Susan Barba – How Should We Live Our Lives?

“Only the sea
Is free of such calculations.”
Susan Barba

Declared ‘a poem worth framing’ by one reviewer, Susan Barba’s How Should We Live Our Lives? dips into a stream of questions and musings reminiscent in style of Mary Oliver’s simple and probing verse. She starts with love and trepidation and ends with an all-subsuming sea that contains motherhood, memory and consciousness too. Susan Barba is an American poet and an editor at the New York Review of Books. This poem is featured in her first collection, Fair Sun.


How Should We Live Our Lives?

With love
and trepidation
sign our letters?

Conceive a child only
after much forethought
or none at all?

Follow the dialectical
heart to world’s end
and feel it

tighten, a muscle,
to fill again,
unfettered? My daughter,

as you grow up I
will grow old,
a fact that shocks

you, even at age three.
Love has no part in this.
Only the sea

is free of such calculations,
and sometimes a person
too, running

into the sea in late summer when
the water remembers just barely
what it was to be cold.


Susan Barba
From: Fair Sun

Leave a Reply