To hear the poet read “Melancolia,” click here or on the title. I have not been successful at fulfillment,
Although my being seems so full of promise
And I school myself against illusion
(Except for the old weakness–call it goodness).
How wearied out I get, too, from this trying
Not to mind not knowing after thinking.
It is a sort of curse, this nightly thinking
Going in a maze toward fulfillment
Until there comes a pleasure in mere trying–
Doubling back, confusion, blocked-off promise–
To reach the center, blooming in its goodness …
Aromatic rose, spurred by illusion.
As I near it, illusion in illusion
Curls and languishes like shapeless thinking.
There is never time to savor goodness
Or experience the dream’s fulfillment
Before morning, with its nightmare promise,
Dangles the old feint and lure of trying.
Is life, perhaps, the urge to quell the trying
It requires to live without illusion,
Knowing failure is the very promise
Made to regulate one’s errant thinking?
(There is no devil like delayed fulfillment
Though it seems prerequisite to goodness.)
Sometimes I try to give myself to goodness,
Nostalgically collecting into trying
Passion both in prospect and fulfillment
But logically postponed by an illusion
Unlike other longings. I start thinking …
Coming to your touch as just a promise.
How odd I can’t escape the need to promise
What I cannot give: effortless goodness
Generous with time–or give up thinking
Age is hurrying to mask this trying
With a fierce concupiscent illusion,
Or a mouth parodic with fulfillment.
Why try to live on promises of trying
To be good, if goodness is illusion
Like other kinds of thinking and fulfillment?
Yet you make a promise, murmuring fulfillment
That mimics goodness with a kind illusion
Thinking should not sadden us from trying.

Mary Kinzie is the author of Ghost Ship and The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose.