poem index

Love's Facade

This note book contains poems about head-over-heal-love, tough love, forbidden love, etc. love.
Love's Facade
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True Love
Robert Penn Warren, 1905 - 1989
In silence the heart raves.  It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
A meaning.  I was ten, skinny, red-headed,

Freckled.  In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat
In front of the drugstore, sipping something

Through a straw. There is nothing like
Beauty. It stops your heart.  It
Thickens your blood.  It stops your breath.  It

Makes you feel dirty.  You need a hot bath.  
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.

How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me.  She
Named my name. I thought I would wake up dead.

Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen.  They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop. Did no work.

Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.

He never came down.  They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.

When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him.  I saw the wedding.  There were

Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable.  I thought
I would cry.  I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.

The mortgage was foreclosed. That last word was whispered. 
She never came back.  The family
Sort of drifted off.  Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.

But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once.  I didn't even know she knew it.
Love's Facade
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No, Love Is Not Dead
Robert Desnos, 1900 - 1945

No, love is not dead in this heart these eyes and this mouth
that announced the start of its own funeral.
Listen, I've had enough of the picturesque, the colorful
and the charming.
I love love, its tenderness and cruelty.
My love has only one name, one form.
Everything disappears. All mouths cling to that one.
My love has just one name, one form.
And if someday you remember
O you, form and name of my love,
One day on the ocean between America and Europe,
At the hour when the last ray of light sparkles
on the undulating surface of the waves, or else a stormy night
beneath a tree in the countryside or in a speeding car,
A spring morning on the boulevard Malesherbes,
A rainy day,
Just before going to bed at dawn,
Tell yourself-I order your familiar spirit-that
I alone loved you more and it's a shame
you didn't know it.
Tell yourself there's no need to regret: Ronsard
and Baudelaire before me sang the sorrows
of women old or dead who scorned the purest love.
When you are dead
You will still be lovely and desirable.
I'll be dead already, completely enclosed in your immortal body,
in your astounding image forever there among the endless marvels
of life and eternity, but if I'm alive,
The sound of your voice, your radiant looks,
Your smell the smell of your hair and many other things
will live on inside me.
In me and I'm not Ronsard or Baudelaire

I'm Robert Desnos who, because I knew
and loved you, 
Is as good as they are.
I'm Robert Desnos who wants to be remembered
On this vile earth for nothing but his love of you.

A la mysterieuse

Poetry Valentines   Browse all six free cards

Featuring lines from
"No, Love Is Not Dead"
by Robert Desnos

Love's Facade
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I Love You
Sara Teasdale, 1884 - 1933
When April bends above me
And finds me fast asleep,
Dust need not keep the secret
A live heart died to keep.

When April tells the thrushes,
The meadow-larks will know,
And pipe the three words lightly
To all the winds that blow.

Above his roof the swallows,
In notes like far-blown rain,
Will tell the little sparrow
Beside his window-pane.

O sparrow, little sparrow,
When I am fast asleep,
Then tell my love the secret
That I have died to keep.
Love's Facade
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How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Love's Facade
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The More Loving One
W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
Love's Facade
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A Perfume
John Koethe, 1945
There were mice, and even
Smaller creatures holed up in the rafters.
One would raise its thumb, or frown,
And suddenly the clouds would part, and the whole
Fantastic contraption come tumbling down.

And the arcade of forgotten things
Closed in the winter, and the roller coaster
Stood empty as the visitors sped away
Down a highway that passed by an old warehouse
Full of boxes of spools and spoons. 

I wonder if these small mythologies,
Whose only excuse for existing is to maintain us
In our miniscule way of life,
Might possibly be true? And even if they were,
Would it be right? Go find the moon

And seal it in the envelope of night.
The stars are like a distant dust
And what the giants left lies hidden in full view.
Brush your hair. Wipe the blood from your shoes.
Sit back and watch the firedance begin.
--So the rain falls in place,

The playground by the school is overrun with weeds
And we live our stories, filling up our lives
With souvenirs of the abandoned
Factory we have lingered in too long.
Love's Facade
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Sally's Hair
John Koethe, 1945

It's like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.

