Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another "Don't Do It" from the Holly Playbook—Love Poetry Edition

When I was fifteen, I was pursued by a boy for the first time ever.

After not too long, things ended the way they usually do when you are fifteen and in like.

He asked me to kiss him, and I said no; although, for years my mother thought I'd said yes.

I recall the brightly-lit desk in my English class where I happened upon what I thought was the most perfect poem for that time in his and my life. My textbook was filled with poems, but this was the one that I had wantonly opened to; at the time, I thought it was fate. And now I look back, and I am able to view it as a timely coincidence. Most of my teenagehood was both timely and coincidence.

The poem stood so boldly off the page that I almost ripped it out of the book. My mistaken visual memory of this page is essentially what an illuminated manuscript looks like behind a pane of glass—golden, shimmering, sacred. Instead of defacing school property, I chose to spend that class period copying it with pencil on college-ruled paper. I accompanied the poem with a small note for that boy which read something like, "I thought this might be useful to you since we aren't together any longer."

I'm sure I worded it much more soothingly, but the essential message was, "WE BROKE UP. I BET YOU ARE SAD." This note got to him somehow, probably through me brazenly handing it to him with nary a smile. I can't remember his reaction to it. I bet he does, however.

I look back on this time as a teaching moment for my kids when they begin to have romantic feelings for someone or try to end a relationship. Assumptions about the other person's feelings are so dangerous and tenuous that you might end up looking foolish trying to grasp at them. And trying to assuage someone's feelings of anger or hurt that you caused them can feel like a dismissive pat on the head. The things going through other people's heads are none of your business—don't White Knight something that might not be there.

The poem, by recently-exhumed poet Pablo Neruda, is still quite beautiful, though.

I Can Write
I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.

Write, for instance: "The night is full of stars,
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance."

The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.
To think I don't have her. To feel that I've lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.

What does it matter that my love couldn't keep her.
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.

That's all. Far away, someone sings. Far away.
My soul is lost without her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else's. She will be someone else's. As she once
belonged to my kisses.
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her.
Love is so short and forgetting so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is lost without her.

Although this may be the last pain she causes me,
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

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