Welcome to Valentine’s week. Brought to you by the flower industry, the card industry and love cats everywhere. I have been writing anti-love poems for about 16 years now and also assigning this task to my students. It is a liberating experience. We never have Hallmark cards that read, “here’s my heart, you can smash it to smithereens if you so chose,” though this is sometimes the end result of our love experience. So no matter where you weigh in on the love question, one thing is true, without love of some sort, life is all white bread and mayonnaise. This year the object of my affection is the creek that runs through my back yard. What’s yours? Below I have assembled some various takes on the love equation by some extraordinary writers. Dive in babies. These poets are the mathematicians of love: Anne Waldman, Carol Frost, Kim Addonizio, Alan Jude Moore, Francesco Levato, J. Hope Stein, Dan Linehan, Adeena Karasick, Joanna Fuhrman, Michael Odom, Jillian Mukavetz, and Dena Rash Guzman.
She’s got my heart and I’ve got hers
It was fair we fell in love
I hold hers precious and mine she would miss
There never was anything like this
My heart in her keeps us one
Her heart in me guides thoughts and feelings
She loves my heart for once it was hers
I loved hers because it lived in me
I once wounded her it was misunderstanding
And then my heart hurt for her heart
For as from me on her her hurt did sit
So I felt still in me her heart hurt
It both of us hurt simultaneously
And then we saw how we’re stuck
With each others’ hearts now.
after Sir Philip Sydney
Any white heron trespassing in the fallen tide
any dawn will wait for least brine shiver, silver fish and silver
fish coming into its realm, helpless in their swimming
as heron in devouring; and you, beloved, god filling
you with yourself, helpless in trespass.
I see heron will not move its crooked leg or moves so little its magnificence
is, as it is, in being live and, as it will, in swallowing;
water or wine glass, some promise, is ever bound
to be broken by your wing span; o heron, flying off all at once,
like stars splashing. By the time the sky
swallows the true stars, day & death will have trespassed.
Candy Heart Valentine
In the story of the three famous words, things turn out badly :
one word is washed overboard, another ends trapped under a machine
drinking and dialing, the third is still apologizing to some rocks.
I’ve forgotten how to swim, and the sharks are circling. Love
is hopeless in exactly zero of the Hollywood movies I’ve watched, alone
in bed or sitting in the overbuttered dark in a chair that rocks slightly,
someone’s hand on my thigh, my hand on someone’s stirring
private parts. You were someone to me once, but now I’ve razored
through most of the frames. I only occasionally hear the clatter
and dying fall before the projector stops. Love according to the Greeks
came in four flavors, eros being the most likely to turn to old gum
in your mouth and so end up smashed on a sidewalk by the boots
and perilous heels of happier passersby, flattened under the swivel
of stroller wheels. You know what I miss? I miss lying next to you
like a lifeboat snug against an ocean liner. Love isn’t love,
according to Shakespeare, if it’s confused about whether it’s a star
or a distant reflective planet, if it’s a winestain that succumbs
to a little seltzer water. You know what else I miss: you strumming
your electric lyre, plectrum flashing in bar light. I still see
a pink cloud where the spill was. Love is deeper than nothing.
You, love, you. I’m writing our story in small block letters. Love
mixed in a machine, cut and stamped into dough. You know. You know.
Somewhere there is your love
Lying in wait like an escalator
The apple trees shaped like a crucifix
There is no-one here to say otherwise
Trams meet in the centre of town
Like metal tongues sliding against each other
Or beached whales whose bones remember
Looking for some way off the land
In the zoo they predict the breeding patterns
Of an almost extinct African species
In telescopic towers we extend our reach
Scrape at planets with our gods and debris
Somewhere our love in the future waits
Like dogs in the wild
slim and patient
We speak of attraction or repulsion,
possess a power of motion which would realize itself
if all hindrances were removed.
We have had pulls and tensions,
and might have had the force of heat
but we are two utterly distinct things.
I have tried to steer clear of confusion,
fixing the mind on things rather than on names,
but names are essential.
It is actual then, and we agree to call it that.
THE INVENTOR’S HYPOTHESIS
For the necklace with a tiny silver pony she misplaces on the floor of my factory—For I rescue the necklace from the floor of my factory and wait for her to disrobe and change into her street clothes. For when she sees me looking through the curtains that don’t quite close. For I give her the necklace and ask if there’s a story behind the pony. She whispers – zebra not pony and merry-go-rounds me like a ghost. Her hair, golden. For I levitate with my high plane of thought and summon her to keep returning to me. For touch is the only true correspondence of tiny men and I begin to sculpt her:
One I drum on her head.
Two I place my hand on her abdominals to possess her of her meridians.
Three I sandwich my weight to her bend & she can feel my monster.
