Under the Sofa

“Poems have a way of getting lost under sofas—it is one of their charms, and one of the reasons they endure.” —Stephen King, “The Breathing Method” (Different Seasons)

“The Breathing Method” was my least favorite story in Different Seasons, but it had the best quote. Sometimes you don’t find the perfect poem until exactly the moment when you need it the most. You could read the same poem millions of times and find that it never holds any meaning until that one moment when you need the poem… and there it is. The diamond of meaning you had been searching for, that small shimmer of truth you desperately needed to hear. Under the sofa all along.

The quote reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which has a strange way of reappearing in my head at odd times.

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?

In a sense, this particular poem could never get lost under anyone’s sofa because it is so well known and often taught in English classes, but to me losing a poem under the sofa (or anywhere) just means that it’s buried in your subconscious mind and will resurface whenever it darn well pleases.

The same is true if you write poems. They appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. You can find them while searching under the sofa for that elusive quarter you could’ve sworn was there. You can find them while standing at the bus stop and breathing in the scent of another person’s cologne as he walks by.

But the poem will not endure unless you write it down.