Melancholy Hyperbole

Poetry about longing.

Litany of Want

I want, Rumi says. Like him, I also want
a troublemaker for a lover, to be where
her bare feet walk. But more than that,
I want each morning chilly as I rise into it.
Ablutions hot across my shoulders.
For company while I write, an old dog,
head on his paws and happy with scratches
behind the ears. There are so many things
I want. A breeze in the walnut trees
and a cacophony of light, a salamander
hiding in a heap of rubbish and leaves,
squirrels raiding a bird feeder. Naturally
I want Rumi himself, or Rilke, a paperback
easing into my jacket pocket. I want to be
four years old again, feel my father’s hands
large around my ribs as he lifts me
to the monkey bars saying Hold on,
I’m letting go, now swing to the next one.

Could time only spider itself like lightning
so I’m all ages at once? Would I suffer
a pang of deep longing for my first lover
as we’re locked? And just to understand
my soul in the same instant it baffles me:
this moment and that one, forever,
I want them. But most of all, to know
why I want. Somewhere far away someone
is dying of want, nothing more than want,
and I’m not that dying person. So where
did I get such a sudden, strong want to live?
I’m passing a playground where children
squeal and chase each other down a slide.
Again and again. They want nothing more,
nothing but time. And I also, time:
let me go to them, brimful of simple wants
taken for whatever they’re worth. Whispers.
This isn’t forever. Hold on, I’m letting go.

jlJoshua Lavender grew up in rural south Georgia, and many of his poems harp on that place. Most recently, they have appeared in Free State Review, Town Creek Poetry, and Stone, River, Sky, an anthology of Georgia poems from Negative Capability Press. Joshua studied English literature at Georgia College & State University, then matriculated in the M.F.A. program in poetry at the University of Maryland. You can find his poems online at


Categories: Poetry

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1 reply

  1. Nice. I like the simple clear, everydayness yet how it really gets to some stirrings about wanting/clinging and impermanence. Nice.

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