Sitting in a Tree, T-E-X-T-I-N-G: A Guest Post Update

Watson here, Sarah’s sister in law and intrepid substitute blogger.  When last you heard from me, I was embarking on a marvelous adventure called “online dating.” 

Since some of you have asked Sarah how I’ve been doing with that, I thought I’d give her a break today (Sarah’s note: alligators!) and describe my awesome experience.

Overview: Online Dating

There’s a certain fun freedom to online dating.  The Internet provides that marvelous anonymity– sure, folks hide behind it to become e-thugs or iThugs (depending on your operating system), but it also lets you lurk in relative safety.  Which, given some of the creepazoids online, is comforting while online dating.

For online dating, it also means you get to ask all of your qualifying questions before that awkward first date—you know the ones, the really important ones, the make or break questions, like Are you a DC or Marvel comics guy?  Hey, mixed marriages can be rough.  Oh, you’ve been married three times?  Next.  Oh, your profile says you’re six one but you’re really five seven?  Next.

Die alone TextIt’s a bit frustrating.  You have to weed through the freaks, the sexual deviants, and the flakes.  And the guys desperate for the American green card— let’s not forget those.  Not entirely sure how many times I was propositioned, or misled into a conversation only to find out all he was looking for was a little cybernookie.  Call me old fashioned, but I’m not a big fan of taking pictures of me naked and sending them out into the internet to be dug up ten years from now when I’m up for a curatorship at a major museum.

I met quite a few interesting people online—traveling contactors, teachers, businessmen, soldiers overseas in Iraq.  I was flattered by a 24 year old (not a cougar, sorry).  Sex freaks aside (that’s a post for an entirely different blog), most of the guys ended up duds and others didn’t seem to have enough of the kind of imagination required by the nut factory that is this family.

In the end, three guys made it past the first interview.

Pigeons in love

Guy the First: The Flake

We’ll call him Roger.

This guy was perfect for me— not only was he very smart, he was creative and fun and raced his Porsche at the track.  Like me, he was a bit of a speed freak.  It got even better—he was a comic book nerd.  He made a real good living.  His hobby was starting businesses.  He was the son of a diplomat.  He loved to travel. He was a foodie.  Did I mention he was a speed freak?  And wore glasses too?

Two months of texting and calling.  Really good rapport—even Sarah liked him.

So, we set up a Saturday date in Chicago—neutral territory as it were.  I’d planned to stay with friends, to ease Sarah’s fears of me being discovered in pieces in a garbage bag, and we talked three hours on the phone the week before The Big Date.  Everything was great.

And I never heard from him again.

Not an email, text, or phone call.  He just disappeared.

This is a family blog so I can’t record what my biker friends say of him. “Flake” is about as nice as they got.  Their anger on my behalf was heartening – and amusing.

So what did I learn?

Guys are flakes too . . . and looking back, he was probably married or otherwise committed.  Thank goodness I wasn’t too emotionally involved— sure I moped a bit (the guy was PERFECT after all) but no real skin off my nose.  Better to have him flake out after two months than after a year or more.

The only thing I missed out on with Roger?  I never got my ride around the track in his Porsche.  Dammit.

Pigeons in love

Guy The Second: The Drill Sergeant

We’ll call this guy Lance.

If Roger was creative and able to communicate his feelings (even if he was lying through his teeth), this guy was . . . not.  A career Marine, he was a Lt. Colonel in the Special Forces.  He was the guy you never hear about in the news, the fearless guy, the one who does the dirty work.  If it kept America safe, he did it.  Politics aside, you gotta admire a guy with that much conviction.

He started off nice— just a guy with two college aged kids about to retire, looking for someone to grow old with.  Perfect!  I’m in!  He wanted someone to help take care of him, and let’s face it, I’m a caretaker.  If you’re willing to watch my back, I got yours.

Then the questionable questions started rolling in.  The ones that made you blink and go hmmm.  Apparently what this guy really wanted was a housewife from the 1950s.  After a month of texting—I hadn’t met the guy, remember—he invited me to South Carolina for the weekend and was insulted when I asked about a decent hotel.  I changed my mind, asked him to Chicago instead, saying that my family was a little worried about me meeting a new man in an unfamiliar city.    He was the father of a college aged woman, and he was upset about that?  Really?

I won’t bore you with the details, but Sarah and I had a lot of Wow, are you KIDDING me? conversations about this guy.  He was like Jekyll and Hyde.  Lesson learned: avoid the hardwired military men.

