Eating Poetry (XXVI) – “Whole”

Does serendipity tell us anything about the world? I suppose that question matters if one is seeking, like a physicist, to understand the world as something separate and independent of those who live in it. In that case we can make various claims, including that serendipity is only the happier among coincidences. If what concerns us, rather, about those who live in the world, is the nature of the way they live in it – or as it says in the banner above, of this sad red earth, how we lived on it – then serendipity does not speak to us so much about the world in itself as much as it does about how we make meaning of the world for ourselves. As Wallace Stevens wrote, “Things as they are/ Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

This poem by Andrea Cohen appears in the current issue of The Atlantic. If you’re a reader of this blog, then you know it speaks to matters in my life now.


By Andrea Cohen

Whole industries have sprung
from nothing, from someone
broken, crying: make me whole.

My brother, having broken
a green banana in half, held
the two snapped bits

up to my mother, who held
me in 1962 in the produce
section of the A&P, and holding

me (as yet unbroken), strolled, if
briefly, from my brother, pretending
not to know him, knowing his

inmost desire to be reunited
with a time before he knew me.
The cry insists: make me whole, as

if, made, we could be remade,
as if whole were a place
to point the golden Buick toward,

as if its station did not contain
chiefly the hole, the central O
of loss and going on.


Andrea Cohen’s third collection, Kentucky Derby, was published this year. She directs the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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