I took the train back from Poughkeepsie to New York
And in the Port Authority, there at the Suburban Transit window,
She asked, "Is this the bus to Princeton?"—which it was.
"Do you know Geoffrey Love?" I said I did. She had the blondest hair,

Which fell across her shoulders, and a dress of almost phosphorescent blue.
She liked Ayn Rand. We went down to the Village for a drink,
Where I contrived to miss the last bus to New Jersey, and at 3 a.m. we
Walked around and found a cheap hotel I hadn't enough money for

And fooled around on its dilapidated couch. An early morning bus
(She'd come to see her brother), dinner plans and missed connections
And a message on his door about the Jersey shore. Next day
A summer dormitory room, my roommates gone: "Are you," she asked,

"A hedonist?" I guessed so. Then she had to catch her plane.
Sally—Sally Roche. She called that night from Florida,
And then I never heard from her again. I wonder where she is now,
Who she is now. That was thirty-seven years ago.

And I'm too old to be surprised again. The days are open,
Life conceals no depths, no mysteries, the sky is everywhere,
The leaves are all ablaze with light, the blond light
Of a summer afternoon that made me think again of Sally's hair.

Love's Facade
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The Question Answered
William Blake, 1757 - 1827
What is it men in women do require
The lineaments of Gratified Desire
What is it women do in men require
The lineaments of Gratified Desire
Love's Facade
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The Definition of Love
Andrew Marvell, 1621 - 1678
My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown
But vainly flapped its Tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant Poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole World on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embraced.

Unless the giddy Heaven fall,
And Earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the World should all
Be cramped into a planisphere.

As lines so Loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet:
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite can never meet.
                                                    
Therefore the Love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the Mind,
And opposition of the Stars.
Love's Facade
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Heart's Needle
W. D. Snodgrass, 1926 - 2009

 

For Cynthia
When Suibhe would not return to fine garments and good food, to his houses and his people, Loingseachan told him, "Your father is dead." "I'm sorry to hear it," he said. "Your mother is dead," said the lad. "All pity for me has gone out of the world." "Your sister, too, is dead." "The mild sun rests on every ditch," he said; "a sister loves even though not loved." "Suibhne, your daughter is dead." "And an only daughter is the needle of the heart." "And Suibhne, your little boy, who used to call you 'Daddy' he is dead." "Aye," said Suibhne, "that's the drop that brings a man to the ground."
     He fell out of the yew tree; Loingseachan closed his arms around him and placed him in manacles.

—after The Middle-Irish Romance
     The Madness of Suibhne

 

 

1

Child of my winter, born
When the new fallen soldiers froze
In Asia's steep ravines and fouled the snows,
When I was torn

By love I could not still,
By fear that silenced my cramped mind
To that cold war where, lost, I could not find
My peace in my will, 

All those days we could keep
Your mind a landscape of new snow
Where the chilled tenant-farmer finds, below,
His fields asleep

In their smooth covering, white
As quilts to warm the resting bed
Of birth or pain, spotless as paper spread
For me to write,

And thinks: Here lies my land
Unmarked by agony, the lean foot
Of the weasel tracking, the thick trapper's boot;
And I have planned

My chances to restrain
The torments of demented summer or
Increase the deepening harvest here before
It snows again.

 

 

2

   Late April and you are three; today
      We dug your garden in the yard.
   To curb the damage of your play,
Strange dogs at night and the moles tunneling,
   Four slender sticks of lath stand guard
      Uplifting their thin string.

   So you were the first to tramp it down.
      And after the earth was sifted close
   You brought your watering can to drown
All earth and us.  But these mixed seeds are pressed
   With light loam in their steadfast rows.
      Child, we've done our best.

   Someone will have to weed and spread
      The young sprouts.  Sprinkle them in the hour
   When shadow falls across their bed.
You should try to look at them every day
   Because when they come to full flower
      I will be away.

 

3

The child between them on the street
Comes to a puddle, lifts his feet
   And hangs on their hands. They start
At the Jive weight and lurch together,
Recoil to swing him through the weather,
   Stiffen and pull apart.

We read of cold war soldiers that
Never gained ground, gave none, but sat
   Tight in their chill trenches.
Pain seeps up from some cavity
Through the ranked teeth in sympathy;
   The whole jaw grinds and clenches

Till something somewhere has to give.
It's better the poor soldiers live
   In someone else's hands
Than drop where helpless powers fall
On crops and barns, on towns where all
   Will burn. And no man stands.

