A Love Poem

Hi everyone – happy Friday!

I discovered a poem today, here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/250878, called Fast Gas, by Dorianne Laux. I promise it is worth the read.

I was looking up love poems, because I’ve always thought them to be a peculiar breed – so overdone, right? It was brought on by my boyfriend, asking why I only ever wrote about things that were sad and I thought, dammit, I’ll write about something happy – I’ll write a love poem! Which turned out to be a mess, because love poem can become so… trite? so easily.

So anyway, I was researching love poems and I found this one and it spoke to me and I was hoping it might speak to some of you and – if it did – that you might tell me why. I found this poem to not be trite at all; when I read it aloud, the words made my mouth feel full and my skin heat just a little, and most of the poem is not about love and yet it is.

For me, I think, that’s what was key – the poem used content to tell two stories; every line worked two ways telling a story of gasoline and a story of love (and the way love can be explosive, just like that fuel). Especially, I loved the way these lines worked: “the gas/backed up, came arcing out of the hole/ in a bright gold wave and soaked me — face, breasts,/belly and legs”. Love explodes out of that place we can’t see inside us, a bright and golden (so positive!) wave, soaking our whole body in hormones and making our whole body, from face to legs (and especially breasts, thrown in there perhaps for a little sexualization), tingle. The next set of lines I particularly loved: ”

Light-headed, scrubbed raw, I felt
pure and amazed — the way the amber gas
glazed my flesh, the searing,
subterranean pain of it, how my skin
shimmered and ached, glowed
like rainbowed oil on the pavement.

” Doesn’t that seem just like love? Making us light-headed, making us feel raw and amazed. It contains that pain and yet that shimmering beauty. It covers the ordinary nature of us, the asphalt, with the beauty of the rainbow, glowing. “Shimmered and ached” – that feels like love to me.

All this being said, I almost wish the poem had not transitioned into being so explicitly about love; I was feeling the metaphor so strongly that when it transitioned and was explicitly mentioned I was disappointed for having it all explained to me. Did others feel the same?

Another love note (haha- get it?) was for the form. The run-on,  no stanza breaks made me feel the love, and its tension, full throttle with no stopping. It was certainly fast gas. There was no time to stop and take a breath, and love is often that way; fast and all-consuming.

I also wondered if this poem spoke to me simply because of my past experiences – my dad and I spend hours in the garage together, and he has worked on cars his whole life. Thus anything about cars, even the smell of gasoline, can feel like love (though paternal love, generally) to me and evoke a sense of, at the very least, contentment. Did it speak to others, even without this background?

2 Replies to “A Love Poem”

  1. Hi Meghan!
    I think it’s crazy that out of any poem you could have chosen to read you picked “Fast Gas” by Laux. In ENGL 115, Understanding Poetry with Doggett, we have 15 minute group work at the end of each class where we analyze a poem. This one was randomly selected so I think it’s funny how you found it too!
    I really liked this poem, I also think it was commenting on how finding love can be a painful thing. How does gasoline feel on someone’s body? Obviously if you light a match to gasoline you go up in flames. I believe the speaker was waiting to “go up in flames”; she wanted this all-consuming love. It definitely spoke to me in that sense–that we want love to be something that is all-consuming.
    I think this poem is interesting because you don’t typically find a love poem that takes place in a gas station, let alone a woman pumping gas for someone. I believe Laux was playing with gender roles. She placed the woman in a power position (one of pumping gas), yet this can also be considered a weak position (pumping gas doesn’t pay a lot and is a dirty job).
    I agree, the poem certainly reads fast.


  2. Fascinating question here about experience – we come to poetry in part, I think, to have our worlds expanded, for cultural experiences that exceed our own, and yet we also find our own lives strangely reflected, too. And in this conversation between the two of you it seems like there’s both room for a detached interpretation and for an emotional connection: the two are not, as you know, mutually exclusive.

    What I also love is this sense of run-on being a way of running away with the narrative/feeling/emotion – that’s a hallmark of much of Laux’s work, and very true of this poem.

    Meghan, I wonder what you’d make of Dorothea Lasky’s poetry…

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