As National Poetry Month comes to a close, I find myself looking forward to lots of possibilities as I approach a new transition, a place of threshold in my life. Thresholds are both exciting and terrifying, and I know that one way I have always dealt with them is to fill up the new space before I even get there.
Years ago when I my ex-husband and I were building a new house, I was excited to decorate the rooms. Before we sold our old house, I was measuring the new windows, pondering paint colors for the rooms, and selecting fabric for the draperies. Filled with exciting ideas for new window treatments, I selected patterns and sewed curtains, swags, and valences for every room in the house. After we moved, I had all of the boxes unpacked within three days. I was ready for company. And I longed for the next project to fill the void inside.
Luckily, as the years have passed, I have learned to anticipate the shifts that occur. And I know that I need to leave an opening. But just like the anxiety I felt about decorating my house before I moved in, I want to fill the spaces of my life before I arrive. And I know what’s coming up for me is fear of the unknown, fear of not having anything to do.
One way that I manage the looming open space in my life is to read poetry and to journal. I also have decades of experience to fall back on, so I know that new opportunities are always opening up for me. I am rarely without something to do. Still, I have to marshall all of my resources to refrain from filling up my life before I arrive at the next phase.And one of my my trusted resources is poetry.
Here are two poems I have found useful in times of transition. I hope they speak to you as well.
Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale
by Dan Albergotti
Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.
The Boatloads.© BOA Editions, Ltd., 2008. Reprinted with permission.
Prospective Immigrants Enter Here
Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
There is always the risk
Of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
And you must look back
And let them happen.
If you do not go through
It is possible
to live worthily.
To maintain your attitudes
To hold your position
To die bravely.
But much will blind you,
Much will evade you,
At what cost who knows?
The door itself
Makes no promises
It is only a door.