Valentine’s Day, similar to Hoover’s pipe dream poultry, is just around the corner. In honor of this momentous fact– I selected lines from a total of 14 poets (7 in this post) relating to Love.
Who’s represented? Hughes (not Ted) to Stein (not Gertrude). I’ve omitted lots of biggees. No Baudelaire. No Byron. No Keats. No Emily Dickinson. Emily Dickinson for Valentine’s Day? Please. No “grow old with me” or “let me count the ways.” No cool naked Stephen Crane guy in a desert chomping happily on his own heart like it was a box of Whitman’s chocolates.
Thought this would be an easy blog post. It wasn’t. It was a pain in the ass. Just like Valentine’s Day.
1) “Are you busy he said and I laughed because no busy would/ be busier than seeing him and he knew it.//” (Diane Di Prima, 13 Nightmares)
2) “It was like mixing/ toothpaste/ and peanut butter// around and around/ in a great big bowl// and then sticking your/ face in it// for thirty-seven years./” (Pamela Miller, Mrs. Carsen Talks About Her First Marriage. This is the entire poem.)
3) “A weeping spell was about to overtake me./ I was very close to howling and gnashing the gladiola./ I noticed the great calm of the clouds overhead./ And below, several nurses appeared to me in need of nursing./” (James Tate, Like A Scarf.) I also like his line “Behind every great man/there sits a rat./” (Little Poem with Argyle Socks) One of my paperbacks by him has an inscription he wrote to somebody named Florence: “Welcome to my little world. I hope it doesn’t make you ill or anything unpleasant.” So great. So James Tate.
4) “I would liken you/ To a night without stars/ Were it not for your eyes.” (Langston Hughes, Ardella). This is really lovely. Years ago, a friend of mine with dubious taste in men was dating a guy who would sometimes point a loaded gun at visitors to her apartment. This charming fellow claimed he had written this very line just for her. But since the only other sample of his writing was “I’m like a streetlight, green for go, you’re like a stoplight, no, no, no”– I suspected he had pilfered it.
5) “Already on page 56 I love you// so much I just want to steal your clothes/ when you’re asleep and wash them. I want us/ to communicate telepathically until I am old// and suffering from dementia and can’t even/ remember I know how to play piano until/ a nurse tells me I do and still I’ll deny it// until she puts my hands on the keys and then/ there’ll be Chopin so quickly as the light/ spills in the leaded windows and the lilies// lean in closer.” (Leigh Stein, Based on a Book of the Same Title) Her name rhymes with “Be Mine”.
6) “It’s okay,/ will come another time// when stupendous seabirds are carilloning out over the Atlantic,/ when the charging fire engine adjusts its orange petticoats/ after knocking down the old man the girl picks up./ Now it’s too late, the books are closed, the salmon/ no longer spewing. Just so you know./” (John Ashbery, Not You Again)
7) “It is beautiful, when October/ Is over, and February is over,/ To sit in the starch of my shirt, and to dream of your sweet/ Ways! As if the world were a taxi, you enter it, then/ Reply (to no one), “Let’s go five or six blocks.”/ Isn’t the blue stream that runs past you a translation from the Russian?/ Aren’t my eyes bigger than love?/ Isn’t this history, and aren’t we a couple of ruins?/” (Kenneth Koch, In Love with You) Plus some more lil’ squiblets from the incomparable Mr. Koch. “Doris began unbuttoning her jacket,/ Under which she was naked, hurriedly/” (from Ko, or, A Season on Earth) And a poem which begins “I have a bird in my head and a pig in my stomach/” has many animals in between and ends “I have a baby in my landscape and I have a wild rat in my secrets from you./” (Alive for an Instant) Lastly, there’s this brilliant one. “Do not be put off by/ Thinking of mortality. You live long enough. There/ Would, if you lived longer, never be any new/ People. Enjoy the new people you see. Put your hand out/ And touch that girl’s arm. If you are/ Able to, have children.” (Some General Instructions)
Well, hope you enjoyed this. Please comment with any favorite lines from poems that may or may not relate to Valentine’s Day. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.
Unrelated Addendum: “Solitude, which reminds me of an old woman,/ Eating a peanut, alone in the dead of night,/” (Saburoh Kuroda, Afternoon 3)
I love peanuts!