Thursday, February 14, 2013

Humble Valentine Of The Offered Bird - On Love Poems And Then Some

Now. Daylight. Gonna republish this with the Aris Moore sketch most luminous in its plain simple straight-forward gesture. Humble Valentine of the offered bird, embraced, not captured. Other day, blizzard just emptying its last crystals, heavy curtains drawn tight to shut the City and the day out, heard the mourning dove sing, patient between notes as if reading a music score, whole notes, pauses, and my heart leapt to tears. How long have I needed to hear the old dove song from childhood where my Love was a green field, a lake, tree tops to climb to and, embraced, would be by wind swayed soothed away from the brown-block house on the hill - still, sorrow is of the home made.

I dared not open the curtain for fear of losing the dove. Later saw a few fine downy chest feathers in the snow pure upon the fire escape, calligraphed signature of tiny feet, little gestures of affection left. A name I could not pronounce but only sing. Small favors of morning like these are Valentine enough.


Two things
at the outset:

In my Language and Philosophy course in college senior year the book assigned, simple enough title, Philosphy of Language, bore as is customary a dedication by the author obviously much influenced by Wittgenstein as well as linguistics which I could never really get in my rather concrete (then)noggin not knowing a phoneme from a morpheme in the Urgrund...the dedication struck me then, impressed, still does, makes me happy glad, a minimalist poem, me just starting then to take writing poetry seriously, the dedication:

To Marjorie
without whom

Then years later, fled Lookout Mountain for NYC, in a dim bar not too far from The Cloisters (I can never get too far from the old haunting Absolute Its smoke and bells) I hear a loud drunken voice intoning to the bartender looking busy:

"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost all."


I hate love poems (but NOT loss poems)...they are damned hard to write without them being all sentimental, doggeral and yada yada ha'pence a dozen...there are of course great exceptions to the usual schmaltz (to which I have contributed greatly to that steaming pile of redundant all-too-mawkish-maudlin trite human ooze)...just below are my two TOP love poems of all time (so far) which are masterful and just great poems PERIOD. And my current favorite "Love Lost" poem by Elizabeth Bishop titled "One Art" is after these...and then an effort, humbly, of my own at the end...

Li-Young Lee's "This Room and Everything In It" and W. H. Auden's "Lay Your Secret Head, MY Love" are still breathtaking after many reads through the years...the first time I ever heard of Lee was when he read the poem below on a PBS Bill Moyer special about poets...I was forever dumbstruck...still am:

This Room And Everything In It by Li-Young Lee

Lie still now
while I prepare for my future,
certain hard days ahead,
when I'll need what I know so clearly this moment.

I am making use
of the one thing I learned
of all the things my father tried to teach me:
the art of memory.

I am letting this room
and everything in it
stand for my ideas about love
and its difficulties.

I'll let your love-cries,
those spacious notes
of a moment ago,
stand for distance.

Your scent,
that scent
of spice and a wound,
I'll let stand for mystery.

Your sunken belly
is the daily cup
of milk I drank
as a boy before morning prayer.

The sun on the face
of the wall
is God, the face
I can't see, my soul,

and so on, each thing
standing for a separate idea,
and those ideas forming the constellation
of my greater idea.
And one day, when I need
to tell myself something intelligent
about love,

I'll close my eyes
and recall this room and everything in it:
My body is estrangement.
This desire, perfection.
Your closed eyes my extinction.
Now I've forgotten my
idea. The book
on the windowsill, riffled by wind...
the even-numbered pages are
the past, the odd-
numbered pages, the future.
The sun is
God, your body is milk...

useless, useless...
your cries are song, my body's not me...
no good ... my idea
has evaporated...your hair is time, your thighs are song...
it had something to do
with had something
to do with love.

Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love by W. H. Auden

Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephermeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but not from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.


And the 'love lost' poem, One Art by Elizabeth Bishop:
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

So as to not end with love loss but with a surprise of love:

Poetry As Constellation

for KK

"...descend, and of the curveship lend a myth to God.'" - Hart Crane

You hear


as 'constellation'

when I explain

that a poem is

a consolation

work that I

am compelled


as a lover

is to traces


beyond sighs

and windows






in night's


slow round

his arrow



ready to

swiftly fly

as am I

along the

spatial curve

of your



These too,



breath held

in perpetua

pose lips


pressing for


If you

could only

see what

I see in

your eyes

when the




- Warren Falcon


[All photos are by Warren Falcon. All rights reserved for him]

[Aris Moore sketch, Bird...all rights reserved for Aris Moore. View more of her astounding work here: