Poetry Wednesday: Everyday Romance

St. Valentine save me from goopy love poetry.

Setting aside the problems I have with most greeting card poems—roses could be yellow, if you only like the fellow, and violets aren’t blue, they’re purple, but the only thing that really rhymes with purple is “nurple,” and holy crows, no—I’m also starting to rethink the classics.

You know the ones.  Everybody knows the ones.

It’s not that I don’t admire Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese but number 43 gets trotted out every single stinking February, like it’s the only poem on earth, and I’m tired to the depths my soul can reach of counting the ways over and over and over again.

Not to mention  comparing  my love to a summer’s day (#18) or contrasting wires to hairs or skin to cow pies (#130), for that matter.  I’ve told you before, members of the Association of Gorgeously Voiced British Actors (and/or audiobook producers who hire from the AGVBA to read for you): William Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets.  Pick. Another. One.

Don’t get me wrong—I still adore John “Break of Day” Donne and Claude “Flower of Love” McKay, but I’ve shared my favorites from those two gentlemen, already.

This year, I searched out poems that would tell me how it is—not how wishful drinking thinking tells me how it’s supposed to be— and still give me hope.

Found ’em.

(Tony Hoagland, © 2003)

She goes out to hang the windchime
in her nightie and her work boots.
It’s six-thirty in the morning
and she’s standing on the plastic ice chest
tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,

windchime in her left hand,Windchime
hammer in her right, the nail
gripped tight between her teeth
but nothing happens next because
she’s trying to figure out
how to switch #1 with #3.

She must have been standing in the kitchen,
coffee in her hand, asleep,
when she heard it—the wind blowing
through the sound the windchime
wasn’t making
because it wasn’t there.

No one, including me, especially anymore believes
till death do us part,
but I can see what I would miss in leaving—
the way her ankles go into the work boots
as she stands upon the ice chest;
the problem scrunched into her forehead;
the little kissable mouth
with the nail in it.

Thank you, Mr. Hoagland.  The eye-rolling fondness is unmistakable, and the realism of the second verse is perfection.  And the last two lines alone say all one really needs to know about love, don’t they?

It worries my husband that this next one has long been a favorite of mine, though I told him I’d never want to slay a Jabberwocky or eat quince with a runcible spoon, and I know the color of his eyes, so we’re probably okay.


The rest of Ms. Hazelton’s work is just as good.  Her collection, Vow, was a gift to myself last year and I suggest you wait until Amazon restocks (!!)  because they’ve nearly sold out (!!!) and see for yourself.

This next one may not seem like an everyday sort of poem, but I think it’s the perfect portrait of a poet in love and making love and creating poetry from that love, and really working at both, because both are hard work and totally, totally worth it.


(Audre Lorde © 1997)

Coming together
it is easier to work
after our bodies
paper and pen
neither care nor profit
whether we write or not
but as your body moves
under my hands
charged and waiting
we cut the leash
you create me against your thighsPerchance to dream
hilly with images
moving through our word countries
my body
writes into your flesh
the poem
you make of me.

Touching you I catch midnight
as moon fires set in my throat
I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
into me.

Of course, if there’s one thing that history has taught us, it’s that writers  often love too well and not too wisely . . . but when we get right down to it, whom exactly do we writers really want for their valentine?

And to what lengths will we go to woo our as-of-yet-unrequited darling?

sweet reader, flanneled and tulled
(Olena Kalytiak Davis © 2003)

Reader unmov’d and Reader unshaken, Reader unseduc’d
and unterrified, through the long-loud and the sweet-still
I creep toward you. Toward you, I thistle and I climb.

I crawl, Reader, servile and cervine, through this blank
season, counting—I sleep and I sleep. I sleep,
Reader, toward you, loud as a cloud and deaf, Reader, deaf

as a leaf. Reader: Why don’t you turn
pale? and, Why don’t you tremble? Jaded, staid   
Reader, You—who can read this and not even

flinch. Bare-faced, flint-hearted, recoilless
Reader, dare you—Rare Reader, listen
and be convinced: Soon, Reader,

soon you will leave me, for an italian mistress:
for her dark hair, and her moon-lit
teeth. For her leopardi and her cavalcanti,

for her lips and clavicles; for what you want
to eat, eat, eat. Art-lover, rector, docent!
Do I smile? I, too, once had a brash artless

feeder: his eye set firm on my slackening
sky. He was true! He was thief! In the celestial sense
he provided some, some, some

