Loneliness — What a Character!

This week’s poem is about loneliness.  It was the result of an exercise that Dorianne Laux assigned in a poetry workshop.  It was based on a Stephen Dunn poem called Tenderness and we were supposed to write a poem based on an abstract emotion.  I chose loneliness and turned it into a character, a feeling personified. It originally appeared in the Laurel Review. I hope you enjoy it.


It’s fashioned of fire or charcoal.
It always thrives in the dark,
but it also favors blank afternoons,
old calendars,
the works of failed clocks.
It has a soul, a cock-eyed walk,
a special place it likes to
settle into,
somewhere between
the socks and the boxers, the job
and the junk mail,
the grasping heart
and the groin.

Is it distracted by money? No,
and it’s not derailed by fame.
Passion is no protection:
lovers know it by five or six names.
Experts say
you can spot it by color. One claims
it’s the yellow of acid–
another the blue
of spilled ink.

If you try to escape it, it just follows along
like a poet
who is cobbling a language
from what’s left of the human heart.

Loneliness swears
it has something to tell you, a secret
it longs to share.  It’s crying out
for you on the emergency band.
scratching your name on the pawnshop door.

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11 Responses to Loneliness — What a Character!

  1. brudberg says:

    I liked the poem, I should not have read the introduction first though. It reads like a riddle, and I like that, a poem should have suspension. Maybe you should move the introductory text to the end for even better impression of the poem. And I love the end line “scratching your name on the pawnshop door”

  2. brian miller says:

    nice…i like where you have it settle, bodily and outward….but also that lovers know it by 5 or 6 names…because sex def does not cure the loneliness…at least not for long….it swears it has a secret to tell is ominously true as well…nice take…

  3. Chazinator says:

    This has such an authentic ring to it, not only in its description but the depth of the words as they make their way from the eye to the heart. Your images really capture the way loneliness infiltrates all human hearts, leaving none bereft of its presence. I have been alone for extended stretches in my life, and it is a soul-eating experience that can leave you hollow. Your poem is a welcome acknowledgment of where it fits and often overwhelms so many lives.

  4. “but it also favors blank afternoons,
    old calendars,
    the works of failed clocks.” oh you’ve captured the flavor so well.

  5. I often enjoy personification poems and this one really hit the spot for me, with so many telling images, right down to the pawn shop door.

  6. ManicDdaily says:

    This is a wonderful poem – it has a great cadence and then all the particular personificating detail is just terrific. k.

  7. Mary says:

    Wow, this is wonderful. I have known loneliness, and you got inside of it and wrote it as it is from its various facets. I loved the intensity, the realism, the subject which is NOT easy to write about. Bravo.

  8. Great personification of loneliness ~ I like the colour, and that last stanza is a strong close ~

  9. hiroshimem says:

    You got me at this: “but it also favors blank afternoons, / old calendars, / the works of failed clocks”, and I was drowned in. Beautiful words, very meaningful to me. I’ll share it 😉

  10. Lindy Lee says:

    Good, better, excellent; last line hits hard & deep…

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