We never understand how little we need in this world until we know the loss of it.

One Art  –  Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


Profound feelings of loss are experienced everyday, to an extent that once you get used to it, it doesn’t matter anymore what you have lost.  I have always loved this poem for the sense in which it portrays loss and dealing with it. It starts out with making it a practice to lose small things and accepting their loss, be it keys or an hour spent unwisely. Then it moves on to bigger things, names, places and eventually cities, rivers, a continent. It’s built up to show that nothing is hard to lose, whether big or small, till it comes to ‘Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love’ portraying that losing this person was or is still greater than having lost those cities and rivers. But then it shows defiance in accepting that it was difficult, and the end feels like the poet was almost forcing herself to believe that the loss wasn’t a disaster. Like putting it in writing would change how she feels or convince herself to feel that the art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Losing is really not a hard art to master, it does however require and demand great patience and practice over time. How many things have we lost in the past and will continue to lose? Too many to count… Yet why is it that we place more importance to having lost the people in our lives, the times we wish we had said something and now the moment cannot be brought back, over more practical things like keys or shoes or a file containing important papers? Aren’t those a lot harder to replace? If not harder, merely inconvenient? When has a person been of a practical value to us? Apart from the ones we perhaps work with, or employ, or are employed by? Is losing a partner harder than losing your passport? Is losing your friend harder than having lost the only set of keys you own for your car? Won’t life still go on, albeit not the same, having lost someone? Not to death, but just lost them from the daily interactions they had in your life. I agree, losing the people or moments or time is an emotional loss more than a physical loss. Emotional wounds are always harder to accept, to deal with and to move on from.

Like I said earlier, losing is a such a profound feeling that no matter how much you have lost and will continue to lose, even if you are used to it, it will still hurt, perhaps more each time. We convince ourselves that it wasn’t so bad to have lost it, yet we know we are only fooling ourselves and no one else. We put on that brave, smiling face for the world to see, and only we know that the reason for those sparkling eyes when we smile just so are the tears we fight back.


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