Rachel Wetzsteon

Surprisingly little info about her and her life on the internet. A New York poet. Born in 1967. And (what matters) author of this: At the Zen Mountain Monastery  

by Rachel Wetzsteon 


A double line of meditators sits

on mats, each one a human triangle.

Evacuate your mind of clutter now.

I do my best, squeezing the static and

the agony into a straight flat line,

but soon it soars and dips until my mind’s

activity looks (you can take the girl…)

uncannily like the Manhattan skyline.

Observe your thoughts, then gently let them go.

I’m watching them all right, unruly dots

I not only can’t part from but can’t help

transforming into restless bodies — they’re

no sooner being thought than sprouting limbs,

no longer motionless but striding proudly,

beautiful mental jukeboxes that play

their litanies of joy and woe each day

beneath the shadow of enormous buildings.

Desires are your jailers; set them free

and roam the hills, smiling archaically.

It’s not a pretty picture, me amid

high alpine regions in my urban black,

huffing and puffing in the mountain air

and saying to myself, I’m trying but

it’s hopeless; though the tortures of the damned

make waking difficult, they are my tortures;

I want them raucous and I want them near,

like howling pets I nonetheless adore

and holler adamant instructions to —

sprint, mad ambition! scavenge, hopeless love

that begs requital! — on our evening stroll

down Broadway and up West End Avenue.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

5 thoughts on “Rachel Wetzsteon”

  1. I am so sorry that Rachel’s own raucous tortures made waking unbearable afterall. No more strolling down Broadway, up West End or anywhere else

  2. Yes, it is very sad. She was a wonderful poet. This poem reminds me about what the Buddhists say: We cling very tightly to our suffering. We are very attached to our versions of reality and it feels very counterintuitive, if not downright frightening, to let these stories reveal themselves simply as “thought.” For all you fabulous, depressed poets out there: don’t worry! You will not lose your “edge” through meditation. I would recommend serious Buddhist practice for any depressed person–you learn how to have your mind support you rather than be your worst enemy. Anyway, this suicide particularly strikes me as such a waste–so unnecessary and unfortunate for all of us.

  3. I have read a few of Rachel Wetzsteon’s poems online. I think they are remarkable.
    (Just ordered two of her books from B and Noble.) She seems to me, to have much more to say, and says it as well if not much better than many of the poets who are
    more in the contemporary eye. Nevertheless, she had success as a poet in her life, three books, and teaching gigs, and it is up to us readers of poetry (where are you critics, other than john Hollander), who might raise her name a notch or two or three,
    in months and years to come.

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