The Rest not restful at all

poem is between Picasso face and “Land of Morning Calm” flyer


The Rest

by Lawrence Raab


You’ve tried the rest.

You’ve waited long enough.

Everything catches up with you.


And you’re too old,

or too young.

Or you don’t have the money


or you don’t have the time.

Maybe you’re shy, and maybe

you’re just afraid.


How often have you heard it,

have you promised

yourself you’d try


something really different

if you had the chance?

Though you can’t help but wonder


if all those people

know what they’re doing, now

you’re saying it with them:


Eventually everything

catches up with us,

and it starts to show.


We’ve waited all our lives, or as long

as we can remember, whichever

is long enough.



I pinned Lawrence Raab’s “The Rest” on a bulletin board at my local post office. This poem depresses me, it feels heavy in spite of Raab’s expert light touch. But I’ve gotten Raab really wrong before, so I leave it to you. Hopeful or hopeless? Or am I asking the wrong question?


From a previous post:

Lawrence Raab was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1946. He went to Middlebury College and earned his masters from Syracuse. He’s taught at University of Michigan, American University, and these days at Williams College. He’s one numerous awards and grants and has published seven collections of poetry. This poem, “Marriage,” comes from his 1993 collection What We Don’t Know About Each Other.


Raab has also written screenplays and adapted Aristophanes’ The Birds for theater.




  1. Lizzie Lane

    So depressing!!!!!!!!! WOW he really nails the restlessness … I’m trying to read it another way, like deciding “I have arrived” instead of trying trying doing doing, like slowing your speed to enjoy life…but I’m not reading that yet!

    Sent with rowdy bliss


    1. poemelf

      To me it points more towards a lifetime of inaction….a J. Prufrock-style of putting off life (“Do I dare eat a peach?”) in favor of not disturbing the universe (to keep with the Eliot theme).

      I agree though that he captures that restless spirit of “I want to do this/I can’t do this/I hate myself for not doing something.”

  2. Mary Lee Rice

    “You’ve tried the rest
    You’ve waited long enough…”

    “Eventually everything catches
    Up with us, and starts to show”

    What if they all point to “Wisdom”?
    All of the effort, mistakes, pain—trying?

    What if wisdom is what starts to show?

  3. poemelf

    “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” the cynical part of me says (question not mine but Jake’s from Sun Also Rises).

    But gaining wisdom is always a possible outcome when we’re faced with frustration, failure and pain.

    Thanks, Mary Lee. I like your coda to the poem, it reads like it’s part of it.

    1. Mary Lee Rice

      Thanks Poem Elf.
      I’m 70 yo and able to look
      back at a life of all sorts of pain,
      disappointment, loneliness.
      Wisdom is all I have left; that and
      the love of daughters and
      A poem needs to be written about
      the sadness of all our wasted
      wisdom. None of my posterity wants to
      hear what I’ve learned. They seem
      determined to make the same ones!
      Poem Elf I have been following your
      blog for six years and love the
      places you choose to put the poems!

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