Conjugal Love

April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

amo
amas
amat
amamus
amatis
a mantis

– Alan Riddell

This is a found poem from a Latin textbook. I saw. I came. I consumed.

Love

December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
  Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
  From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
  If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
  Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
  I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
  Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
  Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
  My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
  So I did sit and eat.

– George Herbert

In Catholicism, the Eucharist is the taking of the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. I suppose there are some old-school Catholics who believe that the bread and wine are literally the flesh and blood of Christ, and not symbolic gestures, in what amounts to holy cannibalism. It is unclear whether “Love” is love personified or Christ himself in Herbert’s poem (probably the latter), but when Love instructs the speaker to taste its meat, the invitation resonates as a spiritual and possibly physical feast.

Separation

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

– W. S. Merwin

Love lost is not so much about feeling incomplete; rather, it is about learning to be complete in a new way, to weave one’s existence into new tapestries using old threads.

I Wish You a Wave of the Sea

July 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Fretting my heart as you pedal your bicycle,
Perdita, once I called, Perdita, twice I called.
Pretty as paint and as cool as an icicle,
  Perdita Simmons!

Shall I tell how we met under fortunate auspices?
Presuming a bottle of Spanish Don Horsepiss is
Fortunate… This is not one of my coarse pieces,
  Perdita Simmons.

Syllables shimmy as sonnets assemble
Themselves in a shadowless summer a-tremble —
A ten-guinea ticket for Merton Commem Ball
  With Perdita Simmons.

Daddy’s a saurian Cambridge historian.
Mummy’s more chummy. She’s tweedy and Tory and
Hunts and what-have-you. So very Victorian
  Is Perdita Simmons.

Thus Mainwaring, tall dark and rich, with a glance as much
As to say, My dear boy, I don’t fancy your chances much
I know Perdie of old, and she doesn’t like dances much,
  Doesn’t Perdita Simmons.

Perdita’s hair ruffles fairer and tanglier,
Perdita’s grin makes my ganglia janglia,
Perdita’s uncle owns half of East Anglia,
  All for Perdita Simmons.

Mainwaring’s plan is for getting a leg over;
Wait till she’s plastered (the bastard!), then beg of her.
No go. (Ho-ho!) Now his face has got egg over.
  From Perdita Simmons.

Oh, how spiffing! (She talks like a school-story serial,
While my lexical style is down-market and beery.) All
Love is insane and remote and ethereal
  And Perdita Simmons.

As we’re pounding the ground in a last hokey-cokey, dawn
Fingers to constables, hauling of chokey-borne
Mainwaring, pissed as a rat on the croquet lawn.
  Sweet Perdita Simmons.

Half-asleep, climbing from Headington Hill, at the crest of it
Sickle moon, scatter of stars and the rest of it,
In my hand one small hand (and this is the best of it)
  Of Perdita Simmons.

Perdita murmurs, You’ll do for a poet.
And kisses me carefully twice, just to show it.
Nobody knows what love is. But I know it.
  It’s Perdita Simmons.

– John Whitworth

Pretty Perdita thwomps menacing Mainwaring with an egg, dances until dawn, then gets whisked away by a poet-narrator who decorates his tale with triple rhymes and a meter that is very much like a wave of the sea. The three characters may have their own love triangle, but my favorite ménage à trois is the trifecta of auspices, Horsepiss is and coarse pieces from a poem stuffed with inventive rhymes.

Myfanwy at Oxford

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pink may, double may, dead laburnum
  Shedding an Anglo-Jackson Shade,
Shall we ever, my staunch Myfanwy,
  Bicycle down to North Parade?
Kant on the handle-bars, Marx in the saddlebag,
  Light my touch on your shoulder-blade.

Sancta Hilda, Myfanwyatia
  Evansensis — I hold your heart,
Willowy banks of a willowy Cherwell a
  Willowy figure with lips apart,
Strong and willowy, strong to pillow me
  Gold Myfanwy, kisses and art.

Tubular bells of tall St. Barnabas,
  Single clatter above St. Paul,
Chasuble, acolyte, incense-offering,
  Spectacled faces held in thrall.
There in the nimbus and Comper tracery
  Gold Myfanwy blesses us all.

Gleam of gas upon Oxford station,
  Gleam of gas on her straight gold hair,
Hair flung back with an ostentation,
  Waiting alone for a girl friend there.
Second in Mods and a Third in Theology
  Come to breathe again Oxford air.

Her Myfanwy as in Cadena days,
  Her Myfanwy, a schoolgirl voice,
Tentative brush of a cheek in a cocoa crush,
  Coffee and Ulysses, Tennyson, Joyce,
Alpha-minded and other dimensional,
  Freud or Calvary? Take your choice.

Her Myfanwy? My Myfanwy.
  Bicycle bells in a Boar’s Hill Pine,
Stedman Triple from All Saints’ steeple,
  Tom and his hundred and one at nine,
Bells of Butterfield, caught in Keble,
  Sally and backstroke answer “Mine!

– John Betjeman

“Myfanwy at Oxford” chimes with the people and places of a halcyon era. Always a name-dropper, Betjeman invites Freud and Kant and Tennyson and Joyce to swing through the sunshine on the lap of a golden girl bicycling through the campus grounds. The sonic joy of the landscapes whooshing past (“Bells of Butterfield, caught in Keble”) must match the joy in the poet’s fluttering heart. That Betjeman’s love for Piper was ultimately unrequited (she would become a notable art critic and marry another man) makes the poem that much more poignant, a schoolboy’s dream suspended in amber.

Unfortunate Coincidence

February 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

By the time you swear you’re his,
  Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
  Infinite, undying —
Lady, make a note of this
  One of you is lying.

– Dorothy Parker

Parker was a master of the surprise ending, and here, after four lines of Harlequin romance fluff, she deflates love’s bloated promises with the pointed wit of the last line.

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