In my journey of searching for a poem for Poetry Out Loud, I came across this poem by poet Linda Pastan (pronounced Past-An):
I Am Learning to Abandon the World
BY LINDA PASTAN
I am learning to abandon the world
before it can abandon me.
Already I have given up the moon
and snow, closing my shades
against the claims of white.
And the world has taken
my father, my friends.
I have given up melodic lines of hills,
moving to a flat, tuneless landscape.
And every night I give my body up
limb by limb, working upwards
across bone, towards the heart.
But morning comes with small
reprieves of coffee and birdsong.
A tree outside the window
which was simply shadow moments ago
takes back its branches twig
by leafy twig.
And as I take my body back
the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap
as if to make amends.
My general thoughts on this poem, when I first read it, primarily centered on the language used in the poem. Never had I ever read such modern, poetic lines such as these. One line that stuck with me the most was “And as I take my body back[,] the sun lays its warm muzzle on my lap as if to make amends.” The line is very simple, but it says so much. Using the word “muzzle” rings comfort and describes the warmth of the sun in such a beautiful way. The whole poem had great wording, it was very cohesive and coherent, and the structure was visually pleasing. This poem, without a doubt, is one of my favorites…
but it isn’t the poem that stands out to me the most…it is the story behind it.
Linda Pastan wrote this poem with the story of grief and acceptance in mind. A woman, who is on the verge of leaving this world, goes through the “wrong” in her life, but finds things to keep her going every day. The clear shift in tone of the poem allows the reader to clearly see where the thought process of this woman is.
The first line sets the story up to be one of hopelessness and gives a “just-gave-up” tone. “I am learning to abandon the world before it can abandon me.” In other words, she is learning to not enjoy life, so it won’t hurt as much when life leaves her. Though a very sad thought process, the rawness in it is what makes it so powerful. The speaker has lost all faith in the world as the world has let her down before.
The story then leads to an explanation of what she has given up; she has given up on the sight of the milky moon, the beautiful sight of falling snow, and she has even given up all things musical and lively in her life. With a realization that the world has taken her father and her friends, the unsaid question stands to be, “what more is there for her to live for?”
The story then moves to a brighter tone as the speaker stops herself from going deep into what she doesn’t have or what she has to go through and moves to the better things in her life. She recalls the smell of coffee in the morning, the singing birds of the day, the lively tree that lives outside her window, and the warmth the sun provides in times of comfort. This shift in the story brings a sense of hope and gives the audience hope that the speaker will turn out okay in the end. If not okay, atleast content.
This poem lives in my head rent FREE and I hope it will impact you in someway as it did to me. Happy reading!