I first came across this poem in an anthology – it is on an English GCSE specification, though I’ve never read or studied it – when I was looking for something for a lesson, I’ve forgotten what. It resonated with me immediately, because there’s something so powerful about the sentiment of having loved and lost, and coming to the realisation that in fact the most important thing is to be happy and comfortable with yourself.
Although in some ways I think I’m probably the same as when I was very little, in many, many ways I am completely different. Every time I realise that there is a time of reflection and looking at myself, accepting who I am and how I have become this way. Whatever has prompted the recognition, which cane sometimes be as powerful as the loss of a loved one or as simple as realising you’ve just done something without thinking about it that only a short time ago would have been imaginable, there’s the bittersweet feeling of thinking that you’ve changed so much, and getting to know the person you have become without realising it.
I love the lines “You will love again the stranger who was your self./Give wine. Give bread.Give back your heart/to itself, to the stranger who has loved you” for this reason – I think it signifies the idea that you should always take the time to genuinely know yourself and celebrate who you had.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.