You can read this on the Scottish Poetry Library site, here.

This poem has appeared at a couple of the groups I facilitate of late, and seems just right for this post, both because of the central image and because of how it insists upon the transitory nature of all things and feelings. I love the poem’s honesty about what ‘This being human’ thing is like: that it involves such contrasts of light and shade, that what we experience (and how we feel about it) is (are) always changing. No reaction, not even ‘meanness’ is to be judged. Hurrah!

As always, it’s reassuring to be reminded that we all have ‘joy, depression, meannesses’. In principle I’m nodding vigorously at what the poem urges upon us—that we ‘treat each guest honourably [because]/He may be clearing you out/ for some new delight. But I do want to add what a challenge this can be in practice! When sorrows are violently sweeping my house, it’s hard laughingly to invite them in; but perhaps grudgingly, tardily inviting them in is better than leaving them outside…  And again: though I recognise—and rejoice in— the redemptive idea that ‘each has been sent/as a guide from the beyond’, for me it’s our response to stuff, not necessarily the stuff in itself, which causes us to find a way forward, and allows us to grow.