Thursday, February 13, 2020

One Art

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.



Mary G said...

How lovely, how blooming lovely. Thank you for this

Katherine C. James said...

When my favorite bookstore in San Francisco, The Tillman Place Bookshop, closed in 1999, the owners had a party in the alley outside the shop with gorgeous flowers and food and Champagne. The party favor was a letterpress copy of Bishop's "One Art," which I already knew of because my mom had introduced me to it when I was young. I framed the letterpress copy, but it's currently packed. My mom was good at separating the worth of things from the worth of life, but she did it out of a kind of self-denying asceticism that my brother-in-law, who I lost (in Bishop's terms) in 2007 when he was 50 to a rare, quick illness, and I both thought would have made her a good nun, like the Benedictines who educated her at the Catholic women's college she attended. It's been more of a challenge for me to let go of things, I think because I choose things I wish to keep for a lifetime that have beauty and meaning for me, and they become animate. Impermanence and loss have been difficult lessons, but the facts of the most recent years of my life have taught me the weight of material possessions and given me the desire to travel light and let go. During my 2014 year of selfies I posted a photo of the platinum ring I had made, inscribed in the interior with the birth and death date of my almost 21 year old Volvo, along with my monogram on the exterior. (My Volvo's exterior was destroyed beyond repair by a hit-and-run driver when it was parked in SF.) A year after the selfie year I lost the ring, which my brother-in-law had suggested I have made, in a restaurant bathroom when I took it off to apply hand lotion and forgot to put it back on. I called later that evening from home when I realized what I'd done, but the ring was gone. It bothered me that my monogram and inscription did not make it recognizable as beloved so someone would want to give it back to me, but its heavy platinum weight would have made it valuable to resell for its material. Initially, I missed it because it had so much emotional meaning. Now I remember it with love, am glad I have a photo, and choose to keep the memory. Fewer and fewer things I own have meaning for me. Those that do, I try to hold close, while at the same time telling myself, "You are the same you with the same memories with or without this physical object." It is easier to do with some things than with others. (I hope you find your bracelet, or find peace in the memory of it as what stays.)