“Unsaid” by Dana Gioia



So much of what we live goes on inside–
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead.

I love this six line poem. Dana Gioia’s work is always impeccably and meticulously crafted. The first five lines are fairly regular iambic pentameter and the final line gallops off with dactyls, leaving “dead” as the final emphasized syllable. “Dead” appears here as a kind of formal bullet–swift, sharp, and solitary. It also underscores the use of plosives in the language.

Anyone who dwells inside (I think I’m inadvertantly cribbing from Hopkins here) will understand this poem immediately and cherish it for its understanding of the “unsaid,” unarticulated emotions.

This poem does an enormous amount of work in six lines. It sums up, I think, the essence of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

You don’t need to speak up for things to be real. Nor is it foolish to speak to the dead. It’s one of the best ways of figuring things out.

Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

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