So Utterly Useless In Love – A Poem By Joanna Rosenfeld


The unspoken undercurrent
Of assumptions and submission, The unspoken undercurrent
Of fear, of lack, of scarcity, Of proof that I am not worthy of your love.
The unspoken voices that think they know That tell me they know:
What this silence means, What that stillness signifies,
What those words cover-up. What to do with a warning system
That comes from a war torn country, That is seeking land mines
And interpreting everything For the potential of destruction? What to do with MY warning system? So essential in the times when
Living with an angry lion in the house As a little cub. So essential for survival
With a choleric father With a love for the bottle,
And a mother shut down In grief. So essential for the sister
Looking out for her brother Who could die
(Snip your fingers) Just like that
As she was told. So essential for the granddaughter
Who stayed for weeks on end With a grandad who
(Whisper this) ‘has never been the same’ Since he came home from the prisoner of war
camp In 1949,
So late, And only one of the 5% who survived. So essential for the young woman
In a culture of objectification, of attack and grab and hurt. And so utterly useless in love. My system is not calibrated
For peace. It sees ghosts and bombs
Where there are space and flowers, It sees loneliness and hurt
Where there is truth and trust. It sees death and destruction
When there is tenderness and acceptance. How will you manage?
What else do you need to do? You ask
After 17 years of loving tenderly Of holding gently
Of talking and listening Of showing up.
What else can you do? You ask with ‘something’ in your voice.
I am not sure what. My system tells me tiredness
Tiredness of me My mess
My damage. Of this exhausting burden
That is my life. But I cannot
Trust the system. Because it wasn’t made
For peace. How much of this is mine?
How much of this is older? Part of the long line of pain
Inflicted to the little man, The quiet man,
The caring man and woman By these wars? I used to think
It’s in my bones. I used to think
They are made From the ashes of my family,
From the ones I did not know Who went up the chimneys
In black smoke, And from the ones
Who ended up Face down in the mud. I used to think
They are made From the tears
Of grieving mothers, From the mothers dying of the fevers,
From the mothers Losing man, home, children, family,
Country. From the survivors,
Clothing themselves In nothing but shame,
Shame to be German, Shame to have been in Germany,
Shame to have stood by, Shame to have gone along,
Shame to have done all that, Shame to have survived,
Shame to have not got over it, Shame to not be able to let it go. But now I know
It’s in my genes. Their pain is deeply buried
Here. It’s changed my senses,
Changed my heart, It’s changed my very cells. How do I live
With these deep wounds On top of all
That life has gifted to me? How do I set the system right,
To trust and peace and love? How do I stop the scan for mines,
The fear of war-torn limbs? I am familiar in the pain.
It is MY house of blackest mud, Of grief and shame and fear. You and I built our house
On solid ground Of rock and chalk and flint.
How can I hold that in my Bones, My body, mind and soul?
The softness of the chalk, The purity of it’s ancient past,
The hardened sharpness of the Flint, Unyielding and unshapely.
The rock that holds the core alright And gives structure to the whole. And yet our garden is full
Of dirt, covering rubble and rubbish. Am I like this, then?
Would I break the plough with Blocks of concrete and a broken chair? But will I hold the space for
Wildflowers And birds
And bees And sunshine
On your back?

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