Call the night wind, child.
Call her by the name you learned when you knew
your way over the stones—
before the dusk—
before the deep cold waters found their way to your cave,
and you swam, then crawled,
like a beast at the dawn of the world.

Now you are walking.
Remember that, child, when the chill falls from the stars
and the waters rise and your frozen feet
find no purchase—
once you crawled,
then you leaped,
and now you waver upright.


Where are you now? What new winds are blowing into your life?


*Providence intervened in the form of my director of studies, who had a vivid dream in which I told her I was going to leave. The following Monday, she sat me down and settled all of my doubts.

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