There is a limit to the amount of misery and disarray you will put up with, for love, just as there is a limit to the amount of mess you can stand around a house. You can’t know the limit beforehand, but you will know when you’ve reached it. I believe this.”
— Alice Munro
For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
— Carl Sagan
If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly
I could see to write you a letter.”
— Amy Lowell, “A Lover”
From “The Vanishings” by Stephen Dunn
You can’t remember a riff or a song,
and your date’s a woman now, married,
has had sex as you have
some few thousand times, good sex
and forgettable sex, even boring sex,
oh you never could have imagined
back then with the waves crashing
what the body could erase.
It’s vanishing as you speak, the soul-grit,
everything you retrieve is your past,
everything you let go
goes to memory’s out-box, open on all sides,
in cahoots with thin air.
The jobs you didn’t get vanish like scabs.
Her good-bye, causing the phone to slip
from your hand, doesn’t hurt anymore,
too much doesn’t hurt anymore,
not even that hint of your father, ghost-thumping
on your roof in Spain, hurts anymore.
You understand and therefore hate
because you hate the passivity of understanding
that your worst rage and finest
private gesture will flatten and collapse
into history, become invisible
like defeats inside houses. Then something happens
(it is happening) which won’t vanish fast enough,
your voice fails, chokes to silence;
hurt (how could you have forgotten?) hurts.
Every other truth in the world, out of respect,
slides over, makes room for its superior.
From “Snow and Dirty Rain” by Richard Siken
“So I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.”
Praise the deep lustrous kiss that lasts minutes,
blossoms into what feels like days, fields of tulips
glossy with dew, low purple clouds piling in
beneath the distant arch of a bridge. One
after another they storm your lips, each kiss
a caress, autonomous and alive, spilling
into each other, streams into creeks into rivers
that grunt and break upon the gorge. Let the tongue,
in its wisdom, release its stores, let the mouth,
tired of talking, relax into its shapes of give
and receive, its plush swelling, its slick
round reveling, its primal reminiscence
that knows only the one robust world.
— Dorianne Laux, “Kissing Again”
You’ll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word
you don’t understand, a simple word like now or what or is
and you’ll ponder over it like a child discovering language.
Is you’ll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that’s
when you’ll say it, for the first time, out loud: He’s dead. He’s not
coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.”
Dorianne Laux, “How Will It Happen, When”
Posting this because it’s her birthday today
The Loneliest Job in the World by Tony Hoagland
As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?
and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,
trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.
It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving
in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,
paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.