I read a poem today. A beautifully idiosyncratic poem about love. About a second love; a reborn and reconfigured love. Between a man and a woman whose marriage has been soured and nipped by infidelity, but after some time, after living separate lives, the woman discovers that she is living and dying with cancer. The man and the woman find themselves together again. And what they feel is “almost as good as love…, / and each of them called it love / because precision didn’t matter anymore”. This line kills me: “[P]recision didn’t matter anymore”. It got me thinking about the meaning of love and how it changes as we age. And with that, how we carry and share love in our lives morph. As with any emotional experience, reading a definition of what it is to love doesn’t encompass the experience of it. Knowing love takes time. It requires time to be nurtured and listened to. It needs to be fed by heartbreak and pain, and compassion and forgiveness; to the point at which words and definitions no longer apply. I hope to know this rooted and nameless version of love.
These are a few poems I wrote as an early twenty-something year-old in the midst of navigating the outer walls of love’s ventricles:
drop the needle. turn the knob
get over here. pull the covers up.
kiss me here.
I’ll show you how fun it is to be loved.
It’s easier said than done.
I like it when you play with my hair
play with my mind. play with my heart.
make me feel beautiful while my
skin is still soft. eyes are still bright.
hips are still round.
I like it when you kiss me right there.
kiss me all over. play with my hair
Make me feel wanted when my
heart is still young. mind is still
soft. needs are still shallow.
I like it when you touch my face
and feel my lips with your tongue
with your cheeks. with your breath.
Make me feel sexy when I’m having a
bad day. when I trip and fall.
when you look at me that way.
I left it at the bus stop
a small spot of happenstance.
when we danced to traffic,
under a dying lamppost
until the 43 gobbled you up
and rolled along
as you stumbled down the aisle.
The ‘beautifully idiosyncratic’ poem referred to at the beginning of this post was written by Stephen Dunn. (Thanks, Mr. J, for sharing Dunn’s poetry with me.)
What Goes On
After the affair and the moving out,
after the destructive revivifying passion,
we watched her life quiet
into a new one, her lover more and more
on its periphery. She spent many nights
alone, happy for the narcosis
of the television. When she got cancer
she kept it to herself until she couldn’t
keep it from anyone. The chemo debilitated
and saved her, and one day
her husband asked her to come back —
his wife, who after all had only fallen
in love as anyone might
who hadn’t been in love in a while —
and he held her, so different now,
so thin, her hair just partially
grown back. He held her like a new woman
and what she felt
felt almost as good as love had,
and each of them called it love
because precision didn’t matter anymore.
And we who’d been part of it,
often rejoicing with one
and consoling the other,
we who had seen her truly alive
and then merely alive,
what could we do but revise
our phone book, our hearts,
offer a little toast to what goes on.