Saturday, June 11, 2016

Poetry about Love

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009

In an uncurtained room across the way

a woman in a tight dress paints her lips

a deeper red, and sizes up her hips

for signs of ounces gained since yesterday.

She has a thoughtful and a clever face,

but she is also smart enough to know

the truth: however large the brain may grow,

the lashes and the earrings must keep pace.

Although I’ve spread my books in front of me

with a majestic air of I’ll show her,

I’m much less confident than I’d prefer,

and now I’ve started pacing nervously.

I’m poring over theorems, tomes and tracts.

I’m getting ready for a heavy date

by staying up ridiculously late.

But a small voice advises, Face the facts:

go on this way and you’ll soon come to harm.

The world’s most famous scholars wander down

the most appalling alleyways in town,

a blond and busty airhead on each arm.

There is an inner motor known as lust

that makes a man of learning walk a mile

to gratify his raging senses, while

the woman he can talk to gathers dust. 

A chilling vision of the years ahead

invades my thoughts, and widens like a stain:

a barren dance card and a teeming brain,

a crowded bookcase and an empty bed... 

What if I compromised? I’d stay up late

to hone my elocutionary skills,

and at the crack of dawn I’d swallow pills

to calm my temper and control my weight,

but I just can’t. Romantics, so far gone

they think their lovers live for wisdom, woo

by growing wiser; when I think of you

I find the nearest lamp and turn it on.

Great gods of longing, watch me as I work

and if I sprout a martyr’s smarmy grin

please find some violent way to do me in;

I’m burning all these candles not to shirk

a night of passion, but to give that night

a richly textured backdrop when it comes.

The girl who gets up from her desk and dumbs

her discourse down has never seen the flight

of wide-eyed starlings from their shabby cage;

the fool whose love is truest is the one

who knows a lover’s work is never done.

I’ll call you when I’ve finished one more page.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: What Is This Thing Called Love by Cole Porter

Epicoene, or the Silent Woman: Still to be neat, still to be drest

By Ben Jonson 1572–1637

Still to be neat, still to be drest,

As you were going to a feast;

Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd:

Lady, it is to be presum'd,

Though art's hid causes are not found,

All is not sweet, all is not sound. 

Give me a look, give me a face,

That makes simplicity a grace;

Robes loosely flowing, hair as free:

Such sweet neglect more taketh me

Than all th' adulteries of art;

They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Time Stands Still by John Dowland

To You

By Kenneth Koch 1925–2002

I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut

That will solve a murder case unsolved for years

Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window

Through which he saw her head, connecting with

Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red

Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;

For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not

Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a

Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails

In the wind, when you’re near, a wind that blows from

The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;

I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields

Always, to be near you, even in my heart

When I’m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you

Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to

The place where I again think of you, a new

Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow

Of a ship which sails

From Hartford to Miami, and I love you

Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun

Receives me in the questions which you always pose.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Our Love is Here to Stay by George Gershwin

Variation on the Word Sleep

I would like to watch you sleeping,

which may not happen.

I would like to watch you,

sleeping. I would like to sleep

with you, to enter

your sleep as its smooth dark wave

slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent

wavering forest of bluegreen leaves

with its watery sun & three moons

towards the cave where you must descend,

towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver

branch, the small white flower, the one

word that will protect you

from the grief at the center

of your dream, from the grief

at the center. I would like to follow

you up the long stairway

again & become

the boat that would row you back

carefully, a flame

in two cupped hands

to where your body lies

beside me, and you enter

it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air

that inhabits you for a moment

only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne (Nuages) by Claude Debussy

I Knew a Woman

By Theodore Roethke 1908–1963

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,

When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;  

Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:  

The shapes a bright container can contain!

Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,

Or English poets who grew up on Greek

(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,  

She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand;  

She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin;  

I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;  

She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,

Coming behind her for her pretty sake

(But what prodigious mowing we did make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:

Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;

She played it quick, she played it light and loose;  

My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;  

Her several parts could keep a pure repose,  

Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose

(She moved in circles, and those circles moved). 

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:  

I’m martyr to a motion not my own;

What’s freedom for? To know eternity.

I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.  

But who would count eternity in days?

These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:  

(I measure time by how a body sways).
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  My Foolish Heart by Victor Young

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