Dear solitude,

what is it like to live by oneself?
I can no longer remember, or if I ever
truly did. Surely it can’t have been

in the short month intervening after I
graduated from college and then got married,
believing that was the only way I might

finally make a life, something of my own.
Neither can it have been in the years
I went to graduate school, the first time

after my second child was born; and then again
when my third child turned three— Roommates
down the hall sharing the bathroom,

sharing the fridge and kitchen (though also
cleaning duties). And at home, with growing
children and extended family, never any

door that one could keep closed for too long.
I didn’t really mind, but also welcomed
summers when I could slip away by myself

to visit a friend, go to a writing retreat,
work free of the coils of schedules and
routines for two short weeks. Oh the joys

of breakfast at 11 and bedtime at 3, a walk
with no other purpose than the walk itself.
On the other hand, my pathologist friend

in Chicago, who’d lived by himself for over
thirty years, sometimes told me how he wished
for human sounds in the middle of the night,

in the empty bedrooms of his tastefully
furnished flat— how he’d scan the trees
bereft of birds and their call and response,

how sometimes he’d flush the toilet in the guest
bathroom at random times of day, just to hear
the water gurgling before eddying away.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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3 Comments


  1. How I love this poem! I get up early, very early, to have alone time, and I often think of my grandmother, who after my grandfather died, suddenly found herself with more alone time than she ever wanted.

    I love that image of the man flushing the toilet in his guest bathroom! And “coils of schedules”–exactly how I experience it.

    I know that some day I will be free of the schedules’ coils, and I’ll have more alone time than I want or can use, so I try to appreciate the phase of my life that I’m in now.

    Yet I still find myself thinking of monks and Quakers and other communities of silence and contemplation.

    Thanks for this poem!

    Reply


  2. THE OTHER SOLITUDE

    On my hammock hour, I watch shadows
    jump off my porch walls, talk with them,
    and watch them grow tall at sundown.

    Dusk and the quick sunset swallow them
    into a night I hope would not be bivouac
    cold. My boys are too young to be cut down.

    I don’t need medals or a flag if they come
    home at all—there’s a law that says I could
    not use them flags for blankets on cold days.

    Nor give them medals to their dear mother
    who has gone ahead to happy hunting grounds.
    Medals? I’d rather have tin mess cups for mugs.

    —Albert B. Casuga
    10-05-11

    Reply

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