David Whyte
Irish Poetry

David Whyte on Love and Separation

If birth is a shock that whisks us out of another existence, a life that is whole and not lacking, then we can spend our whole lives in a state of longing for something we can’t quite remember, that we can’t quite articulate. In his poem about this kind of division and separation, ‘Cleave‘, David Whyte contemplates life’s stream of comings and goings and the perpetual painful losses: “We were born saying goodbye to what we love”. 



To hold together and to split apart
at one and the same time,
like the shock of being born,
breathing in this world
while lamenting for the one we’ve left.

No one needs to tell us
we are already on our onward way,
no one has to remind us
of our everyday and intimate
with disappearance.

We were born saying goodbye
to what we love,
we were born
in a beautiful reluctance
to be here,
not quite ready 
to breathe in this new world,
we are here and we are almost not,
we are present while still not
wanting to admit we have arrived.

Not quite arrived in our minds
yet always arriving in the body,
always growing older
while trying to grow younger,
always in the act

of catching up,
of saying hello
or saying goodbye
finding strangely
in each new and imagined future
the still-lived memory
of our previous life.


David Whyte
From: The Bell and the Blackbird


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