‘Agony’: a word with three syllables. The same number as ‘contentment.’
‘Derailleur’ has three syllables as well, as in the device on a bicycle,
And not someone or something that derails.
Agony, though, that’ll derail you. Agony is the great derailer.
However well you detail your agony,
Whether you analyze it precisely with scientific language
Or you adorn it poetically with lyrical verse,
The agony itself does not go away. Agony is patient, and agony is not kind,
And once it lodges in the space between heart and gut,
The agony will remain there, whether you are aware of it or not.
You do not need to be agonizing over something in particular
In order to feel it.
The love of your life does not need to leave you
In order to feel it.
You do not need to become an alcoholic, lose your job,
Have your wife cheat on you, and be convicted of a felony
In order to feel it, though all that certainly helps.
But you can know agony without any of these things occurring.
Agony can drill into your skull when you have a secure job and a loving wife,
And you step outside the oppressing house to cry out to the 3 a.m. silence,
‘Is a job and a wife all I am good for?
Is there not something else, more exceptional, that I was made to do?’
Agony can suffocate you when you are recognized
For your exceptional contributions to society,
And you mutter in the misery of your celebrity,
‘To be seen and recognized: No imaginable suffering is more worthy of dread.
Fleet-footed dancers of fate: Hand back to me my anonymity.’
Agony can pierce you when you are alone, an anonymous man in the wilderness
Overwhelmed by the beauty of a desert sunrise, and even in your awe the agony
Does not leave you but speaks to you with a voice cruel in its soundless torment,
‘Would you not be still more filled with awe, that much closer
To being entirely at peace with yourself and the world,
If you were seeing this beauty with a lover, with one who sees you?’
To feel agony is to feel utterly incomplete, fractured in some way
Or in more ways than it is possible to comprehend all at once,
And to be unable to accept this state.
Agony is the unrelenting want, need, for things to be different,
The need to change what you cannot bear to feel,
And what you feel you have no power to change.
Striving to write the truth means all too often hearing the sobs
And feeling the throbs of an agonized heart,
And writing with the feeling.
In just this way I wrote this poem.

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