Poem of the Day: ‘The Art of Losing’

The last days of August. Yesterday, I felt a strange urge to write a poem, something about the days that have gone so swiftly by, to sift through my memories, and decide what I should hold and let go of. I didn’t know what exactly I should write, though there were inklings of a thought here and there. I did the customary thing when I encounter writers’ block, which is to head out to a quiet place to give my mind space. So I went out for walk, and I went to the town library, where I randomly picked out a book. The title was Contemporary American Poetry. It was a rather dated anthology but it had Elizabeth Bishop, among other poets. And lo and behold, it had Bishop’s famous poem One Art, whose opening line – “The art of losing isn’t hard to master” immediately jolted me into writing mode. Suddenly, the lines came, about how we must not only live the moments as we are constantly reminded, but also die to some – moments that are better forgotten and forgiven, in order to feel lighter and more alive to what is present and what is to come. It was surreal, my trip to the library. But it happens sometimes and it is the magic that keeps all poets alive to their art. Here is the poem, The Art of Losing (no prize for guessing what inspired the title!)


Late August –
the leaves are turning,
and flowers pine for October.
These are moments to live for,
and I bury some and cast some to  
the wind: the days when all breathing
added up to nothing, when I went home
and no one’s waiting, when the world
became a forest of stones, and the sun
didn’t rise and the moon didn’t shine.
Let me cry for these moments; let me
die to them one by one. Then, I’ll feel
alive, grateful to see the leaves turn,
the flowers pine, for the doors closed,
and the many more opening.

© Wallace Fong, August 2023

Leave a Reply