Monday, May 08, 2006
Louis McKee in Rattle
You can find the following poem by Louis McKee in the current issue of Rattle, vol. 11, no.2, p. 47:
When I was young I left
my new kid gloves on a bus
coming home from school,
said they must have fallen
from my pockets--my mother
didn't want to hear that
I hated gloves, that I liked cold
hands, fingers, and pockets
they fit into better. I had a cap;
this was years later--I wore it
everywhere, and one day walking
down the avenue, for no reason
at all, I took it off and threw it
into the open window of a bus
that was passing by. I cursed,
later, its being missing,
but that was all part of it,
preparing for loss. Everything,
sooner or later, goes--
finding a bus heading somewhere.
I find it very poignant how the child in this poem prefers the feeling of "cold hands, fingers" to the security of warm gloves. He already has a sense at this young age that he can't get attached to them, because sooner or later they will be lost. So he beats fate to the punch and leaves them on the bus, perhaps feeling that if he controls the loss--if he chooses when they will be gone--then the loss will be less painful.
As an adult, the narrator still tries to trump fate by purposely tossing away his hat, again choosing a bus. He regrets it and curses "its being missing," but still prefers to be in a state of dealing with loss than to be simply waiting for loss to take him by surprise.
This feeling of the "untrustworthiness" of life is familiar to me, and perhaps many of us can relate to the narrator's desire to sieze some small control over his circumstances. Sometimes we end relationships because we can see the end coming, but it is too painful to let the final days play out. Perhaps we quit a job we like because we see the pink slips coming, and we want to avoid the experience of a lay-off. My brother loves computer games, but he often won't finish them because he can't bear for them to be over.
Loss is inevitable, but painful. Surely it is not possible to prevent it. Is it futile to try to control the tiny losses we see coming?