“That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love… ”
It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me,
Up there, two thousand feet above
A New York street. We’re safe and free,
A little while, to live and love,
Imagining what might have been –
The phone-call from the blazing tower,
A last farewell on the machine,
While someone sleeps another hour,
Or worse, perhaps, to say goodbye
And listen to each other’s pain,
Send helpless love across the sky,
Knowing we’ll never meet again,
Or jump together, hand in hand,
To certain death. Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all there is.
This poem by Wendy Cope is one that she apparently wrote as a response to the atrocities of 9/11. I think it is a really special, beautiful poem and meditation on an unspeakably tragic event.
The poem expresses great sadness, but it is also triumphant; the conclusion of the poet’s musings is that “love is all, is all there is.” I love the inclusion of the quote from Emily Dickinson, as it reminds us that this is not a new revelation, but that the truth that “love is all” is something we have always known. Faced with inhuman acts of violence, we cannot help but feel our sense of love reinforced, because it is our natural reaction to such happenings to feel compassion, and the think about our own loved ones.
I love the way that Cope emphasises the idea of the mortality of each one of us in this poem. In the first stanza she talks about being “safe and free” as a survivor (“It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me”), but then she undercuts this feeling of being “Spared” with phrases such as “a little while” and “for now”; we are all mortal, she reminds us.
What is important in this poem is the love that triumphs over an act of evil. There is a sense of fervent admiration for those who have died, and who continued to love until the end (the “last farewell on the machine” and the “sending helpless love across the sky”, and even those who “Jump together… To certain death”). I also think the poem delivers a strong sense of the desire to make the most of life, particularly with the image of somebody who “sleeps another hour” and so misses a message of love…
I think this is such a touching poem; I hope you enjoy it!
Reviewed by Emily Ardagh