Lost Things


So I lost a poem the other day, because I typed it in a Word document, edited it all nice and pretty, and then, apparently, erased it. Somewhere in the universe of Other Socks, it still exists in a Platonic state, but I shall never see it again. Naturally, thinking about lost things, lost opportunities, my roommate’s lost keys, etc., made me think of Elizabeth Bishop’s famous villanelle, “One Art,” which made Bishop the first Master of Disaster.

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. Source: The Complete Poems 1926-1979 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983).

One comment on “Lost Things

  1. jelizabeth says:

    There was a poem I loved when first studying poetry in, I think, 4th grade in Miss Henderson’s class. We were reading a collection of children’s poetry, and in one of them the speaker was describing having written a poem while shaving, then forgotten to write it down, and then likens it to his whiskers getting washed down the drain.

    At the time, it was one of the most profound things I had ever read, and so sad to me.

    But now I know you could write into the same idea and feeling again, although of course it would be a different poem.

    Liked by 1 person

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