Four She keeps saying zebra and keeps coming back.
Five I notice the chisels in her body.
Six I invite her to balance on one leg by clasping her foot to my inner thigh and she can feel my monster.
Seven We do seated poses to add suppleness to her knees, groin and ankles.
Eight We do reaching poses that make her blouse slide, exposing elements of her stomach. At first she struggles with one hand reaching. I have the factory hold these positions for a full minute. For she is swimming in golden hair.
Nine Sometimes she keeps on her necklace and in inverted positions, the zebra dangles to her lips. Sometimes she lets it slip inside her mouth.
Ten For it is the new moon—The disciples in the factory are wood-working with their eyes closed. For night is a dark open mouth & I have the mind to make a cocktail of her. I stand over her body, (for the fragrance of her swollen body in corpse pose) the room is dark, her eyes are closed—She must have summoned me with levitation. For sometimes you think about going right up to a rim of a volcano and having a glass of scotch. I bring her left pinky inside my mouth—She does not change the pistol or compass of her electric breath. This girl does not make a single movement or noise in darkness surrounded by disciples with their eyes closed. We stay just like this for 4 minutes.
THE BEAGLE CHANNEL
She told me about her silver ring.
Her mother had said
silver has healing powers.
I showed her my silver earring.
I feel like a pirate now.
She has a telescope back in Chile.
This is her last cruise.
She knows magic tricks.
We watched the comet,
sharing a pair of binoculars.
From Salomé: Woman of Valor
Through all that is verboten burdened blurred
let me —
in the rife frivolity of shadowed runes fused
in nightshade rills riffs
taste you —
writhing with s’lipse signs sobs secrets
the trace of your skin tongue
taste you —
across the length of this enclosure
For, fraught with illegality
each day, a scarred cirque
of hazy gaming
gambits ambits orbits
a quirky surplus of excess-flecked flourishes
a strung cluster
of awkward urgencies
And each day
I reach towards you
through all that is forbidden and unthinkable
dripping with blood text breath histories stirred with
And Then We Started Again
I need you as a red panda conquers Minnetonka,
filling all the empty ponds with aqua vodka
because he is a god from another planet trapped
here when his intergalactic bicycle broke down.
I need you like an elbow, like I need my elbow
to be able to pick up a phone and call you from
New Jersey Transit and ask you the time. Always
I need you, even when the rubber palms pick up
their saxophones to play love and anti-love bebop
or to toss the schoolteachers and their stuffed
walkie-talkie jewelry out of the classroom and
into the revolving plaza where it is snowing
miniature white kitty-cats and gooey marshmallow
frogmen. Despite everything or because of everything,
I need you most when I don’t need you at all,
when all the windows are locked shut and I put
my fuzzy earmuffs and flannel armor on, and
then suddenly find you smiling and lying right
next to me in our bed with all the covers drawn.
Venus Stoops, Conquered
(to the woman who offered her beauty in marriage to any man making more than 500k annual and received only a lecture on finance in response)
Your stuck-shocked arch gaze, your unbreathing (unpored)
Waxed skin, bald hatchling’s body with a blonde sculpture on top –
Are you sapiens anymore? Or angel-
Paint on a parvenu chimp? By grace and expert hand,
Among women now, Goddess, your hard symmetry and luster
Should make men, and wealth, love you. Intense brow work alone
Should earn powerlifting with the muscles that work
Male jaws (They win gold). Beauty’s neglect in our time
Is no flaw in you, Precious, purchasable as art.
But looks do not appreciate. They trend down.
And your face-depreciation won’t write off.
And what beauty can blame business for failing to love
When throughout history it’s been beauty’s love
To hang on business.
This Can’t Be a Love Poem Because I Am a Poet
Fox Mulder was too sensitive
To tell Scully the truth. It’s out there
on Netflix. He should have stopped her
from wearing those boxy jackets
and too-long skirts. Scully,
he could have said. Scully,
they do you no favors.
He cared more for greys.
Nancy Botwin was too insensitive
to really go for Andy. You might think
she was sensitive and holding back
because Andy was her brother-in-law
but we are talking MILFweed
and suburban baronesses
and spankings in limousines Nancy.
She cared more for selling weed.
In/sensitive? I’m neither one of those.
I’m numb. I’m dumb. I ask questions like
how did you like the book, or
would you like to talk about this tomorrow, or
I just turn on the TV and write a story
based on a show I saw another time I turned it on.
I care more about metaphor, Fukushima, and sorrow.
scene : glenn pets kittens watching the snow fall from the beach
cowboy to glenn: why is your bed made, wingless weather of a blue
we play flowers on a branch, pulled leather petals placed against my lips I don’t need to understand all you have sad
glenn : dear magnetic peach
the air under the sidewalk
knees like wild animals