You see the foreshadowing. You knew from the very beginning, from the moment you plucked it off the bookshelf, or from the second you clicked into the first chapter, that it’s a story with a bad ending. But you chose to read it. You keep waiting to get hurt, asking to be broken. Maybe you’re so drawn to tragedies because you are one in the making too.
In this article, you’ll find a handful of shattered hearts. Compared to prose, poetry conveys more in a faster glimpse. An entire tragic arc exists without world-building or slow burn, but in just a few lines. Here are five.
(Alternatively, you could treat this like a “choose a quote and get a tragedy” game, except there’s only two options because no one told you life is going to be this way.)
1. “I belonged to you”
Unrequited and one-sided romance. A timeless classic. 2020 Literature Nobel Prize winner Louise Glück writes that “even before you touched me, I belonged to you; all you had to do was look at me.”
As a reader, you might not have experienced all the extremities in life, maybe not a death, an assault, a breakup (to those who have, I’m sorry), but if you’re human with romantic and sexual desires, chances are you know what unreciprocated emotions feel like. You assert yourself in the narrator’s body because just from reading the few words your mind goes back to that one person you promised yourself to not think about anymore.
Liking someone who doesn’t feel the same way for you -- regardless if it was only a month-long crush, or if you’re a Main Character and you’ve liked that one person your whole life -- is harsh in nature, because you never gain closure. It’s like a permanently open wound. You can fall for new people and get into relationships and get married and have kids but that one god-forsaken name will haunt you. Or worse -- you never get over them, and there hasn’t been and will not be someone else. You embody the quote “I choose to love you in silence… for in silence I find no rejection.” (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi) Seeing a narrator succumb to this fate is frustrating enough, but knowing that you were, or are, the same way hurts beyond words.
A great majority of poems deal with grievous romance -- “The centre of every poem is this: I have loved you. I have had to deal with that.” (Salma Deera, Letters From Medea)
2. “You could start again”
If there is something worse than unrequited feelings, it’s the false hope that they’re not unrequited, or the false hope of anything, really. “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” Vincent van Gogh has said. Like him, you’re an artist because you want to save everything, because you believe that there is beauty in everything, and with that beauty, comes an inevitable sense of hope. Even if you claim to be a realist who expects the worst outcomes, you can’t help but wish to be proven wrong. You’re like a child who, after watching Toy Story for the first time, yells loudly as you step out of your room “I’m leaving!” while hiding behind the doorframe to see if your toys would come to life. If you’ve made it this far down this article, you most likely self-deprecate as a habit, telling everyone around you that there is no hope in your life; but deep down you’re waiting for the universe to shout back at you, telling you that you will find happiness one day.
And so you wait, and wait, and wait. “Walking home for a moment you almost believe you could start again. And an intense love rushes to your heart, and hope. It's unendurable, unendurable.” (Franz Wright) The saddest part is that after you’re let down each time, you don’t tell anyone about it. What is there to say? You weren’t supposed to be hopeful to begin with. The phrase “false hope” in itself tells you that the hope is false. It has not and will not save you. Yet, you gamble on your emotions because it’s the one thing you can’t lose. It’s also the one thing you sometimes wish you had lost.
If there is ever a silver lining for false hope, it’s what author Joyce Carol Oates has told us -- “If memory didn't blur you wouldn't have the fool's courage to do things again, again, again, that tear you apart.”
But then again, the idea of trying again and again, hoping for a different outcome, is what many define as insanity, and a tragedy in itself, too.
The list is to be continued next week. (Not because whoever is writing this feels like their life is a tragedy and cannot keep writing today without feeling like dying.)
The 2am writer that lives in the mind of sixteen-year-old Yun-Fei Wang has been taking over her sanity for a few years now, tearing her lifeline down, yet building up an escapism in the same breath. Find her in the evanescence of black-inked words, or at @rainofelsewhere on Instagram.