For good, they sever and divide
Their won and lost land. On each side
   Prisoners are returned
Excepting a few unknown names.
The peasant plods back and reclaims
   His fields that strangers burned

And nobody seems very pleased.
It's best. Still, what must not be seized
   Clenches the empty fist.
I tugged your hand, once, when I hated
Things less: a mere game dislocated
   The radius of your wrist.

Love's wishbone, child, although I've gone
As men must and let you be drawn
   Off to appease another,
It may help that a Chinese play
Or Solomon himself might say
   I am your real mother.

 

 

4

      No one can tell you why
   the season will not wait;
      the night I told you I
must leave, you wept a fearful rate
         to stay up late.

      Now that it's turning Fan,
   we go to take our walk
      among municipal
flowers, to steal one off its stalk,
         to try and talk.

      We huff like windy giants
   scattering with our breath
      gray-headed dandelions;
Spring is the cold wind's aftermath.
         The poet saith.

      But the asters, too, are gray,
   ghost-gray. Last night's cold
      is sending on their way
petunias and dwarf marigold,
         hunched sick and old.

      Like nerves caught in a graph,
   the morning-glory vines
      frost has erased by half
still scrawl across their rigid twines.
         Like broken lines

      of verses I can't make.
   In its unraveling loom
      we find a flower to take,
with some late buds that might still bloom,
         back to your room.

      Night comes and the stiff dew.
   I'm told a friend's child cried
      because a cricket, who
had minstreled every night outside
         her window, died.

 

 

5

Winter again and it is snowing;
Although you are still three,
You are already growing
Strange to me.

You chatter about new playmates, sing
Strange songs; you do not know
Hey ding-a-ding-a-ding
Or where I go

Or when I sang for bedtime, Fox
Went out on a chilly night,
Before I went for walks
And did not write;

You never mind the squalls and storms
That are renewed long since;
Outside, the thick snow swarms
Into my prints

And swirls out by warehouses, sealed,
Dark cowbarns, huddled, still,
Beyond to the blank field,
The fox's hill

Where he backtracks and sees the paw,
Gnawed off, he cannot feel;
Conceded to the jaw
Of toothed, blue steel.

 

 

6

      Easter has come around
   again; the river is rising
      over the thawed ground
   and the banksides. When you come you bring
      an egg dyed lavender.
   We shout along our bank to hear
our voices returning from the hills to meet us.
   We need the landscape to repeat us.

      You Jived on this bank first.
   While nine months filled your term, we knew
      how your lungs, immersed
   in the womb, miraculously grew
      their useless folds till
   the fierce, cold air rushed in to fill
them out like bushes thick with leaves. You took your hour,
   caught breath, and cried with your full lung power.

      Over the stagnant bight
   we see the hungry bank swallow
      flaunting his free flight
   still; we sink in mud to follow
      the killdeer from the grass
   that hides her nest. That March there was
rain; the rivers rose; you could hear killdeers flying
   all night over the mudflats crying.

      You bring back how the red-
   winged blackbird shrieked, slapping frail wings,
      diving at my head—
   I saw where her tough nest, cradled, swings
      in tall reeds that must sway
   with the winds blowing every way.
If you recall much, you recall this place. You still
   live nearby—on the opposite hill.

      After the sharp windstorm
   of July Fourth, all that summer
      through the gentle, warm
   afternoons, we heard great chain saws chirr
      like iron locusts. Crews
   of roughneck boys swarmed to cut loose
branches wrenched in the shattering wind, to hack free
   all the torn limbs that could sap the tree.

      In the debris lay
   starlings, dead. Near the park's birdrun
      we surprised one day
   a proud, tan-spatted, buff-brown pigeon.
      In my hands she flapped so
   fearfully that I let her go.
Her keeper came. And we helped snarl her in a net.
   You bring things I'd as soon forget.

      You raise into my head
   a Fall night that I came once more
      to sit on your bed;
   sweat beads stood out on your arms and fore-
      head and you wheezed for breath,
   for help, like some child caught beneath
its comfortable wooly blankets, drowning there.
   Your lungs caught and would not take the air.

