Rachel Hadas: “Love and Dread”


Love and Dread

A desiccated daffodil.
A pigeon cooing on the sill.
The old cat lives on love and water.
Your mother’s balanced by your daughter:
one faces death, one will give birth.
The fulcrum is our life on earth,
beginning, ending in a bed.
We have to marry love and dread.
Dark clouds are roiling in the sky.
The daily drumbeat of the lie,
steady—no, crescendoing.
This premature deceptive spring,
forsythia’s in bloom already.
The challenge: balance. Keep it steady,
now sniffing daffodils’ aroma,
now Googling a rare sarcoma.
The ghost cat’s weightless on my lap.
My mother’s ghost floats through my nap,
as, dearest heart, we lie in bed.
Oh, we must marry love and dread:
must shield our senses from the glare
and clamor of chaos everywhere.
Life bestows gifts past expectation.
It’s time to plan a celebration:
dance at the wedding, drink and sing,
certain that summer follows spring,
that new life blossoms from the past.
The baby is the youngest guest.
But just how long can we depend
on a recurrence without end?
Everything changes, even change.
The tapestry of seasons strange-
ly stirs in an uneasy wind
that teases dreamlike through the mind.
I reach for you across the bed.
Oh, how to marry love and dread?


Published in the print edition of the November 18, 2019 issue of The New Yorker and online on November 11, 2019.

Listen to the poet reading “Love and Dread” here.


Rachel Hadas earned an undergraduate degree in classics at Harvard, an MA in poetry at Johns Hopkins, and a PhD in comparative literature at Princeton. Her poetry has been included in Best American Poetry (1996), and her book Halfway Down the Hall: New & Selected Poems (1998) was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Recent books include Poems for Camilla (Measure Press 2018), available for order here, Questions in the Vestibule (Northwestern 2016), available for order here, and Talking to the Dead (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing 2015).

Hadas has published several books of translation, and her essays are collected in Form, Cycle, Infinity: Landscape Imagery in the Poetry of Robert Frost & George Seferis (1985), Merrill, Cavafy, Poems, and Dreams (2001), and Classics (2007). She also edited Unending Dialogue: Voices from an AIDS Poetry Workshop (1991) and coedited The Greek Poets: From Homer to Present (2009). Hadas has received several awards and recognitions, including a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, two Ingram Merrill Foundation grants, the O. B. Hardison Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She was a Director’s Fellow at the Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library and has taught at Columbia, Princeton, and Rutgers, and at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and West Chester Poetry Conference. Author Photo Credit: Shalom Gorewitz, taken in James Merrill’s house in Stonington, Connecticut. For more information, visit her website. [Source here]


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