On Learning There Is Such a Thing as Failure
by Maryanne Hannan

Everything makes more sense
why grownups bristle
how shadows have heft
why rivers hide their bottoms
how baptisms and birthday parties count

why my mother likes sad movies
why my uncle stays in his bedroom
why my grandfather leaves the table early
and my grandmother buys me fancy dresses

On learning there is such a thing as failure
I hear words in the voices around me
dismantle my private kingdom
I learn how not to breathe
and prepare to succeed

SOURCE: “On Learning There Is Such a Thing as Failure” first appeared in upstreet (2005).

PHOTOGRAPH: Schroon Lake, New York, Labor Day 1951 (at 3 3/4 years of age).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Ah, if everyone was as sensitive as you! There’s no girl who hasn’t gone through that. And it’s all so unimportant!” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina. But sometimes it is important, and many years are lost dreading the river’s bottom. This poem looks back at only the river’s flow.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maryanne Hannan has published poetry widely, including Rattle, Minnesota Review, Poet Lore and several anthologies. A former Latin teacher, she lives in upstate New York. Visit her at www.mhannan.com.