Ready for Love
From a distance
you’re folded at the lap. Your spine
dangles like a dry stalk in a wintry fog.
Despite walls, you settle on me like a yellow
towel off the hook. You’re the thin wind
beside me as I pull off my red cotton
dress. My heart is cut to fit
under the same roof. Your heart
is the strength of an hour
as it rocks itself to sleep.
to our knees
in a field of dark
like one acre of stars
begging to lie down
Why My Mother Stayed With My Father
She knew he was worthless the first time
she saw him in the camps: his blind eye,
his small size, the way his clothes carried
the smell of the dead men who wore them before.
In America she learned he couldn’t fix a leak
or drive a nail straight. He knew nothing
about the world, the way the planets moved,
the tides. The moon was just a hole in the sky,
electricity a mystery as great as death.
The first time lightning shorted the fuses,
he fell to his knees and prayed to Blessed Mary
to bring back the miracle of light and lamps.
He was a drunk too. Some Fridays he drank
his check away as soon as he left work.
When she’d see him stagger, she’d knock him down
and kick him till he wept. He wouldn’t crawl away.
He was too embarrassed. Sober, he’d beg
in the bars on Division for food or rent
till even the drunks and bartenders
took pity on this dumb Polack.
My father was like that, but he stayed
with her through her madness in the camps
when she searched among the dead for her sister,
and he stayed when it came back in America.
Maybe this was why my mother stayed.
She knew only a man worthless as mud,
worthless as a broken dog would suffer
with her through all of her sorrow.
[first published in Poetry East]
At night in the mission,
violin concerto ecstasy:
Bach, Hayden, Schubert.
A flock of Germans lands
in the empty row before me,
engaging their native tongue.
They hold two of the oak chairs open.
Footsteps rush and echo
on the nave’s stone floor – first
a woman, doe-eyed with flawless skin.
In European custom, she wears
the wedding ring on her right hand,
a slender gold band embedded
with a diamond chip. A man,
Nordic tall and handsome, more so
because he is unaware of his beauty,
follows her to the saved seats.
She looks at him
as if he were a sailor set to leave for sea.
My eyes sweep down his long sleeve, curious
if he wears the matching ring, then glimpse
a fresh-white bandage
where his right hand used to be.
He removes his cardigan in slow
unaccustomed movements, looks
over his shoulder, asks if I am able
to see the musicians. I notice the blue
smoke of bruising choking his right eye
and temple. Before I can answer,
the church swells
with falling stars of strings.
She hooks her arm through his,
places his remaining
palm against hers – they clap as one.
You thought your heart
was a thing of feathers and frippery.
You envisioned the Mardi Gras mask
of your heart, the glittered borders, the bejeweled
chambers of celebration, blood bubbly as champagne.
You didn’t realize you would need to deconstruct
your rosary to have a sturdy
thread to stitch your heart
back together. But here you sit embroidering
fancy patterns with beaded embellishments.
You should have invested in a supply
of surgical thread, but your stash
of sacred relics will serve
you just as well, as you repair
your beating heart and pray
for happy endings.
In the Hurricane of Love
The letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not included [in the list of storm names]
because of the scarcity of names beginning with those letters.
–National Hurricane Center
I almost lost you,
knocking you over
when I’d meant
to sweep you off your feet.
My eye blue as anything
so you’d never suspect me
for what I was and am:
a whirl of poetry,
a rush of sultry air,
a whisper of ruin.
Though my name is outside
the orthodox alphabet of calamity,
it is at the start of yours,
after the storm
the street is wild and dirty
the ceiling with
its mystery of tiny holes
drips water from a leak
wetter than the gallons
that roll off the roof
you said, the wind can’t break us
the rain can’t break
the fern, fastened to its hill
sending spores like letters to the world
at the mailbox a giant maple leaf
wets my face with a cocky slap
and I believe you
[first published in Main Street Rag]
We hope you have enjoyed these love poems. Please click each poet’s name to find her or his solo poetry feature, as well as artist Maude McDonald’s Artist Watch feature at EIL. Visit these past Valentine features for more love poems of all kinds!