Pigeons in love

Guy The Third: The Keeper (?)

We’ll call this one Steve.

I showed Steve’s smiling picture to Sarah.  Her first comment: “that’s the guy.  He’s the one.”  What. A. Smile.

He had a great profile too—he listed the usual things like I hate coconut, but there were some funny gems, too.  Number 22 made me laugh out loud: I got my cootie shot in second grade.

He found me first, as he’s a little bit younger than my search range, and contacted me.  This led to some soul searching on my part—just how low in the 30s could I go without entering cougar territory?—but the difference was under a decade so okay, let’s see where we end up.  Comic book fan (check).  Movie buff (his collection makes mine look tiny, check).  Motorcycle license (check).  Esoteric trivia (check).  Quirky sense of humor (check).  Dr. Who fan (check).  Not a Monty Python fan (red flag!).

Typical exchange:

Me: Steve, what are you up to tonight? 

Steve: Same thing we do every night, Pinky.

Told that one to Sarah, who was ready to ship me off to Texas the next morning (Sarah’s note:  Lies—we’d all starve).

We eventually set up a date in Chicago.  I expected a one day date—sure, it was a long way to travel, but online chemistry doesn’t necessarily translate into face to face chemistry.  You don’t want to get stuck all day with a wet fish, right?

LovetextSomehow, as we planned, the one day date turned into two days.  Then, suddenly, I was picking him up Friday afternoon at the airport and dropping him off Monday morning.

Did I just sign up for a three day first date?

This was either going to be epic good, or epic bad.  Really, there was no grey area on this one. Bravely I soldiered on.

I got the nails did with Sarah Friday morning, took off for Chicago, checked into my hotel, paced the floor for an hour, chewed my thumb (carefully, it was freshly manicured), and headed for Midway.  Butterflies were in full effect as I waited at the luggage carousel.

Steve found that highly amusing—he was cool as could be.

Friday night was a bit awkward.  We were both tired, both nervous (well I was, anyway), and it showed.  We went for pizza at a place Yelp recommended—wow, it was bad.  I cannot express how bad that place was.  I don’t care if it’s a cheeseburger pizza, ketchup is not an appropriate sauce substitute.  Luckily, we bonded over the horrible and ended up laughing.

Driving back to the hotel, I of course took a wrong turn despite the GPS.  They became our in-jokes—bad pizza and wrong turns.

Saturday, we went to the motorcycle shop, of course, then did some shopping and hit the zoo.  He laughed at my well-documented phobia of snakes, I impressed him in the open bat enclosure by laughing at his nerves, and we had a great time watching the gorillas interact.

That night we went on a ghost hunt— not a ghost tour, a ghost hunt.

Not the best idea.  I’m a skeptic, he’s a believer, but we’re both scientists at heart and found the experience irritating at best.  We both manipulated results despite trying to play along and not ruin any of the other participants’ experiences.  Lame, but we both learned that we handle these kinds of situations with humor.

I was determined that he was going to have a decent Chicago pizza before he left, so we hunted up a Lou Malnotti’s near the hotel for lunch.  It was only a take-out place, but I brought my DVD player (nerd) and he’d brought some DVDs, too, just in case, so we decided to eat back at the hotel.  We were told the pizza would take 30 minutes.

He stole my heart when he looked at me, somewhat shy, and said, “I saw a comic book shop a few doors down, you mind walking over there with me?”

Nerds of a feather, as the saying goes.

We wasted 40 minutes in the comic book store before my stomach reminded me we had to get some lunch, and headed back to the hotel with our pizza to watch City of God and City of Men (both HIGHLY recommended).  Anything else we’d decided to do was put off because I had to finish those movies, even though I fell asleep halfway through City of Men out of sheer exhaustion.

It was a sad parting Monday morning, and of course I took a wrong turn getting home after dropping him off at the airport, which is on the same street as the hotel.  Seriously.  Fifty percent chance of getting it right, and I went left.

While I rolled my eyes at myself, my phone buzzed with a text.  Given the usual post-first date moratorium on communication for three days, and it had only been ten minutes, I figured it would be anyone but him.  I was wrong.

I’m through security, let me know when you get back to the hotel. 

I responded at a red light that I took a wrong turn “for old time’s sake” and would let him know when I was at the hotel.

