I would be remiss if I did not give a hat-tip at the outset to the late great Czeslaw Milosz, who made memorable use of the words “absence” and “counterfulfillment” in his poem “How It Was.“ (Read it aloud, please. Slowly, but not too slowly. Try to sort of waft the words out, like you’re smoking a pipe in a warm garage. If the similitude is lost on you, then, please, go smoke a pipe in a warm garage. Black Cavendish would be best, but, really, just smoke what you have. Under no circumstances are you to read this poem silently. Phone up Ian McKellen or James Earl Jones and have them read it for you before you even think of reading it silently. Do as you wish with my poem, but you treat Milosz’s work with the respect it deserves, d’ya hear me??) Though the poem was originally in Polish, the collection in which it is found, Bells In Winter, was translated into English by Milosz himself, along with Lillian Vallee, so I feel justified in crediting him, especially for “counterfulfillment.” What an awesome, heavy word.
I cannot help but notice the
Hole in the space beside me.
It bespeaks absence, placeless
Listing. An abrogation.
At the oddest times the thought will
Strike me: This moment, those times,
Should have been shared, but
Were instead spent solitarily.
It seems a pity, then, that
Clichés stand so readily by
To describe the sentiment of
Missing one held dear.
In light of this, a poem seems
A protest against the reality of
How might one attest the fact?
How memorialize counter-fulfillment,
Shame, regret, et cetera, if all are so
Immensely old-hat for the Muse?
Wordsworth, Neruda and the Bard
Are of no help: They dumped me here,
Disconsolate, tipsy, on an untilled field
With nothing to plow with but a pen.
I’ll roll up my sleeves.
It was like a feeble hop
In lieu of a walk.
A whiff in place of
Being alright, instead of delight.
I suppose none of this was really bad.