Four Pieces After Hadewijch in the Penguin Book of Women Poets

by Peter Riley

Peter Riley


pushes in on me:
I’m too wide!
I’m too wide!

I grasped
at the unformed
in eternity

and caught it,
and it cast me
beyond width.

Now, everywhere else,
the self is too thin.
If you’d been there too
you’d know what I’m talking about.


Having sung love
doesn’t stop the hurt
for love’s duress is tight and strong,
I am an object inside it,
xxxxxa pain in the body of love –
so tightly bound in,
how can you talk of restraint?


So as love allows it
I pity my heartpangs
and grow deaf to her demand
while my claims are nothing to her force.
So as the dying swan
first sings and then bows out,
what love asks of me now
let me in such custom complete.


Had I known how far I could fall
I would have concentrated on rising
and if I had donated myself
entirely to love I would have had
proper return from my expense,
an agreement between living and love.
xxxxThen I’d inhabit upperness
xxxxand all the things my lower
xxxxacts reveal the lack of.
xxxxThis is the question that arises.

2018, Collected Poems

Last updated July 20, 2021