His response? That’s my girl lol

I let him know I was back at the hotel.  His response: Did you throw the deadbolt? Want to make sure you’re safe.

I’m not used to other people taking care of me, but this self-rescuing princess could seriously get used to it.

That was two weeks ago.  We’re still talking.  He still makes me laugh.

But our schedules are not easily aligning for a second date*, and it might be January before I see him again.  I have a wedding to attend in October, he’s moving November, then the holidays.

I might have a (for lack of a better word) boyfriend—though nothing official has been discussed—and I can’t see him for another six months to officially discuss it?

Then I got a text this past Sunday morning.  How soon can you come to Texas?  I don’t want to wait until next year to see you again.  Come see me in September.

Holy crap.

I think I have a boyfriend!

_____________________________________

*If the first date was three days long, which in time spent probably equaled a month’s worth of dating, is our next meeting really only the second date?  You make the call.

Sister In Law for Sale, Slightly Used, Asking Price OBO: A Guest Post

No, it’s not Sarah today1.  It’s Watson, her intrepid cub reporter and SIL, or, as we like to say, “sister from another mister.”

Today’s will be a post to file under the Lifestyle Section.

It starts off with some depressing backstory, but ends up with a funny kick to the rear.

Sarah is nothing if not highly amused* by the entire process.

I imagine a few of her followers are curious about why, exactly, I popped into her life so suddenly last spring.  Basically, in a nutshell, I woke up and realized that the relationship I was in was beyond toxic.  I am a fixer by personality and extremely loyal, so I kept trying to make everything right, but I was the only one.

And, you know, a relationship takes two.

The last straw came the week I was laid off.  He was being his usual selfish, emotionally abusive self, only seeing what my unemployment would do to his fully-supported lifestyle, and for once, I wasn’t taking it well.

And then he said, for about the hundredth time, “I don’t know why I’m still with you. I should just leave!”  This was his standard way to get me to rush in and fix the situation.  This time, I decided I was going to fix the situation.

I said, “You know what?  That’s a great idea.  Please leave.”

Gobsmacked face.  “But where will I go?”

Epiphany face. “Not my problem.”

It was time to start over and the Universe seemed to be saying it was time to leave the DC metro area.   Which is how I ended up here, sitting on the guest bed of my mom’s basement apartment in Sarah’s house, technically living out of Storage Unit 75, licking my wounds and dissolving into puddles of major depression and anxiety attacks.**

Which, if you know me, is not remotely like me.***  My friends nicknamed me Smiley, because I’m literally always smiling.  Or, they used to call me that.  See the bit about toxic relationship above.

Which brings us to The Kick In The Pants.

Fast CarsI’m a motorcycle girl at heart.  Life is just better on two wheels, that’s all there is to it.  I have a ton of biker girlfriends and we all tend towards loud statements (might be deafness from the wind noise), though our actions definitely speak louder than words.

Truth be told, biker girl actions tend to SCREAM.

So how was this screaming kick delivered, and why is Sarah weeping with laughter behind my chair as I type?

I was told, very clearly by one of them to “get back out there,” an order that held a surprising amount of weight, considering it came from a woman who also threatened to fly halfway across the country, ring our doorbell, slap me upside the head, and then fly home.  She is nothing if not determined.  And loaded.

And when I didn’t follow her “advice,” she took the low road and signed me up for online dating.

And supplied the images.

I was honestly surprised she hadn’t already set up my profile for me.

And she also recruited our mutual friends and they got in on the Badgering of Watson, and sent their own advice, dating columns, ebooks, and other links to dating sites.   And also a shockingly long discussion of what specific star signs to look for.

There was much pushing for an Aries.

I looked that up, ladies, so I know what you were hinting.

Apparently, my friends think I need to get laid.^

Seriously?  Am I that pathetic?^^

You know what—I’m not going to ask a bunch of biker chicks that question, for fear that they will answer truthfully.

FriendsSo over the weekend there was much giggling by Sarah at the profiles on the site, as well as by me.  Honestly, wish you were here, it was ever so much fun.

Our personal favorite was the poor gentleman who selected the screen name “Dungo Love Chocolate.”

Seriously?  Seriously? “Dungo Love Chocolate” was the best you could think of?  I don’t think I’d take that, even if the only other choice was “BigMember4U.”