      Of all things, only we
   have power to choose that we should die;
      nothing else is free
   in this world to refuse it. Yet I,
      who say this, could not raise
   myself from bed how many days
to the thieving world. Child, I have another wife,
   another child. We try to choose our life.

 

 

7

Here in the scuffled dust
   is our ground of play.
I lift you on your swing and must
   shove you away,
see you return again,
   drive you off again, then

stand quiet till you come.
   You, though you climb
higher, farther from me, longer,
   will fall back to me stronger.
Bad penny, pendulum,
   you keep my constant time

to bob in blue July
   where fat goldfinches fly
over the glittering, fecund
   reach of our growing lands.
Once more now, this second,
   I hold you in my hands.

 

 

8

I thumped on you the best I could
      which was no use;
you would not tolerate your food
until the sweet, fresh milk was soured
      with lemon juice.

That puffed you up like a fine yeast.
   The first June in your yard
like some squat Nero at a feast
you sat and chewed on white, sweet clover.
      That is over.

When you were old enough to walk
      we went to feed
the rabbits in the park milkweed;
saw the paired monkeys, under lock,
   consume each other's salt.

Going home we watched the slow
stars follow us down Heaven's vault.
You said, let's catch one that comes low,
      pull off its skin
   and cook it for our dinner.

   As absentee bread-winner,
I seldom got you such cuisine;
we ate in local restaurants
or bought what lunches we could pack
      in a brown sack

with stale, dry bread to toss for ducks
   on the green-scummed lagoons,
crackers for porcupine and fox,
life-savers for the footpad coons
      to scour and rinse,

snatch after in their muddy pail
   and stare into their paws.
When I moved next door to the jail
      I learned to fry
omelettes and griddle cakes so I

could set you supper at my table.
As I built back from helplessness,
      when I grew able,
the only possible answer was
   you had to come here less.

This Hallowe'en you come one week.
      You masquerade
   as a vermilion, sleek,
fat, crosseyed fox in the parade
or, where grim jackolanterns leer,

go with your bag from door to door
foraging for treats. How queer:
   when you take off your mask
my neighbors must forget and ask
      whose child you are.

Of course you lose your appetite,
   whine and won't touch your plate;
      as local law
I set your place on an orange crate
in your own room for days. At night

you lie asleep there on the bed
      and grate your jaw.
Assuredly your father's crimes
      are visited
on you. You visit me sometimes.

The time's up. Now our pumpkin sees
   me bringing your suitcase.
      He holds his grin;
the forehead shrivels, sinking in.
You break this year's first crust of snow

off the runningboard to eat.
   We manage, though for days
I crave sweets when you leave and know
they rot my teeth. Indeed our sweet
      foods leave us cavities.

 

 

9

   I get numb and go in
though the dry ground will not hold
   the few dry swirls of snow
and it must not be very cold.
A friend asks how you've been
      and I don't know

   or see much right to ask.
Or what use it could be to know.
   In three months since you came
the leaves have fallen and the snow;
your pictures pinned above my desk
      seem much the same.

   Somehow I come to find
myself upstairs in the third floor
   museum's halls,
walking to kill my time once more
among the enduring and resigned
      stuffed animals,

   where, through a century's
caprice, displacement and
   known treachery between
its wars, they hear some old command
and in their peaceable kingdoms freeze
      to this still scene,

   Nature Morte. Here
by the door, its guardian,
   the patchwork dodo stands
where you and your stepsister ran
laughing and pointing. Here, last year,
      you pulled my hands

   and had your first, worst quarrel,
so toys were put up on your shelves.
   Here in the first glass cage
the little bobcats arch themselves,
still practicing their snarl
      of constant rage.

   The bison, here, immense,
shoves at his calf, brow to brow,
   and looks it in the eye
to see what is it thinking now.
I forced you to obedience;
      I don't know why.

   Still the lean lioness
beyond them, on her jutting ledge
   of shale and desert shrub,
stands watching always at the edge,
stands hard and tanned and envious
      above her cub;

   with horns locked in tan heather,
two great Olympian Elk stand bound,
   fixed in their lasting hate
till hunger brings them both to ground.
Whom equal weakness binds together
      none shall separate.

