Disturb me, compel me. It is not true
That “no man is happy,” but that is not
The sense which guides you. If we are
Unfinished (we are, unless hope is a bad dream),
You are exact. You tug my sleeve
Before I speak, with a shadow’s friendship,
And I remember that we who move
Are moved by clouds that darken midnight.
Delmore Schwartz (1918-1966) epitomized the tortured artist. Brilliant, acclaimed, he was also an alcoholic, addicted to painkillers, and suffered from a variety of mental illnesses. According to the Academy of American Poets, The last years of his life Schwartz was a solitary, disheveled figure in New York. He drank frequently at the White Horse Tavern, and spent his time sitting in parks and collecting bits of work, quotes, and translations in his journal. He died penniless in a cheap Times Square hotel. I tried to find some connection between his tormented existence and soaring body of work but couldn’t. Then I read the last line of this poem. His life was painfully separate from his purpose; to move and be moved.