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).
(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.