A Poem at the End of the Year

I’d like to close out the year with a poem. It is a habit of mine to include a poem in this blog posting at the end of the year. Unfortunately, a practice I’ve gotten away from in recent years. Poetry and psychotherapy (and psychoanalysis) have much in common. Both mediums are focused on words. Both seek to reveal the meaning behind words, the emotions of life that words convey. Both seek a kind of vigor, spontaneity, and sense of surprise. They both renew life.

There is a poem in this week’s edition of The New Yorker that strikes me as particularly appropriate. It is a poem by Seamus Heaney, the brilliant and gifted Irish poet who died this year. It is a poem about life, about noticing and appreciating the moments that make up a life. In the poem, the speaker is dancing with his young daughter. He is aware of time, of the limits of time (particularly his own) and the endless procession of time. This awareness only increases his appreciation of the moment that he is dancing.

As in all of Heaney’s work, the poem is also about words, about language. There is a dance happening inside the poem as reflected by the rhymes at the ends of each line. And there is the unexpected and sweet surprise of words, as in the word “earths” used as a verb and the word “palps” which is strange but very pleasurable to say. The poem, like the psychotherapy experience, captures a deep feeling and makes meaning for this life (this dance) on earth. And not surprising, the poem ends with silence (“silently”). Just as a psychotherapy session begins and ends in silence. Silence is key to what is spoken, what is known and not known.

Here is the poem by Seamus Heaney:

In Time

Energy, balance, outbreak;

Listening to Bach

I saw you years from now

(More years than I’ll be allowed)

Your toddler wobbles gone,

A sure and grown woman.

Your bare foot on the floor

Keeps me in step; the power

I first felt come up through

Our cement floor long ago

Palps your sole and heel

And earths you here for real.

An oratorio

Would be just the thing for you:

Energy, balance, outbreak

At play for their own sake

But for now we foot it lightly

In time, and silently.

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