I need to find my fellow nerds and gearheads on the site:  a “BikerBoy” and “Red2standingBy” and “GeekLove” and “GearHead68.”^^^

Or, you know, just someone nice for a change.~

So you’re welcome to contact Sarah, who might end up my pimp~~ as she goes about her library duties.  “Oh well thank you, I’m flattered, you’re cute too, but I’m married.  You’re tall, though, would you like to meet my sister in law?”

I imagine my dating woes will be a continuing source of amusement for Sarah’s muse, ~~~so keep an eye out for it.

So here’s to hoping Hottie McHottiepants— the tall geeky Aries with a — emails me back.

And seriously, thanks for the kick in the rear, ladies.  I’m your classic Scorpio, so it’s not easy for me to admit this out loud:

You were right.

Dammit.

_____________________________

1Except in the footnotes.  Anyone surprised?

*Not true.  I am completely sympathetic to your plight.  I just choose to express this through snarky comments and uncontrollable laughter.

**And kick-ass movie marathons and spelling tests.

***Except for the movie marathons.

^This one thinks we’d better make sure your mother never sees this post.  Or mine, but mostly because she’ll help.  You are not to set her up with Paul, Mom. Or Ben. I mean it.

^^No.  And I’ll keep telling you until you believe me.Spiderweb Test

^^^Or “MathnSpanishtutor,” “Swissiedogguy,” or even “401KDude.”  Maybe I should go for “TallGuyWantsShortNerd”

~Or under 6’4″,  Ms. Picky. 

