Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

BooksNovember 25, 2022

The Friday Poem: ‘Listen: is it love?’ by Erin Donohue

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

A new poem by Wellington poet and novelist Erin Donohue.

Listen: is it love?

When I am feeling the worst of it
when I am small and rootless and unarmed

my therapist tells me that right now
in this moment, I am my oldest wisest self

Your oldest, wisest self knows the truth, she says
You are the expert of your own experience so tell me

what part of you is hurting?
And how old is that part?

Maybe she is 16, hollow and dying
electric with the buzz of weight loss

Maybe she is nine, unable to stop hitting her
hands against the bookshelf until it feels just right

Or is she 12, feeling the small beginnings
of a smokey yawning sadness

She’ll ask me, can your oldest, wisest self see this?
See her? Why is she scared? Reach out to her

She is trying to protect you. No hurt anymore. Talk to her
What does she need? She is trying to tell you

Listen: is it love? Attention? Validation? Respect?
Does she need guidance and reassurance?

Belonging and belief? Does she need someone to listen?
Give her what she needs and thank her

Can you say, thank you for trying to protect me
I know you are doing your best. I can take it from here

I can handle things now. Say, trust me
I’ve got you. Tell her what year it is

Not 2012 or ‘05. Does she know you are an adult?
With a job and a degree and a husband and a cat

Tell her you pay rent and have insurance
Tell her you vote and got your license after those ten slow years

Tell her you can catch a bus and answer a phone call
Tell her you have good friends. That you love, urgently

and with ease. You have a whole wall in your house
filled with art. Tell her she was wrong:

you lived. Tell her you lived.
Despite it all, you lived.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed but will be open again soon.

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