“This Fall I Will Teach A Course On Loneliness” by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein

This Fall I Will Teach A Course On Loneliness

You must arrive lonely and leave lonely.
Only the lonely will know the way I feel
When I’m teaching, and only the lonely
Will know this course is not quite right.

This course will involving hiding and crying,
You will be evaluated by degree.
This course will meet at inopportune times,
You will not be able to contact me.

Office hours will follow moon patterns,
No prerequisites required, though
A deep and nagging sense of isolation
Will only help you survive.

Big Picture Loneliness Goals:
Hermit to Chariot, Death to Queen.
Mothers who breastfeed learn to wean.
Leave critically aware of the pain.

Masterful in long nights.
Royally alone on a hill in the sun.
Lurking late in thin gin.
Lost at the lucid lake.

Daily routine includes chanting
Davening, praying, rotating,
Stretching, lambasting,
And apologizing to the self.

Major assignment: You, Self.
Major Obligations: Other, Them.
Required reading: Emily Dickinson.
Extra Credit: Call your mother.

A curve will be applied to the arc
Of the Loneliness grade. You must
Participate rigorously in your own
Solitude, regardless of original sin.

Learning loneliness demands
Ample time with your shadow.
Be prepared to drag your past
Into the room and study.

You will need to bow down
To mother moon, meditate
On an imaginary mountain,
Spoon the distance.

If you witness the invisible
Vapors of loneliness released
During class time, you may
Be expelled or reported.

This course is not sorcery,
Loneliness released like a
gaseous ghost experiment
In unified humanity.

Tend to your loneliness
According to our collective schedule.
Those who miss a class
May never exhale.

Revised loneliness leads
To strange computations,
The soul struggles, do not
I repeat do not use force.

Questions? Should you
Find solace in another,
Take copious notes on this
Hypnosis as diagnosis.

Were you to begin again,
You’ll have a notebook full
Of songs to sing yourself.
Loneliness, a lullabye.

Always cite your sources,
Scholars: Was it the first cut
Or the last goodbye? Underline
The hurt where it began.


Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein is a writer and poet from Chicago, IL with a heart tilted toward the Swahili Coast. Her poetry appears in The Moth (Ireland), Another Chicago Magazine, Painted Bride Quarterly, Horseless Review, Paul Revere’s Horse, Contrary Magazine, and After Hours, among others. Essays appear or are forthcoming in HypertextSelamta, Teachers & Writers, Mambo Magazine, Addis Rumble, Art in the Public Interest and AramcoWorld. She is a 2006 Vermont Studio Center Poetry Fellow. In 2014, she trekked to Harar, Ethiopia to commune with the spirit of Arthur Rimbaud. Amanda currently edits for Global Voices Online and is working on a book of essays about faith, sex, and belonging. Follow her on Twitter @travelfarnow.


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