   Yet separate in the ocean
of broken ice, the white bear reels
   beyond the leathery groups
of scattered, drab Arctic seals
arrested here in violent motion
      like Napoleon's troops.

   Our states have stood so long
At war, shaken with hate and dread,
   they are paralyzed at bay;
once we were out of reach, we said,
we would grow reasonable and strong.
      Some other day.

   Like the cold men of Rome,
we have won costly fields to sow
   in salt, our only seed.
Nothing but injury will grow.
I write you only the bitter poems
      that you can't read.

   Onan who would not breed
a child to take his brother's bread
   and be his brother's birth,
rose up and left his lawful bed,
went out and spilled his seed
      in the cold earth.

   I stand by the unborn,
by putty-colored children curled
   in jars of alcohol,
that waken to no other world,
unchanging, where no eye shall mourn.
      I see the caul

   that wrapped a kitten, dead.
I see the branching, doubled throat
   of a two-headed foal;
I see the hydrocephalic goat;
here is the curled and swollen head,
      there, the burst skull;

   skin of a limbless calf;
a horse's foetus, mummified;
   mounted and joined forever,
the Siamese twin dogs that ride
belly to belly, half and half,
      that none shall sever.

   I walk among the growths,
by gangrenous tissue, goiter, cysts,
   by fistulas and cancers,
where the malignancy man loathes
is held suspended and persists.
      And I don't know the answers.

   The window's turning white.
The world moves like a diseased heart
   packed with ice and snow.
Three months now we have been apart
less than a mile. I cannot fight
      or let you go.

 

 

10

The vicious winter finally yields
   the green winter wheat;
the farmer, tired in the tired fields
   he dare not leave will eat.

Once more the runs come fresh; prevailing
   piglets, stout as jugs,
harry their old sow to the railing
   to ease her swollen dugs

and game colts trail the herded mares
   that circle the pasture courses;
our seasons bring us back once more
   like merry-go-round horses.

With crocus mouths, perennial hungers,
   into the park Spring comes;
we roast hot dogs on old coat hangers
   and feed the swan bread crumbs,

pay our respects to the peacocks, rabbits,
   and leathery Canada goose
who took, last Fall, our tame white habits
   and now will not turn loose.

In full regalia, the pheasant cocks
   march past their dubious hens;
the porcupine and the lean, red fox
   trot around bachelor pens

and the miniature painted train
   wails on its oval track:
you said, I'm going to Pennsylvania!
   and waved. And you've come back.

If I loved you, they said, I'd leave
   and find my own affairs.
Well, once again this April, we've
   come around to the bears;

punished and cared for, behind bars,
   the coons on bread and water
stretch thin black fingers after ours.
   And you are still my daughter.

 

Love's Facade
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Love in a Life
Robert Browning, 1812 - 1889
Room after room,
I hunt the house through
We inhabit together.
Heart, fear nothing, for, heart, thou shalt find her,
Next time, herself!—not the trouble behind her
Left in the curtain, the couch's perfume!
As she brushed it, the cornice-wreath blossomed anew,— 
Yon looking-glass gleamed at the wave of her feather.

Yet the day wears,
And door succeeds door;
I try the fresh fortune— 
Range the wide house from the wing to the centre.
Still the same chance! she goes out as I enter.
Spend my whole day in the quest,—who cares?
But 'tis twilight, you see,—with such suites to explore,
Such closets to search, such alcoves to importune!
Love's Facade
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When We Two Parted
George Gordon Byron, 1788 - 1824
When we two parted 
   In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted 
   To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold, 
   Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold 
   Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning 
   Sunk chill on my brow-- 
It felt like the warning
   Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken, 
   And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken, 
   And share in its shame.

