What drives my discontent?

Asked by: WW, USA

Answered by: Kazim Ali

Dear Poetry Clinic

Some days I feel rather dissatisfied with life. I am not unhappy; I am not
happy. I feel tired. Each day I wander to work and wonder to myself why life feels so
burdensome. Is life difficult? Am I difficult? What drives my discontent?


Dear WW,
I lost my mother this past year. I wandered through many days not knowing why life
was important, why I myself was alive when she wasn’t. I know that there are many
more ordinary pains than this one, but it did make me think more about how we are
the architects of our own lives. In this poem by Jane Hirshfield, the poet uses a
metaphor of preparing a meal to talk about the different ways we make our own life
out of small pleasures. Also for me, importantly, the poem gives you a directive—like
Rilke’s “you must change your life”—


Da Capo
Take the used-up heart like a pebble
and throw it far out.
Soon there is nothing left.
Soon the last ripple exhausts itself
in the weeds.
Returning home, slice carrots, onions, celery.
Glaze them in oil before adding
the lentils, water, and herbs.
Then the roasted chestnuts, a little pepper, the salt.
Finish with goat cheese and parsley. Eat.
You may do this, I tell you, it is permitted.
Begin again the story of your life.

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