Thirty-five years ago, I was in love. Oddly, the person I loved loved me as well. Her name was Sarah and she was from Texas by way of Brazil by way of Belgium by way of I’m not sure where else. We had our time together. It was a good time. Then she returned to Texas, and we wrote regularly. Then I behaved badly (contracted a particularly strong case of Fundamentalism and fell for a southern beauty queen—but that’s another story) and we fell apart. Until a year ago, when either I saw her name on Linked-In or she saw mine, and one of us made connection. Sarah has been married for years, has two kids in their twenties, and works as an educational consultant. In an act of grace, the universe has allowed us to transform whatever we had long, long ago into a friendship. In the last year, we’ve gotten together for lunch five or six times, gone to a couple art shows and, last Christmas, had a chance to play together with a bunch of kids at a community-center party. Sarah and I are buddies.
When we first got together a year ago, Sarah gave me a medium-sized, overstuffed brown envelope, containing 12 or 15 letters I’d written her. Apparently, I’d developed a habit of writing doggerel poems to end each letter. Although I’m writing a memoir now, I don’t think these artifacts will make it in. Still, they are primary evidence of who I was (and how untalented I am as a poet), and I don’t want them to be lost forever, although I can’t say why. Below are five examples of love poetry from a time long ago.
Inertia is the king of this household;
That coffee mug’s been on the floor three days;
Those stains by the back door are getting old;
How have I spilled thee, let me count the ways.
Three socks draped on my bedstand for two weeks,
The Father, Son and Holey Ghost (I’m sorry);
The desktop dust’s arranged itself in peaks;
The window grime makes every night look starry.
Yet even in the midst of this decay,
I find my mouth’s wide open in a holler:
“I love you more with every passing day;
Come live with me and share my squalor.”
I wish I could be serious.
I know my verses gall;
They belong in cafeterias
Not stately banquet halls.
You deserve some verse that’s solemn,
Laced with learned thoughts profound;
Those thoughts run when I call ’em,
I gather droppings from the ground.
You need poetry intelligent
That is spiritually uplifting,
What genius I’ve had has long been spent
And it’s common sand I’m sifting.
I wish I could be Yeats for you
Or even A.E. Housman
But all I’ve got is love that’s true
And simple rhymes that won’t scan.
Thoughts of you keep turning up
At the most unlikely times;
As I smell my dinner burning up
Or emote through Oscar’s rhymes.
My heart and mind receivers
That your love is always jamming
I’ve become a true believer
–I don’t need no deprogramming.
Love Song #93 (food is the music of love)
I love you more than Twinkies, more than squid and more than beer
I love you more than Yoo-Hoo or a roasted side of steer.
I love you more than broccoli with a side of Hollandaise
I love you more than chicken, though it’s served so many ways.
Ever since you walked right in, my diet’s gone to hell.
I forsake food to think of you, and have these blackout spells.
My clothes they hang so loosely, and my skin it feels so tight.
I love you more than food itself and I’ve lost my appetite.
I’ve taken on the countenance of an Asian refugee,
Unfaithfulness for would be a caloric eating spree.
If I’m to live, not fade away and die here in this chair,
I’ll go and grab some dinner, then I’ll love you more than hair.
I love you more than brown ones that make my mother’s mink,
I love you more than scummy ones that clog my bathroom sink,
I love you more than hair that grows upon the Pontiff’s head,
I love you more than dental hair when you don’t brush before bed.
Friday I dreamed I was missing my pants;
People were laughing after one single glance.
Saturday it was my comb that wasn’t there;
Psychotics marveled at my tangled hair.
Sunday I couldn’t find my socks or shoes
And was scheduled to dance for a luxury cruise.
Monday I spent the night searching for glasses
Until I got arrested in a rest room for lasses.
Tuesday my car and Wednesday my pen
Thursday my home, Friday trousers again.
Searching and searching, my sleep is the cost
Endlessly looking for something that’s lost.
Psychics won’t help me, nor witches with hexes;
I won’t get a night’s sleep ‘til you’re out of Texas.