but not somehow

The poem I'm sharing by Randall Jarrell has been with me for years. It was with me when I was seventeen living in the boonies of Stockton, stuck in my room, typing on my electric typewriter and feeling so unbelievably alone. I had  the poem in print and on audio. I would listen to the audio version a lot. I loved his voice and how he read his work, knowing each word so well both inside and out. 

It made me feel better. It made me feel worse. It made me realize I hurt more than I ever knew. I would read it fast and slow, I would read it dark and low. And it was with me. And that meant something because so little was with me in my teen years (really almost nothing).

This poem was with me when I met Ronald. I kept telling him about it, about the Eland, and we listened to it together for the first time in a Carl's Jr. parking lot. 

It was with me when I first started noticing something was wrong with me. Deep inside, something was off, something was broken. I would listen to it at work as I sorted manuals in a conference room. And I felt it, I felt the words too. I started to know them inside and out. And I knew (and know) exactly what it means. Maybe not what it was supposed to mean, but I know what it means to me.

When you read the poem read it however you want. I think the eland in the poem represents something different to each person. To me it represents depression and all that is broken inside me.

Love, C

p.s. I never thought I would share some of these pictures. They are not flattering but they are a representation of my last few months.

Seele im Raum

It sat between my husband and my children.   
A place was set for it—a plate of greens.   
It had been there: I had seen it
But not somehow—but this was like a dream—
Not seen it so that I knew I saw it.
It was as if I could not know I saw it
Because I had never once in all my life
Not seen it. It was an eland.
An eland! That is why the children
Would ask my husband, for a joke, at Christmas:   
“Father, is it Donner?” He would say, “No, Blitzen.”   
It had been there always. Now we put silver   
At its place at meals, fed it the same food   
We ourselves ate, and said nothing. Many times   
When it breathed heavily (when it had tried   
A long useless time to speak) and reached to me   
So that I touched it—of a different size   
And order of being, like the live hard side   
Of a horse’s neck when you pat the horse—
And looked with its great melting tearless eyes   
Fringed with a few coarse wire-like lashes   
Into my eyes, and whispered to me
So that my eyes turned backward in their sockets   
And they said nothing—
                                 many times   
I have known, when they said nothing,   
That it did not exist. If they had heard
They could not have been silent. And yet they heard;   
Heard many times what I have spoken
When it could no longer speak, but only breathe—
When I could no longer speak, but only breathe.   

And, after some years, the others came
And took it from me—it was ill, they told me—
And cured it, they wrote me: my whole city
Sent me cards lilac-branches, mourning
As I had mourned—
                         and I was standing
By a grave in flowers, by dyed rolls of turf,
And a canvas marquee the last brown of earth.   

It is over.         
It is over so long that I begin to think
That it did not exist, that I have never—
And my son says, one morning, from the paper:
“An eland. Look, an eland!”   
                                        —It was so.

Today, in a German dictionary, I saw elend
And the heart in my breast turned over, it was—

It was a word one translates wretched.

It is as if someone remembered saying:
“This is an antimacassar that I grew from seed,”
And this were true.   
                                   And, truly,
One could not wish for anything more strange—
For anything more. And yet it wasn’t interesting .  .  .
—It was worse than impossible, it was a joke.

And yet when it was, I was—
Even to think that I once thought
That I could see it to feel the sweat
Like needles at my hair-roots, I am blind

—It was not even a joke, not even a joke.
Yet how can I believe it? Or believe that I
Owned it, a husband, children? Is my voice the voice
Of that skin of being—of what owns, is owned
In honor or dishonor, that is borne and bears—
Or of that raw thing, the being inside it   
That has neither a wife, a husband, nor a child
But goes at last as naked from this world   
As it was born into it—

And the eland comes and grazes on its grave.   

                                                     This is senseless?
Shall I make sense or shall I tell the truth?
Choose either—I cannot do both.

I tell myself that. And yet it is not so,   
And what I say afterwards will not be so:   
To be at all is to be wrong.
                                                 Being is being old
And saying, almost comfortably, across a table   
             from what I don’t know—
                                                           in a voice
Rich with a kind of longing satisfaction:   
“To own an eland! That’s what I call life!”


  1. I really admire your honesty - it's not easy to talk about the bad along with the good especially in an environment of perfect internet lives. Thanks for sharing the poem, btw!

    1. Thanks Caitlin, it's weird because I had the wonkiest childhood and never was able to talk about how I felt and/or didn't even know how I felt. Now that I am out of that situation I am a super open person and I can't help but share how I am feeling.

      I also know that if it helps one person it is worth whatever negative it may cause me.

      So glad to hear from you, you are a doll!

      xx, C

  2. Thank you for both the poem and the photos.

    1. You're welcome sweet! Glad to hear from you!

      Love, C

  3. Thanks Carmen! You are so sweet and I'm glad you enjoyed the poem!

    love, C


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