The Art of Loss

The Art of Loss
by Theodora Goss

I think I’m going to practice losing things.
I’ll start with smaller things like the grocery list,
my glasses, that cup of tea I’m almost sure
I put down somewhere in the living room.

I’ll graduate to house keys, my mobile phone,
the umbrella I bought in the art museum gift shop,
with a pattern of Monet’s waterlilies, that turns
a gray, wet day into walking through the gardens
at Giverny. I’ve had some practice already.
The various things I have lost include my heart,
my childhood, the country where I was born, a language,
countless single socks in the clothes dryer,
several names, a profession, my grandparents.
So you see, it shouldn’t be that hard to learn
how to lose with the effortless grace of a dancer
leaping into a perfect grand jeté.

And yet, I don’t seem much better at it now
than when, as a child, I lost my favorite doll.
No other doll would do as a substitute.
The lack of her was as solid as a fact,
unalterable, an absence that I carried
instead of her and put to bed at night,
singing lullabies to her empty cradle.
So too with other absences, which feel
almost as real as what they have replaced.

Perhaps eventually I’ll be more absence
than substance. Therefore, I’m practicing beforehand.
Today I lost some time, my second pair
of glasses, and something else, I don’t remember
what it was — there’s just a nagging sense
of loss and the thought I must have put it somewhere.
It may have been you, but honestly, I’m not sure.

When I reach that state, when I am a lace curtain,
more air than fabric, or perhaps a set of chimes
you hang in the garden, hollow at the core,
I hope the wind will blow and set me fluttering
or ringing, so there will be something left,
a sound or motion I have not lost altogether,
an echo, a disturbance.

(The image is A Moment of Contemplation by Fernand Toussain.)

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