(much-needed) relief. Reader much-slept with, and Reader I will die
without touching, You, Reader, You: mr. small-
weed, mr. broad-cloth, mr. long-dark-day. And the italian mis-

fortune you will heave me for, for
her dark hair and her moonlit-teeth. You will love her well in-
to three-or-four cities, and then, you will slowly

sink. Reader, I will never forgive you, but not, poor
cock-sure Reader, not, for what you think. O, Reader
Sweet! and Reader Strange! Reader Deaf and Reader

Dear, I understand youyourself may be hard-
pressed to bare this small and un-necessary burden
having only just recently gotten over the clean clean heart-

break of spring. And I, Reader, I am but the daughter
of a tinker. I am not above the use of bucktail spinners,
white grubs, minnow tails. Reader, worms

and sinkers. Thisandthese curtail me
to be brief: Reader, our sex gone
to wildweather. YesReaderYes—that feels much-much

better. (And my new Reader will come to me empty-
handed, with a countenance that roses, lavenders, and cakes.
And my new Reader will be only mildly disappointed.

My new Reader can wait, can wait, can wait.) Light-
minded, snow-blind, nervous, Reader, Reader, troubled, Reader,
what’d ye lack? Importunate, unfortunate, Reader:

You are cold. You are sick. You are silly.
Forgive me, kind Reader, forgive me, I had not intended to step this quickly this far
back. Reader, we had a quiet wedding: he&I, theparson

&theclerk. Would I could, stead-fast, gracilefacile Reader! Last,
good Reader, tarry with me, jessa-mine Reader. Dar-
(jee)ling, bide! Bide, Reader, tired, and stay, stay, stray Reader,

true. R.: I had been secretly hoping this would turn into a love
poem. Disconsolate. Illiterate. Reader,
I have cleared this space for you, for you, for you.

That sounds about right.

And, yes, you must buy all of Ms. Davis’ stuff, too—was there any question?

Okay . . . so what’s your favorite poem about love?*


*That isn’t a limerick about a small island thirty miles south of Cape Cod? ‘Cause I know you people . . .



Windchime image by Seneca184 via WikiMedia Commons


10 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: Everyday Romance

  1. Ah, Sarah. You made me think, knowing how much I hate thinking. Damn you, anyway.

    San Antonio by Naomi Shihab Nye, with a nod to Jeanann Verlee for Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls with Crooked Teeth and Pink Hair (a wonderful guide for finding love in the first place).

    • Sorry, Vicki! 🙂

      “San Antonio” is simply beautiful.

      And “Unsolicited Advice” is just . . . it blew me away. Wow. I wish she’d written it twenty-seven years ago…

  2. Love Song: I and Thou

    Nothing is plumb, level, or square:
    the studs are bowed, the joists
    are shaky by nature, no piece fits
    any other piece without a gap
    or pinch, and bent nails
    dance all over the surfacing
    like maggots. By Christ
    I am no carpenter. I built
    the roof for myself, the walls
    for myself, the floors
    for myself, and got
    hung up in it myself. I
    danced with a purple thumb
    at this house-warming, drunk
    with my prime whiskey: rage.
    Oh I spat rage’s nails
    into the frame-up of my work:
    it held. It settled plumb,
    level, solid, square and true
    for that great moment. Then
    it screamed and went on through,
    skewing as wrong the other way.
    God damned it. This is hell,
    but I planned it. I sawed it,
    I nailed it, and I
    will live in it until it kills me.
    I can nail my left palm
    to the left-hand crosspiece but
    I can’t do everything myself.
    I need a hand to nail the right,
    a help, a love, a you, a wife.

    • I could spend a long time interpreting the nuances and language of this one, indy, as familiar as most of it seems (This is hell. / but I planned it. I sawed it, / I nailed it, and I / will live in it until it kills me.).

      Think I will.

  3. Sonnet by a Mature Woman (This was published in 1998 in a magazine called “Dream Weaver”) I now have it on an old web page I no longer use.

    New wrinkle creams entice from glossy ads
    with svelte, young anorexics smiling out
    at both my chins, at skin too old for fads.
    Bold claims portrayed in color, dull my doubt.

    Be young. Be free. Deny the lines of time.
    The agony of blemish, breasts that sag
    must never mar a body fit to climb
    perfection’s route, nor risk cosmetic snag.

    And yet my husband sees each bulge and flaw
    with eyes that know the gain and loss of years
    we’ve shared: the new and old, the fresh and raw
    of yesterdays with struggles, joys, and fears.

    We see within each other love held deep.
    Compared to banal wisdom, beauty’s cheap.

  4. Neruda. Any of a dozen, really, but I mean:

    Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
    dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
    what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
    What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
    Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
    through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
    Love is a war of lightning,
    and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
    Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
    your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
    and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
    slips through the narrow channels of blood
    to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
    to be, and be nothing but light in the dark.

    The man was SEXY. Hello, Pablo, I am yours.

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