Personal Poems

Mourning is a doorway back into daylight

Following is a song I wrote about 15 years ago. I thought I knew what it meant when I first wrote it, then I discovered a new meaning about seven years ago. I’ve discovered a more profound meaning, and it probably had this meaning all along. Before I explain, here are the words.

How Long Must You Cry

How long must you cry before you wonder why your life’s filled with pain? How long must you cry?

How long must you weep, crying yourself to sleep? Tear-stained memory. How long must you weep?

I know why you cry. I know why you cry. It’s for me. It’s for me. It’s for me. You cry for me.

How deep must you age before you turn the page? Gone is yesterday. How deep must you age?

How wise must you grow before you will know. I’m beyond your reach. How wise must you grow?

I know why you cry. I know why you cry. It’s for me. It’s for me. It’s for me. You cry for me.

When I first wrote this, this was kind of a bitter warning to someone who foolishly spurned my offer of friendship. I didn’t take the song very seriously and thought of it as “you don’t know what you’re missing”. The language is kind of extreme for the actual situation, but it’s stylized.

Years later, I discovered that instead of it being me speaking to someone else, it was someone I’d lost speaking to me. I imagined my father asking me how long I was going to feel sad about him dying. I took it as a statement to myself to suck it up, to repress the bad feelings.

Today, I started thinking of this song as an ideal version of myself, a version of myself who I dreamed I’d be as a child, speaking to myself as I really am. And I’m curious: when will I give up comparing myself to that unattainable ideal? When will I cease entertaining the idea of having a chance to replay the past?

So in this sense, I’m not attacking myself for feeling sad. There’s a version of me that could have been. There were decisions I made that got me where I am, and there were circumstances beyond my control that probably had a greater influence. It’s legitimate to mourn the loss of what could have been. The mourning is a doorway back into daylight. So, I’m pleased to find the song is not a bitter rant, nor a vigorous self-attack. It’s simply a question about when the truth will be accepted.