Love Poem With Toast

December 30, 2015

We would like to thank Lynne Phillips for submitting this poem on the topic of aging.  It was composed by the American poet Miller Williams who shot to fame when he was asked to read his poem “Of History and Hope” at Clinton's second inauguration in 1997. 


In an interview for PBS (January 16, 1996), the poet had this interesting account of the best poetry:


“I like to think that the best poetry is or involves a contest between ordinary conversation and ritual. There is something about the best poem that wants to set it in the–in a pattern like a Gregorian Chant. And there is something about the best poetry that makes it want to seem like a cocktail party conversation. It’s partly in the tension between these two tendencies that a poem gets its energy and its life I think.”


This poem also captures, I think, the important contrast between what Jung called, in the previous post (The Rhizome and the Flower, Dec. 24, 2015), “futilities,” “all kinds of goals which are not of real importance,” and the “essential” which Williams may point to as the “love beyond this meat and bone.”


Love Poem With Toast

Miller Williams


Some of what we do, we do

to make things happen,

the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,

the car to start.


The rest of what we do, we do

trying to keep something from doing something,

the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,

the truth from getting out.


With yes and no like the poles of a battery

powering our passage through the days,

we move, as we call it, forward,

wanting to be wanted,

wanting not to lose the rain forest,

wanting the water to boil,

wanting not to have cancer,

wanting to be home by dark,

wanting not to run out of gas,


as each of us wants the other

watching at the end,

as both want not to leave the other alone,

as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,

we gaze across breakfast and pretend.


Some Jazz a While: Collected Poems. University of Illinois Press (1999), p. 262.


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