They name thee before me, 
   A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me--
   Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee, 
   Who knew thee too well--
Long, long shall I rue thee, 
   Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met--
   In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget, 
   Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee 
   After long years,
How should I greet thee?--
   With silence and tears.
Love's Facade
next
Wedding Dress
Michael Waters
That Halloween I wore your wedding dress,
our children spooked & wouldn’t speak for days.
I’d razored taut calves smooth, teased each blown tress,
then—lipsticked, mascaraed, & self-amazed—
shimmied like a starlet on the dance floor.
I’d never felt so sensual before—
Catholic schoolgirl & neighborhood whore.
In bed, dolled up, undone, we fantasized:
we clutched & fused, torn twins who’d been denied.
You were my shy groom.  Love, I was your bride.
Love's Facade
next
Blue
May Swenson, 1913 - 1989
Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white
nape boy-wide.  Glinting hairs
shoot back of your ears' Rose
that tongues like to feel
the maze of, slip into the funnel,
tell a thunder-whisper to.
When I kiss, your eyes' straight
lashes down crisp go like doll's
blond straws.  Glazed iris Roses,
your lids unclose to Blue-ringed
targets, their dark sheen-spokes
almost green.  I sink in Blue-
black Rose-heart holes until you
blink.  Pink lips, the serrate
folds taste smooth, and Rosehip-
round, the center bud I suck.
I milknip your two Blue-skeined
blown Rose beauties, too, to sniff
their berries' blood, up stiff
pink tips.  You're white in 
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and saltly, speckled
like a sky.  I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair's
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears.  But where white
spouts out, spills on your brow
to clear eyepools, wheel shafts
of light, Rose, you are Blue.
Love's Facade
next
Be Drunk
Charles Baudelaire, 1821 - 1867

You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."

Love's Facade
next
Dangerous for Girls
Connie Voisine
It was the summer of Chandra Levy, disappearing
       from Washington D.C., her lover a Congressman, evasive
              and blow-dried from Modesto, the TV wondering

in every room in America to an image of her tight jeans and piles
       of curls frozen in a studio pose. It was the summer the only 
              woman known as a serial killer, a ten-dollar whore trolling

the plains of central Florida, said she knew she would
       kill again, murder filled her dreams
              and if she walked in the world, it would crack

her open with its awful wings. It was the summer that in Texas, another
       young woman killed her five children, left with too many
              little boys, always pregnant. One Thanksgiving, she tried

to slash her own throat. That summer the Congressman
       lied again about the nature of his relations, or,
              as he said, he couldn't remember if they had sex that last

night he saw her, but there were many anonymous girls that summer,
       there always are, who lower their necks to the stone
              and pray, not to God but to the Virgin, herself once

a young girl, chosen in her room by an archangel.
       Instead of praying, that summer I watched television, reruns of
              a UFO series featuring a melancholic woman detective

who had gotten cancer and was made sterile by aliens. I watched
       infomercials: exercise machines, pasta makers,
              and a product called Nails Again With Henna,

ladies, make your nails steely strong, naturally,
       and then the photograph of Chandra Levy
              would appear again, below a bright red number,

such as 81, to indicate the days she was missing.
       Her mother said, please understand how we're feeling
              when told that the police don't believe she will be found alive,

though they searched the parks and forests
       of the Capitol for the remains and I remembered
              being caught in Tennessee, my tent filled with wind

lifting around me, tornado honey, said the operator when I called
       in fear. The highway barren, I drove to a truck stop where
              maybe a hundred trucks hummed in pale, even rows

like eggs in a carton. Truckers paced in the dining room,
       fatigue in their beards, in their bottomless
              cups of coffee. The store sold handcuffs, dirty

magazines, t-shirts that read, Ass, gas or grass.
       Nobody rides for free, and a bulletin board bore a 
              public notice: Jane Doe, found in a refrigerator box

outside Johnson, TN, her slight measurements and weight.
       The photographs were of her face, not peaceful in death,
              and of her tattoos Born to Run, and J.T. caught in

scrollworks of roses. One winter in Harvard Square, I wandered 
       drunk, my arms full of still warm, stolen laundry, and
              a man said come to my studio and of course I went—

for some girls, our bodies are not immortal so much as
       expendable, we have punished them or wearied
              from dragging them around for so long and so we go

wearing the brilliant plumage of the possibly freed
       by death. Quick on the icy sidewalks, I felt thin and
              fleet, and the night made me feel unique in the eyes

of the stranger. He told me he made sculptures
       of figure skaters, not of the women's bodies,
              but of the air that whipped around them,

a study of negative space,
       which he said was the where-we-were-not
              that made us. Dizzy from beer,

I thought why not step into
       that space? He locked the door behind me.
Love's Facade
next
When a Woman Loves a Man
David Lehman, 1948
When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
    is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"
"that's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
    another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
    airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
    she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.