Poem for December

December 22nd, 2010 – Christmas Week

Hello Friends,

This morning as I was drinking my coffee I heard the poem “Voyage,” on “A Writer’s Almanac” on NPR. I literally stopped in my tracks as I listened, coffee cup held in mid-air. You know how every once in a while a poem or song just grabs you, and seems to be speaking for you – capturing exactly your experience, only in better words? That’s how I feel about this poem.

I love the part where he says, “At night we consoled ourselves/ by discussing the meaning of homesickness./But there was no home to go home to./There was no getting around the ocean./We had to go on finding out the story/by pushing into it—”

That’s how I feel this morning – homesick, adrift, no getting around this homeless ocean. And yet I love the ocean; I dream of it constantly.  I woke up this morning dreaming of the sea and walking the beach. And in some strange way, I love this odd voyage of loss and insight,  the daily expressions of love and friendship, the daily pain of loss and disappointment.  This journey is teaching me lessons I never wanted to learn. I have to go on “finding the story,” and I am anxious for the next chapter.

Last night I was at a Solstice gathering, and a friend, a poet, said, “I’ve been reading your blog and wow. I didn’t know you could write like that.”  I replied, “I didn’t know I could write like that either.” Another strange gift of Fire. Somehow losing everything has pushed me into a new place, where words seem to form themselves, and ask to be shared.

As Dickens wrote, so long ago, it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times, and finally, after all these years, I know what he means.  He means that Life gives us the agony and the ecstasy, every day, all mixed up, all at once, without our permission. That Best and Worst are part and parcel of each other, that sorrow and loss are only the flip sides of joy and gratitude, and they all exist, together, in everything, all around us. All we have to do is turn over that rock and see what’s on the other side.

As Hoagland writes, it is our “marvelous punishment.”

Today the light returns, Winter is at its peak, and it’s all downhill from here. Longer days, shorter nights, and with luck, no regrets.

Wishing You a Merry Christmas Week, and Lots of Love,

Andi and Nellie


by Tony Hoagland

I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
and found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.

—And someone is spreading a map upon a table,
and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, “I’m only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It’s turning cold.”

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That’s the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage—

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.

Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
by pushing into it—

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

“Voyage” by Tony Hoagland, from Hard Rain. © Hollyridge Press, 2005. (buy now)

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11 Responses to Poem for December

  1. Thank you! I might not have come across this poem without you. I am 50/50 on Hoagland’s work, but when he hits it, he hits it. This is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Or maybe it’s just me as a reader and I’m not always in the mood for him, and you made me see it right today. Have as good a Christmas as you can, Andi and may the New Year bring new discoveries that are joyful.

  2. Maggie Jochild says:

    I get The Writer’s Almanac daily poem in my email, and I too was gobsmacked by this one. It’s pretty dang hard to write about journey and loss metaphorically in ways that still sound fresh to an omnivorous reader, but he pulled this one off, and so do you.

    Burn that wicker man so the sun will come back again. It has a deeper meaning for me every year I reach this season again.

  3. Pingback: Poem for December | Free Range Longmont

  4. A portion of this entry has been reposted at: http://www.freerangelongmont.com/2010/12/23/poem-for-december/ and you’ve been given contributor privleges. FRL would be honored by any contributions you have and we’ll periodically feature your entries – they’re THAT GOOD. Thanks for sharing this incredibly personal journey with us. It’s saddening, inspiring, uplifting and more to see the human spirit rampant in the face of such loss. YOU GO GIRL. *hug*

  5. Marj says:

    I’m not familiar with this poet – thank you. The rythms, it’s the rythms that get me.

    Wishing you and Nellie a festive festive season, and a new year full of hope and happiness and happenings.

  6. Jerrie Hurd says:

    I’m reading about my ancestors who immigrated in the 1800s with no chance of ever going back. We’re all on that ocean, it’s just more obvious to some. Thanks for the poem.

  7. Piper Bayard says:

    The beautiful darkness from which all life springs. Thank you for your post. Merry Christmas to you and Nellie, and may the New Year bring you a more peaceful Voyage.

  8. Cheryl Giove says:

    I think I’ve caught up on everything you’ve written on this website thus far. (Recommended to me by a friend) I truly sympathize with you and your plight. How devastated you must be.
    Take it from me, there is light at the end of the tunnel. (I’ve had my share of downs, opposed to ups) This may be cliche but you seem to be the kind of person that makes lemonade out of lemons. We’re kind of alike. Not to downsize your emotional dilemma at all. It’s so hard to deal with change. Especially when the change is not welcome.
    The poem is awesome and it rings true to me.
    Better days are coming for you. You have to believe that. Without hope there is nothing.
    I find that you are a very hopeful person. Never give up! Me and mine are on your side. We will keep you in our prayers as long as need be.
    May you and Nellie adjust and may you both be happy in the end.

    Here’s to a “Happy” New Year for both of you. May you thrive and may you continue to be positive in the face of adversity.

    Happy New Year

  9. Gail Storey says:

    I’m a fan of Tony Hoagland’s work, thanks for the reminder of this wonderful poem.
    And I dream often of the ocean too!

  10. Isn’t it wonderful to befriend a new poem? Cheers!

  11. Pingback: Pushing Through to Find the Story « Claudia Putnam

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