“Solitude” by Louise Gluck

It’s very dark today; through the rain,
the mountain isn’t visible. The only sound
is rain, driving life underground.
And with the rain, cold comes.
There will be no moon tonight, no stars.

The wind rose at night;
all morning it lashed against the wheat –
at noon it ended. But the storm went on,
soaking the dry fields, then flooding them –

The earth has vanished.
There’s nothing to see, only the rain

gleaming against the dark windows.
This is the resting place, where nothing moves –

Now we return to what we were,
animals living in darkness
without language or vision –

Nothing proves I’m alive.
There is only the rain, the rain is endless.

Clearly in these moments we’re faced with a similar bout of solitude, and for many this is not the kind of loneliness that breeds self-actualization or well-being, but rather a sort of pity and destitution.

Most likely my favorite poet was and is and will be Louise Gluck. She arrived in that formative moment, the changeover when a person realizes that poetry is not simply a task one does in school, but a piece of art that can actually do something, can do work in a person, and cause a bit of clarity or a sense of resonance.

Poetry now is either the consolation that this moment belongs in a string of moments, or that it is a hurtful reminder that all moments are tinged with suffering.

But then again, would you believe the person who told you exactly what poetry is?

That is what makes it so fantastic, and while occasionally the poem serves more for the writer than the reader, here I think we can all bring ourselves to this poem in this epochal moment and see that the “rain” could be a reductive symbol for any number of things. As easily as the rain diminishes our worldview and shrinks us into seeing only what is in front of us, so a global pandemic can reduce us to a default state.

Moments like the coronavirus are so large as to become mythological. It renders us victims of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth once more, unable to break out of the repetitive trials, the unprecedented separation we have from the being we used to be, and the idea that either we achieve nirvana or an enlightened state has yet to be determined.

The Earth has vanished/There is nothing to see, only rain

I wanted to buy a printer recently because we can no longer go to Fed Ex to print. So last night I dreamed of a printer which gave me beautifully inky black and white sheets.

I also dreamed that my grandmother got coronavirus and died alone in her retirement home.

Either of these dreams connotes the new and invisible change of everything that the coronavirus brings.

The biggest line to me is the one we are all desperately, whether as a business or an individual, trying to provide.

Nothing proves I am alive.

That is the central argument against solitude. The stoic laboring away at a masterpiece somewhere high up on a mountain can only stand being forgotten for so long. Esther Perel eloquently puts it when speaking of relationships: “Were we successful because we had a great idea? Or were we successful because we had each other?”

When the rain comes, it separates and blinds.

Now we return to what we were/animals living in darkness/without language or vision.

It may be tempting as introverted people to relish the oncoming fate of loneliness. But introversion is not the same as agoraphobia, and to conflate the two is to fail to see the mountain in the distance. We are nothing without each other.

Prove to the ones near you that you are alive.

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