~~Please.  I am a yente.  And an unpaid one, by the way.  Please, I’m the yente’s homeless unpaid babysitter cook. True.  Looks good on you.

~~~Ohhhh, yeah.  One of the reasons I married your brother was so I would have an excuse not to date anymore.  Because it sucks in many wild and wonderful ways and is pure comedy gold to one’s friends.

Random Thursday: Random, Alternative Lovestylings

Happy Random Valentine’s Day!

And just remember:  you knew what you were getting into when you clicked the link . . . 
__________________________________

Complications

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

That Creepy-Uppy kind of Love


Tim Minchin, ladies and gentlemen.  He is The Awesome.

He also wrote a couple of love songs I can’t possibly share on a blog where I write about my kids.

They’re on YouTube.  Go find ’em.

(Dad, I’ll e-mail you the links)

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

Geek Lines

Geek Love

 

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

Zombie Romance with Bonus Earworm

I know I’ve shared this before, but it’s so flippin’ adorable, like Holly Hobbie gone . . . off.

Still a better love story than . . . you know.

And you’ll be humming it for days.

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

It’s True.  I do.

Napping Love

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

Depressed about Being Single?

Let Christy Murphy turn you around:

oooooooooooooooooooOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo

To My Darling

Favorite Husband

I don’t tell you this nearly as much as I should.

Poetry Wednesday: Three Way Love Fest

I’m sure St. Valentine didn’t intend to become the patron saint of crappy poetry, and I know the Vatican hasn’t officially ruled on that, yet, but let’s not kid ourselves.

You can, as many do, ignore the brightly colored rhyme schemes and schlocky phrases, and go for romantic poems that were created for a less commercial purpose, but even then, there’s only so much one can do with the old standbys.

Call me burned out, but it’s getting to the point where Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch could knock on my door with flowers and ask me if they could Compare me to a Summer’s Day and/or Count the Ways, and I’d ask if they could help me clean out the kids’ playroom instead.*

The newer stuff, while more to the point, doesn’t always do it for me, either.  Modern poems—and lyrics, too—always seem to be on one side of the scale or the other: true wuv that borders on Jerry Springer codependency or cynical Bah, Humcupidity:

English: Spinach plant, Castelltallat, Catalon...

Red is the rose
Green is the spinach
If you think love is all that
Just hold on a minute . . .

That doesn’t mean there aren’t poems about romantic love out there that don’t resonate with me, but the stuff that would have worked just fine when I was a yearning sixteen-year old or a defiantly single twenty-something just doesn’t feel the same to a happily married forty-cough mother of two.

So I sorted through my stash until I found three that don’t send me into sugar shock or a deep depression.

They’re all from the 17th Century, which wasn’t my intention but doesn’t surprise me—surely no other time produced poets such as John Donne, who could so smoothly and suavely compare the natural growth of love with tax increases:

Love’s Growth
(John Donne)

I scarce believe my love to be so pure
As I had thought it was,
Because it doth endure
Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
My love was infinite, if spring make’ it more.
But if medicine, love, which cures all sorrow
With more, not only be no quintessence,
But mixed of all stuffs paining soul or sense,
John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysica...And of the sun his working vigor borrow,
Love’s not so pure, and abstract, as they use
To say, which have no mistress but their muse,
But as all else, being elemented too,
Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.
And yet no greater, but more eminent,
Love by the spring is grown;
As, in the firmament
Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
From love’s awakened root do bud out now.
If, as water stirred more circles be
Produced by one, love such additions take,
Those, like so many spheres, but one heaven make,
For they are all concentric unto thee;
And though each spring do add to love new heat,
As princes do in time of action get
New taxes, and remit them not in peace,
No winter shall abate the spring’s increase.

And then there’s Thomas Campion, who was a lyricist, as well as a poet—again, I’d argue that all lyricists are—and while he appears to have written plenty of the usual rose-blush odes to love during his career, he does occasionally indicate that just because he knew what would sell doesn’t mean he didn’t know the score:

Never Love Unless
(Thomas Campion)

Never love unless you can
Bear with all the faults of man:
Men sometimes will jealous be
Though but little cause they see;

And hang the head, as discontent,
And speak what straight they will repent.

Men that but one saint adore
Make a show of love to more.
Beauty must be scorned in none,
Though but truly served in one:
For what is courtship but disguise?
True hearts may have dissembling eyes.

Men, when their affairs require,
Must awhile themselves retire;
Sometimes hunt, and sometimes hawk,
And not ever sit and talk.
If these and such-like you can bear,
Then like, and love, and never fear!

But I think that my beloved Ben Jonson wins this round, because it’s my blog and also my considered opinion that this is the kind of thing any woman of a certain age would be glad to hear:

A Celebration of Charis: I. His Excuse for Loving
(Ben Jonson)

Let it not your wonder move,
Less your laughter, that I love.
Though I now write fifty years,
I have had, and have, my peers;

Poets, though divine, are men,
Ben_JonsonSome have lov’d as old again.
And it is not always face,
Clothes, or fortune, gives the grace;
Or the feature, or the youth.
But the language and the truth,
With the ardour and the passion,
Gives the lover weight and fashion.
If you then will read the story,
First prepare you to be sorry
That you never knew till now
Either whom to love or how;
But be glad, as soon with me,
When you know that this is she
Of whose beauty it was sung;
She shall make the old man young,
Keep the middle age at stay,
And let nothing high decay,
Till she be the reason why
All the world for love may die.

It that doesn’t get you in the mood, you’re not paying attention.

What’s your favorite romantic poem?  Song?  Cleaning product?

____________________________________

*After I hyperventilate  and tell them who they are a couple of times in a croak because my vocal cords have seized up, and then drop like an ungainly pile of unflattering clothing at their feet,.  And I’m not saying that after I recovered I wouldn’t hand them both copies of the first door stop-sized tome I could find around the house— Shakespeare’s complete works, Lewis Carroll, Stephen King, Anaïs Nin, the phone book—because who seriously cares what these two men recite as long as they don’t stop?

