The Beauty of Hopelessness by Rebecca del Rio

You are hanging from a branch

by your teeth. No way to save yourself

or others who hang, too. Arms that cannot reach

any branch, legs stretch but

cannot find the smooth safe trunk.

All around, your loved ones, friends, strangers hang–teeth clamp bony twigs

that suspend necessary hopes

and plans.

It is hopeless. No rescue will arrive. So you relax, taste the clean, unfamiliar

tang of sap, feel the forgiving wind against

your waving arms, arms

that swim through emptiness.

Without hope, life is

focused, fluid, a ledge

of fragile earth suspended

over the ocean of unknowing, the end

of the branch. Life is

the glorious moment

before the fall when all

plans are abandoned, the love you give

as you hang, loving

those who hang with you.

The Beauty of Hopelessness

I’ve debated many choices this week, feeling the ripple effects of last week’s trauma which I cannot ignore, yet wanting as always to offer some of the beauty that is inherent in this life. I was intrigued of course by the paradox in this title – when have I ever heard those two concepts paired? Trust a poet to find a way.

As she opens with the image of hanging from a branch by your teeth, I immediately recalled the expression “hanging on by the skin of my teeth”, that tenuous hold on life that we have all experienced at some time. No way to save yourself but look, you are not alone, you are surrounded by loved ones, friends, strangers, hopes and plans suspended together.

Since the situation is hopeless and no rescue available, you relax, stop struggling, feel the forgiving wind against / your waving arms. Here in this place of no hope she tells us life is / focused, fluid, a ledge / of fragile earth suspended / over the ocean of unknowing. It is the glorious moment / before the fall when all / plans are abandoned. What I hear is that we meet that place of uncertainty, unknowing, which is out of our control and in that place what we have is the choice to give our love, to love all those who also hang by their teeth.

And by the end, I can see how there is beauty in hopelessness, room for more compassion and kindness when we stop hoping and wishing for things to be other than they are. May you know beauty in whatever state you find yourself at the start of this never-before year.


10 thoughts on “The Beauty of Hopelessness by Rebecca del Rio

  1. Oh my goodness, Jan. The poem stuns with its beauty. So does your careful unfolding of its wisdom. You remind me that others are always there, with us, in our pain, and that love is the liberating response. Thank you! xoxoxo

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  2. Dear Jan, this poem stirs up something very contrary to the rah-rah, carry on, stiff upper lip perspective that permeates so much of our modern culture. Suck it up? No, how about spitting it out and looking closely at what is coming up from the deepest places inside us? And I love how the poet puts love at the centre of it all. Thanks for choosing this poem at this time.

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  3. Jan, I am new to your blog, and this poem, the beauty of hopelessness, has so perfectly expressed what I was trying to say the other day, hanging at the end of my branch. There is some kind of hope up to the very end, not just for ourselves and the ones hanging with us, but for ourselves when we are left behind and the ones we leave behind.

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