Love Poems

October 18, 2023

Graphic by Angela Mikaela Mendiola

How Do You Know? — Six Poems About Love

Close your eyes, look up, and feel the rain.

        I. “Grief is love persisting”

There’s something horrible inside that tells me I’ll never stop feeling this pain
But it’s the same thing that is trying to hold onto you
So I can’t let it go

I’m dedicating myself to you
I don’t know what else to do with my love
You’re in a place I hope to be after I’ve lived my whole life
But until then, I have a lifetime of love to save

I put your gifts on my bookshelf
I hang your art on my walls
I write and I write and I write because you told me to
I dream and then I create and then I do it all over again
Just so I can put your name on the very front page
I try everyday to say your name in my head
Or out loud if I can manage it
But like now, and like always, I end up in tears

When I see you again (because they tell me I will see you again)
I wonder if you’ll remember me
Not the girl you left behind
But the woman I’ve become
The woman I had to become in your absence
Will you call me the name that only you did?
Will you speak the language of our love?

I know grief is the cruelest friend I’ll ever have
He takes away the memories but leaves me with the longing
He visits me in my dreams and corrupts every version of you
What if it’s all I ever get?

I wish I had the bird or the butterfly
Or the sunset or the clouds
If you visited me as a bee I would willingly be stung
I don’t hear whispers of your voice in the wind or see glimpses of your eyes in the sky
All I have is this pain that will never leave.

        II. “Tangerine”

The trucks are sleepy on the highway
The sun hasn’t quite thought about rising yet
I drive home with the memory of you
Like a fresh-squeezed orange
A slice of a tangerine
Is it possible to ever have enough?
You are the only thing that is all my own

You are the only thing that is as ripe
In my memory as to the touch
No one on the road beside me
Knows what it’s like to have you
No one has tasted your sweetness

But me.

          III. “How Do You Know?” Chris Warhurst

There are all these lives being lived all around us
And mine is but a single drop in this raging river
This ocean of lives surrounding us all
With their terrible currents of despair and turmoil
Foaming seas of loss and grief
All these waves upon waves of misery
And yet the water flows on, teaming with life
How this love like a mist descends effervescently
Covering all with the lightest of touches
Grasping for love, it cannot be held
Staring too closely and it cannot be seen
Only close your eyes while facing the sky
Feeling the molecules coalescing upon your lips
My lips
Tasting the newness of life
Of love
My beautiful teenage daughter drops herself upon the living room couch
She pulls her knees up into her chest, releasing a long sigh,
As she asks me "Dad, how do you know when you're in love?"
"Close your eyes and imagine a world without him in it. Can you stand it?"
"That's how you know."
Close your eyes, look up, and feel the rain.

Graphic by Angela Mikaela Mendiola

        IV. “Portrait of love”

They’re all laughing and I join in without thinking
Lights dance on their faces and I look at them one by one,
bursting with love at the sight
I don’t think about going home until later,
and even then it doesn’t make me sad
My dog is there
she’s laying on a quilt of my dad’s old t-shirts
waiting for me, peacefully
She might have been on my bed earlier,
ruffling up my freshly laundered sheets, enjoying their smell
It doesn’t bother me
She’ll have sniffed the books she can’t read
at least the lowest shelf that smell like everyone who’s borrowed them
I think of what she knows:
me and my apartment and her toys and the noise of it all
The playlists I leave on for her when I leave
Car rides long and short
The moments when I decide to let the windows down
she sticks her nose through the cracks,
and suddenly knows everything
I wonder where she holds memories, if any
Does she feel how I feel:
fine china given as a wedding gift, hidden in a cabinet?
Is it more instinctual:
a tee stored in the back of a closet, holding the scent of three homes ago?
I hope she recognizes the joy in me as well as the sadness
I hope she senses my longing and my love.

        V. “Every Part”

I just manage to get home
Unlocking the door slowly and pushing in quietly
Your name written across my body by the scent of your cologne
The color of my cheeks
The button I forgot to fix
Somehow still giddy from your kiss
And thoughts consumed with how you looked at me
Drained my vulnerability with a sweep of your eyes.

I’m sure you know every part of me by now
Yet you look as if I’m revealing a secret when I remove my clothes
There’s nothing to do but laugh when all is said and done
The frenzy replaced by comfort
The kind of comfort that is only built with an intimate knowledge of another.

I’m sure I’ve seen every part of you by now
Enough to notice when your muscles swell and chest fills
So I can compliment the changes
I’ve loved you in every way you’ve ever looked

Someone so beautiful can’t help but be noticed
Sometimes all I can do is stare
Sometimes all I can do is try not to.

I’m helpless for you
I’m thankful for the distance and the years
It only means I get to know you a million times over
It only means I get to miss you
It only means I get to watch you as I go
With sad eyes shining beautiful
And soak you in every time I come back
Crinkling at the corners and familiarizing yourself once again
With my smell and my taste
Falling quicker every time into the pattern our bodies create.

I’m sure we’ll remember every part of this
You’ll remind me to keep moving forward
I’ll remind you to look back and slow down
We won’t try to stop the changes.

        VI. “Hunting thoughts (finished for now…)” Chris Warhurst

The shooting’s awful, not only bad, but terribly bad. It’s my shooting that’s bad. It’s a brand new gun and I have literally never fired a shot out of it until now. And now I wish I hadn’t come here with a new gun, but it’s all I have to shoot with. I miss every bird we shoot at, every bird, all day, nine hours of shooting and missing. Mercifully, there is a lunch break and two snack breaks, brief reprieves from shooting and missing. I’m too far behind and below and to the right. I know exactly where I’m missing. It’s not missing like a new shooter who has no clue. It’s missing like an old shooter who should know better, and does know better, but keeps repeating the same three or four mistakes over and over.

To successfully shoot a quail, a small upland game bird, in mid air, in mid flight, with a medium gauge shotgun requires several things to happen flawlessly in about three seconds or less. This involves muscle memory and repetition and knowing without thinking (thinking sinks you for sure). You must see the bird and track it visually while raising your gun to your shoulder, removing the safety and swinging the barrel in an arc that mirrors the flight path of the quail. While swinging through the flight path and beyond, you squeeze the trigger, placing the projective pellets in front of the bird and leading it into the maelstrom of malice that will bring it abruptly to the ground. Too fast, or two slow, stopping the barrel swing as you shoot, not getting the safety off fast enough, and any one of a dozen other things can cause you to miss the shot. I am doing three or four of these steps wrong, and I’m painfully aware of exactly which ones, but to no avail. Continually peppering the air below and to the right of each bird, I look at the old man. He says nothing negative about my shooting, not one word. And in these moments, with him watching and knowing how terrible my shooting is, not one discouraging word, not one second glance, not one snarled frown on his face. I’m not sure I could love him anymore than I do in these moments.

Later the next day, I finally hit a bird, a big rooster pheasant and in front of his friends. I say to him “now you won’t have to be embarrassed by your son-in-law in front of your friends.” He answers back softly, “not one ounce of embarrassment, ever,” making his love unconditional and infinite in that moment, and giving a gift he learned how to give the hard way, and letting go of all his conditions from the past — one condition at a time. He comes by this love honestly, the hard way, four children later, seven grandkids later, marriages and divorces, and he has let go of his conditions now. He loves unconditionally, finally at peace with himself and who he is and who he has always tried to be. ■

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