Longing, Loss, Illness and Isolation, As Told By Poets From Around The World

>>As I confront the way our world is changing, I have found myself turning to literature to help meet, translate, and navigate the parts of myself that are not being met in isolation. Naturally, this state of mind brought me to my basement, where I found a box I had labeled in poorly scrawled sharpie, “Poetry from around the world,” a collection of poetry books I’d picked up in university. From this collection, and further research, I was inspired to mix and match different poets’ work to create an even more condensed collection; one that explored themes of longing, loss, illness and isolation. May this brief collection bring you some relief as it has for me.

Curated by Sean Mulligan

It does not roar nor thunder,

it spills no hail nor scatters lightning,

it unlooses no vast wind.

The great cloud simply rains.

Vittoka, India


O herdsman,

Coming along the shore

Sing your song to me…

Too lonely,

This lake in autumn.

Akiko Yosano, Japan


How quiet it is!

On the wall where the painting hangs —

a cricket.

How solitary it is!

Hanging on a nail —

a cricket.

Matsuo Basho, Japan


Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in show,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.

All animals are smothered in their lairs.

I am too absent-spirited to count;

The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less—

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.

Robert Frost, United States


Restless night

My tangled hair

Sounds against my koto!

Is it three months of spring

And not one note struck?

Akiko Yosano, Japan


Have mercy, sleep,

and show me once again

my darling though it be but for a moment;

for when I see her

I shall hold her in my arms so tightly

she shall not go, or if she goes

must take me too.

Kalidasa, India


In the worst hour of the worst season

of the worst year of a whole people

a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.

He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.

He lifted her and put her on his back.

He walked like that west and west and north.

Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.

Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.

But her feet were held against his breastbone.

The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.

There is no place here for the inexact

praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.

There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.

Also what they suffered. How they lived.

And what there is between a man and woman.

And in which darkness it can best be proved.

Quarantine, Eavan Boland, Ireland


Now it is the time of dark invitation

Beyond a frontier you did not expect;

Abruptly, your old life seems distant.