Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer
Life After Emilee Logo | Neal Klein honoring his wife after losing her to pancreatic cancer

Poem – Layers by Stanley Kunitz – of Life And Loss Change And Hope

Someone in my poetry group shared this poem, not hers, by Stanley Kunitz. It spoke to me, and thought it might speak to others as well. “Live in the layers”…I really like that. It so fits with a mindfulness view of life. He died May 14, 2006, at age 100. He was an American poet appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress twice, first in 1974 and then again in 2000. He also won the Pulitzer for Poetry in 1959 as well as numerous other awards

The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

 

I have walked through many lives,

some of them my own,

and I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides, from which I struggle

not to stray.

When I look behind,

as I am compelled to look

before I can gather strength

to proceed on my journey,

I see the milestones dwindling

toward the horizon

and the slow fires trailing

from the abandoned camp-sites,

over which scavenger angels

wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe

out of my true affections,

and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled

to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind

the manic dust of my friends,

those who fell along the way,

bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,

exulting somewhat,

with my will intact to go

where I need to go,

and every stone on the road

precious to me.

In my darkest night,

when  the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Neal Klein

(nmitchk@aol.com)

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