Bad Habits

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This entry on Dale's blog, about why it is that we buy books and don't read them and then go and buy more books, reminded me of this poem, which starts off being about that very same thing. It's another old poem, written and published in the early 90s.

And oh! Guess what! This is my 200th entry.

The story doesn't go any further than that.
OK it's not that the story doesn't go further,
it's that I'm afraid to admit
all that's left to me is hope
for a happy ending.
Hope confuses me always.

It's not that hope confuses me,
it's that it leads to other confusing things.
Hope in a right thing leads to dissatisfaction:
everyone else tries to convince you
your hope in a right thing
is really all wrong.

You can try to be strong if you like.
It doesn't matter:
one day when you're tired of sleeping,
bored by the weather and finished with your books,
your hope in a right thing will turn into
hope in a wrong thing.

It's not that hope in a right thing
turns into hope in a wrong thing,
it's that hope is a habit
as hard to break and useless
as remembering the phone number
of the house you lived in as a child,

it's not even that hope is a habit,
it's that hope is a garment
that fits you and fits you
until you awaken one morning
thinner and shorter
and suddenly dressed in despair.

6 Comments

Wow, I love this poem - the “it’s not” rhythm, creating constant turns in our minds, as the narrator builds an image, then breaks it, spinning us deeper inside.

And yes, this resonates with me:

“It's not that hope in a right thing
turns into hope in a wrong thing,
it's that hope is a habit
as hard to break and useless
as remembering the phone number
of the house you lived in as a child,”

Congrats on 200!

You just had to bring up National Poetry Month in some way again din't ya?

The poem was written and published by you? I loved it.

This is so funny! Standing in front of my main bookshelf and contemplating all the books I've purchased but will never read even if I stepped up my reading rate to a book every 1-2 weeks instead of 1-2 months, I daydream about keeping a decade supply of reading material on hand in case society breaks down and books are no longer published or available. After I read them, I imagine myself using them as barter with the neighbors to get more basic survival stuff that I haven't stockpiled...

Chris--when I went to mainland China to teach English, I took a BUNCH of books, and I couldn't believe how fast I got through them. One of them was the Norton Anthology of Modern literature, 1500 pages or so, and I still read every stinkin' word. I read all my books, I read all my roommates' books, and when I couldn't find any more books in English, I decided to go home a semester early.

Dale--yeah, I wrote the poem. I do that sometimes.

Frankengirl--the stanza you single out is about how I couldn't stop hoping that the man I loved--who I knew loved me very much too--would get over whatever weird problem he had, and marry me. Even though I KNEW that would never happen and probably SHOULDN'T happen, I couldn't stop hoping something would make it possible.

It tortured me for years. I never did manage to give up hope until he finally came out of the closet. I strongly suspected he was gay, but as long as he denied it, I kept hoping he WASN'T gay and that we could be together.

It sucked, you know? Hope is a complicated thing. It's hard to want what you should want or what is possible instead of just what you want.

Dear Holly,

You’re so right – hope is definitely a complicated thing! I was taught to have hope / faith, but when does our hope blind us?

And why, as you suggest, do we sometimes believe the power of our hope can change our reality?

On another note, I've recalled recently that you've written - should you find the right someone - you may still wish to live in two houses, side-by-side. Yes. That is how I feel, right now - ;)

Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Frankengirl asks, "I was taught to have hope / faith, but when does our hope blind us?"

Don't you think this is a problem women face all the time? One of the main things I admire about Jane Eyre is that she is NOT blinded by hope; she doesn't hold out faith that Rochester will love her as she deserves and marry her SOME DAY if she becomes his mistress; she sacrifices hope and stays true to the harsh reality of her situation, and I think this is part of why it's so rewarding that she ends up with Rochester after all.

Women are taught, in ways that men are not, to have hope and faith that LOVE WILL CONQUER ALL. Wait for Prince Charming, because when he comes along, everything will be all right. But of course that is so very rarely the case--and the cost of exercising that hope is often extremely high.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on April 28, 2006 12:16 AM.

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