Love After Love

Love After Love

By Derek Walcott

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread.
Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

view the whole poem here

This is one of the first poems that opened me to myself. I had played the recording many times in which the poet, David Whyte, speaks this poem by Derek Walcott before I truly heard it one day. I had to pause to catch my breath.

The stranger who has loved you all your life – suddenly I realized that I was indeed a stranger to myself, a stranger who had been present in my life all along.

Whom you ignored for another – small wonder I had become a stranger to myself, always looking outward for the ungraspable wisdom of others, turning away from my own uncertain knowing.

Who knows you by heart – the part of me who knows me as no one else ever possibly can, the way we know a pathway or a prayer or a song because we have repeated it until we know it ‘by heart’.

This poem, these particular lines, are an invitation to that deeper, wiser, intuitive part of ourselves, faithful even after a lifetime of being ignored. That self may have been left behind long ago but it cannot be extinguished, just forgotten. Forgotten until now, that moment when a spark catches and a small flame begins to burn. Then you look in your own mirror and begin to become acquainted.

How might this be true for you?

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