I guess I’ll blog about love…*collective sigh*

I told the guy I’m seeing that I don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. He was relieved to hear this, of course, so he wouldn’t have to try and present a gift that represents love when “I love you” has been a taboo phrase in our relationship. I thought about writing him some sort of love poem, but I couldn’t…what would I call it, anyways? A “like” poem? Anywho, I think all of this talk about love had me thinking about poetry and source. Love poetry is a terrifying and unfamiliar territory for me. I can write about seemingly mundane and obsessively minute things, but big concepts like love leave me in a chokehold. I get angry reading some of the love poetry I see online…especially when poets equate their lovers to their UNIVERSE. I don’t like the idea of being in someone else’s orbit, and it drives me crazy to see love become “you. are. my. everything.” I don’t hate love whatsoever, I just have a hard time writing about it while balancing what I learned in church growing up, what I’ve observed around me, what I’ve experienced myself…it’s a confusing abstraction. How do you guys feel about love poems? Have you ever presented someone else with a poem directed at them? How do you encompass the wholeness of love in a single (no pun intended) poem?

To conclude, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite poems. In high school, in the library during 3rd period, I came across this love poem by John Frederick Nims and ended up scotch-taping it, handwritten on a torn page of my student planner, to my hot pink bedroom wall until graduation. “THIS IS IT!” I thought, realizing that this was the only love poem I had never scoffed at or winced while reading. I loved how messy this love was, and how ordinary and flawed it was as well. This poem felt real to me. I hope you all enjoy it as I did, and have a lovely Valentine’s Day (whether you’re a lover or a cynic or just plain confused).

Love Poem
(by John Frederick Nims)

My clumsiest dear, whose hands shipwreck vases,
At whose quick touch all glasses chip and ring,
Whose palms are bulls in china, burs in linen,
And have no cunning with any soft thing

Except all ill-at-ease fidgeting people:
The refugee uncertain at the door
You make at home; deftly you steady
The drunk clambering on his undulant floor.

Unpredictable dear, the taxi drivers’ terror,
Shrinking from far headlights pale as a dime
Yet leaping before apopleptic streetcars—
Misfit in any space. And never on time.

A wrench in clocks and the solar system. Only
With words and people and love you move at ease;
In traffic of wit expertly maneuver
And keep us, all devotion, at your knees.

Forgetting your coffee spreading on our flannel,
Your lipstick grinning on our coat,
So gaily in love’s unbreakable heaven
Our souls on glory of spilt bourbon float.

Be with me, darling, early and late. Smash glasses—
I will study wry music for your sake.
For should your hands drop white and empty
All the toys of the world would break.

 

<3

2 Replies to “I guess I’ll blog about love…*collective sigh*”

  1. Hey Grace!!
    Let me first say that I really love reading your blog posts. Your thought process is very natural and raw even when you are writing poetically on this blog, and I really appreciate that you are always questioning.
    That being said, I too have a complicated relationship with love poetry. The first poetry about love that I found myself enjoying was from Anne Sexton’s short collection “Love Poems.” I think what you and I are both off-put by is the tendency for love to be all-encompassing, and how hard it may be to write about someone from a smaller scale when they are that huge a part of your life. But again, my personal frustration with contemporary love poetry, and love poetry in general, is that I feel sometimes it encourages that sentiment of another being your world–and I want to be my own world!! (I hope you can relate to this a little, if not I’m just babbling).

    I am definitely drawn to more atypical love poems, like the one you highlighted in this post. Ones that don’t pretend to be perfect, and aren’t so exaggerated sensory wise. I think cultivating an appreciation at this level will eventually lead you to finding more “conventional” love poems that you also can appreciate. For example, Anne Sexton’s love poetry is highly sensual, and this is a trademark of her writing. I have learned to really appreciate her sensual images and metaphors as something not overtly typical of most love poems–obviously, there is sensual tension in most all love poems, but Sexton seems to focus on this from the start. It’s not about a love in which the other is her whole world. It’s focused on the idea of desire, and how we act when we are desirous. This desire is examined a very beautifully sexual, yet sexually understated way. And I take it to be from one highly aware, sensitive woman poet to the next. Perhaps that’s why I like it.

    In sum, my advice to you is to continue seeking those non-traditional love poems, to focus on female poets and what they have to say, and to not write love out of your writing agenda. When I did these things for myself I felt a poetic kinship with like-minded writers, and it motivated me to claim agency for love in my life too–because there is no denying that we are surrounded by it in many forms.

    I want to attach some of my favorite “love” poems here!

    “For My Lover, Returning to His Wife” by Anne Sexton

    She is all there.
    She was melted carefully down for you
    and cast up from your childhood,
    cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.
    She has always been there, my darling.
    She is, in fact, exquisite.
    Fireworks in the dull middle of February
    and as real as a cast-iron pot.
    Let’s face it, I have been momentary.
    vA luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
    My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
    Littleneck clams out of season.
    She is more than that. She is your have to have,
    has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
    This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
    She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,
    has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
    sat by the potter’s wheel at midday,
    set forth three children under the moon,
    three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,
    done this with her legs spread out
    in the terrible months in the chapel.
    If you glance up, the children are there
    like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.
    She has also carried each one down the hall
    after supper, their heads privately bent,
    two legs protesting, person to person,
    her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.
    I give you back your heart.
    I give you permission —
    for the fuse inside her, throbbing
    angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
    and the burying of her wound —
    for the burying of her small red wound alive —
    for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
    for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
    for the mother’s knee, for the stocking,
    for the garter belt, for the call —
    the curious call
    when you will burrow in arms and breasts
    and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
    and answer the call, the curious call.
    She is so naked and singular
    She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
    Climb her like a monument, step after step.
    She is solid.
    As for me, I am a watercolor.
    I wash off.