Poetry Wednesday: Claude McKay

Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee.
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into utter night.
For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up–
The loves which are to me of vital worth,
My passion and my pleasure in the earth–
And lost forever in thy magic cup!

My American Lit prof adored the Harlem Renaissance and she positively worshipped Claude McKay. I don’t blame her—his poetry is raw and powerful and never holds back.

Born in Jamaica in 1889, Mr. McKay was horrified at the racism he found when he moved to the United States to attend college in 1912.

Already well-educated* and a published poet,** he turned his formidable talents to protest the restrictions on and abuse of non-whites in pointed, caustic, and sometimes brutal*** verse—and unlike most minority poets^ of the time, who based their examinations of inequality on laments and spirituals, Mr. McKay uses rage and anger as a revolutionary call to arms:

If We Must Die
(Claude McKay)

If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

This is powerful stuff.

That semester, I read a lot of his political and sociological poetry and short stories and learned about Mr. McKay’s influences on Langston Hughes and other younger poets of the Harlem Renaissance. And by the end it would have been impossible to deny—not that any of us tried—that his words helped set the tone for the forthcoming battle for Civil Rights.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain how important this all is and how amazing it is that poetry did its part in encouraging the powerless to demand the rights that all human beings on this earth deserve.^^

But what this particular professor did not mention—not once—is that Claude McKay can give my man John Donne a run for his money in the seduction sweepstakes.

I kid you not.

About a week ago, I went looking for a few of the poems I remembered from the class, and found this:

Romance
(Claude McKay)

To clasp you now and feel your head close-pressed,
Scented and warm against my beating breast;

To whisper soft and quivering your name,
And drink the passion burning in your frame;

To lie at full length, taut, with cheek to cheek,
And tease your mouth with kisses till you speak

Love words, mad words, dream words, sweet senseless words,
Melodious like notes of mating birds;

To hear you ask if I shall love always,
And myself answer: Till the end of days;

To feel your easeful sigh of happiness
When on your trembling lips I murmur: Yes;

It is so sweet. We know it is not true.
What matters it? The night must shed her dew.

We know it is not true, but it is sweet —
The poem with this music is complete.

And he doesn’t bother with Donne’s trademark misogyny, either.  He’s not conning his partners—they’re complicit.

And no wonder:

Flower of Love
(Claude McKay)

The perfume of your body dulls my sense.
I want nor wine nor weed; your breath alone
Suffices. In this moment rare and tense
I worship at your breast. The flower is blown,
The saffron petals tempt my amorous mouth,
The yellow heart is radiant now with dew
Soft-scented, redolent of my loved South;
O flower of love! I give myself to you.
Uncovered on your couch of figured green,
Here let us linger indivisible.
The portals of your sanctuary unseen
Receive my offering, yielding unto me.
Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!
The air is sweet, my flower, and sweet the flute
Whose music lulls our burning brain to sleep,
While we lie loving, passionate and mute.

I would argue that there are few poems more sensual that this one—Rumi’s work included, and you know how I feel about Rumi.

And lest you think Mr. McKay saved all his raw-edged pain for politics:

Futility
(Claude McKay)

Oh, I have tried to laugh the pain away,
Let new flames brush my love-springs like a feather.
But the old fever seizes me to-day,
As sickness grips a soul in wretched weather.
I have given up myself to every urge,
With not a care of precious powers spent,
Have bared my body to the strangest scourge,
To soothe and deaden my heart’s unhealing rent.
But you have torn a nerve out of my frame,
A gut that no physician can replace,
And reft my life of happiness and aim.
Oh what new purpose shall I now embrace?
What substance hold, what lovely form pursue,
When my thought burns through everything to you?

There are all kinds of battlefields, and Mr. McKay is an expert on every single terrain.

It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to, this last one is probably my favorite—it’s a blend of tenderness and encouragement and challenge.

Courage
(Claude McKay)

O lonely heart so timid of approach,
Like the shy tropic flower that shuts its lips
To the faint touch of tender finger tips:
What is your word? What question would you broach?

Your lustrous-warm eyes are too sadly kind
To mask the meaning of your dreamy tale,
Your guarded life too exquisitely frail
Against the daggers of my warring mind.

There is no part of the unyielding earth,
Even bare rocks where the eagles build their nest,
Will give us undisturbed and friendly rest.
No dewfall softens this vast belt of dearth.

But in the socket-chiseled teeth of strife,
That gleam in serried files in all the lands,
We may join hungry, understanding hands,
And drink our share of ardent love and life.

I dare you not to read more of Claude McKay’s poetry.

How can you not?

__________________
*When he was seven, his parents sent him to be raised by his brother, a schoolteacher, in order to provide him with the best education. This appears to have worked—the young Claude was introduced to classical British literature, philosophy, science and theology and loved it all. And he started writing poetry at the age of ten.

**Songs of Jamaica, written in dialect and describing black life on the island, was released in 1909.

***Some of his final lines hit you like a sledgehammer:

O Word I Love to Sing

O word I love to sing! thou art too tender
For all the passions agitating me;
For all my bitterness thou art too tender,
I cannot pour my red soul into thee.

O haunting melody! thou art too slender,
Too fragile like a globe of crystal glass;
For all my stormy thoughts thou art too slender,
The burden from my bosom will not pass.

O tender word! O melody so slender!
O tears of passion saturate with brine,
O words, unwilling words, ye cannot render
My hatred for the foe of me and mine.

^As my professor stated several times, Mr. McKay was not an African-American. He was born in the Caribbean and didn’t become an American citizen until 1940. There is, as she said, a difference.

^^I usually don’t touch politics here, but holy cow, y’all, this should be basic by now.