Ah, love—one of life’s greatest complexities.
And one of our longest-told stories. For what seems like forever, love was portrayed in the old Disney-princess fashion, complete with a “happily ever after.” The same format for modeling love was echoed across genres, cultures and generations.
At some point, we became a bit more bitter as a society and the model for love was accompanied by suffering instead of a happy ending. We all seemed to better relate to being burned by love rather than being set free by it.
I sense an imbalance here. Why are we so intent on narrowing something with so many dimensions down to either hurt or luck?
I know love has the power to hurt, so much so that we remain only fragments of ourselves in the rubble left over after love sweeps through like a tsunami. And I also know that love has the power to make the same astronomical pain feel so far away that it’s almost like a dream or a vague flash of memory from a former life—not something we lived through or agonized over for extensive lengths of time. There is something terrifying and magical about that, isn’t there?
It is time we start hearing more stories about both sides of the love coin: destruction and healing. Because we hold onto all the things love can take from us, but we tend to forget all that love gives back to us. I wrote this poem to bring light to the way love works through us in its many forms and how we can eliminate the “either you have it or you don’t” mentality we have developed concerning love.
I want to encourage the act of treasuring love, not mistrusting it. Because love is not dead. It is very much alive, and at the very core of who each of us are. In an age that constantly reinforces how much misery love breeds, it is important for me to send the message that it can give so much more than it takes away.
And how it requires that same quality from each of us.
You tell me,
“Do not write of love—
that misplaced diamond,
that threadbare record.
Love is a language
people’s tongues no longer swell with,
so overgrown that the dates
have eroded to indentured stone.”
But I ask you,
how do I not record every moment
spent with someone
I love so much, it leaks from my pores
like honey seeping from a kitchen sponge
every time I exhale,
every time my bones settle?
I want to remember
just how it felt
when he reached inside the black hat
of this rot-soaked ribcage and pulled life
out of it.
Give me the word
for rediscovering my body
is more than a field of ash.
Explain to me
how the smeared ink stains
of my fingerprints on a page
always take the form
of the letters in his name.
You don’t have to.
I have written ballads
to every crease surrounding that smile
splitting the dimpled cantaloupes of his cheeks,
filled pages praising
his steady heartbeat.
There are some I still can’t go near
without getting a nose-full of salt
the blood still just as pungent
as if it were spilled yesterday
spelling stories of when I lost
all faith in Fate,
set that whole unholy valley aflame.
And what I saw
as the embers smoldered like molten rock
beneath my blistering toes,
is the opposite of death.
No one thinks much of a seedling
pushing its cheek through the dirt
for that first touch of light,
but when love emerged from my wasted soil
after seasons of barren harvests,
we called it a miracle.
I will write a poem
to each of the teeth my nightmares lose
in the leather of his forearms
strapped across my chest as I sleep.
I will tell the stories of our two hands
cupped around a flame,
and the flint of our two eyes
striking to keep it lit.
You will hear about all the maps
we chart of each other’s bodies,
our borders bleeding over
into one another’s blank spaces
until no inch of skin remains undiscovered.
How we could fill 100 lifetimes
with all this sweetness churning between us—
the kind that doesn’t curdle.
until the black tar smothering your heart
bubbles up over your lips
at the girl who writes love poems.
But my friend,
I will be laughing too.
Author: Madison Gill
Editor: Nicole Cameron; Travis May
Image: Nicole Romagna/Flickr