    “Pole-Dancing to Gospel Hymns” by Andrea Gibson

    She pole-dances to gospel hymns.

    Came out to her family in the middle of Thanksgiving grace.
    I knew she was trouble
    
two years before our first date.
    
But my heart was a Labrador Retriever
 with its head hung out the window of a car
    
tongue flapping in the wind
on a highway going 95
 whenever she walked by.
    So I mastered the art of crochet

    
And I crocheted her a winter scarf
and one night at the bar I gave it to her with a note that said something like,
I hope this keeps your neck warm.
If it doesn’t give me a call.
    The key to finding love
is fucking up the pattern on purpose,
is skipping a stitch,
is leaving a tiny, tiny hole to let the cold in and hoping she mends it with your lips.

    This morning I was counting her freckles.

    She has five on the left side of her face,
    seven on the other and I love her for every speck of trouble she is.

    She’s frickin’ awesome.

    Like popcorn at a drive-in movie
 that neither of us has any intention of watching.
    Like Batman and Robin in a pick-up truck in the front row with the windows
    steamed up.
    
Like Pacman in the eighties, she swallows my ghosts.
    Slaps me on my dark side and says,
“Baby, this is the best day ever.”
    
So I stop listening for the sound of the ocean
in the shells of bullets I hoped missed us
    
to see there are white flags from the tips of her toes 
to her tear ducts
    
and I can wear her halos as handcuffs
    
‘cause I don’t wanna be a witness to this life,
I want to be charged and convicted,
    
ear lifted to her song like a bouquet of yes

    
Because my heart is a parachute that has never opened
    in time
and I wanna fuck up that pattern,

    leave a hole where the cold comes in and fill it every
    day with her sun,

    ‘cause anyone who has ever sat in lotus for more than a few seconds
    
knows it takes a hell of a lot more muscle to stay than to go.
    And I want to grow
 strong as the last patch of sage on a hillside
    Stretching towards the lightning.

    God has always been an arsonist.

    Heaven has always been on fire.
    
She is a butterfly knife bursting from a cocoon in my belly.
    Love is a half moon hanging above Baghdad promising to one day grow full,
    to pull the tides through our desert wounds
and fill every clip of empty shells with the ocean.
    Already there is salt on my lips.

    Lover, this is not just another poem.
    
This is my goddamn revolution.
    
I am done holding my tongue like a bible.

    There is too much war in every verse of our silence.
    We have all dug too many trenches away from ourselves.
    This time I want to melt like a snowman in Georgia,
    ‘til my smile is a pile of rocks you can pick up 
and skip across the lake of your doubts.

    Trust me,
I have been practicing my ripple.

    I have been breaking into mannequin factories

    and pouring my pink heart into their white paint.
    
I have been painting the night sky upon the inside of door frames
    
So only moonshine will fall on your head in the earthquake.
    I have been collecting your whispers and your whiplash and your half–hour-long voice mail messages.

    Lover, did you see the sunset tonight?

    Did you see Neruda lay down on the horizon?

    Do you know it was his lover who painted him red,
    who made him stare down the bullet holes
in his country’s heart?

    I am not looking for roses.
    
I want to break like a fever.
    
I want to break like the Berlin Wall.
    I want to break like the clouds
    
so we can see every fearless star,
    how they never speak guardrail,
    how they only say fall.

    I hope some of these bring you back to love poetry in some way 🙂

    -Juliet 🙂

  2. Hey Grace!
    Like you and Juliet, I like those atypical love poems…but I have to say that I am a big fan of sappy ones, too. While reading them isn’t all that great, I find that they are really easy to write. This may be a testament to their predictable, pedantic nature or my own blissful naivete in regards to love (the “she/he/them” are so [insert pleasant adjective followed by explanatory metaphor] is ridiculously easy to write and if I feel like I haven’t done much poetry wise, I usually end up scribbling out a love poem).
    That being said, I think love poems are more flexible than they appear at first glance. The poems you and Juliet introduced, for instance, broaden the narrow lens that beauty and romance are normally seen through. I feel like there’s a lot more “good” love poems, however, than most people realize. There’s always going to be Hallmark stanzas lining every second page, but love as a concept doesn’t have to be purely romantic or sexual. Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye have a poem called “An Origin Story” (I know I’ve already mentioned them before, but I’m so in love with the idea of platonic soulmates and these two are definitely the definition of that) that speaks volumes about non-romantic love. Also, as a fan of Neil Hilborn, I HAVE to recommend his work. He’s brilliant and as far are love poems go, “The Future” is about self-love with a dash of romance and his more recent one, “Me, But Happy” is a romantic poem that’s nice in a chill, funny way. In it, he pokes fun at the whole “you are my everything/brighten my life”-thing with great lines like, “the new way to say I love you is to just ram our foreheads together” & “you turn my awful days into awful days with cheeseburgers.” I want that last one on a t-shirt.

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