Tag Archives: love poems

Finally, She Could Not Love Him

He showed me a picture
he took of her
one long-ago July
as she crouched down
to marvel at the frogs,
small and green
and undisturbed
by the curiosity
that filled the afternoon
like sunshine.
It was the day they met,
he said—
and he didn’t know
there would be other days
they would meet
in the future—
days that were separated
by months, seasons.
He said she told him
things she didn’t have
anyone else to tell—
things that made him
the happy-enough life
he went home to—
things that made him
want to leave it behind.
And he wondered
if this woman
could ever love him
the way she loved
the man in her poems—
the poems he imagined
himself into—
and I asked him why
he’d never told me this
and he explained
it wasn’t until now
that he could say for sure
without breaking down
that the answer
to his unasked question
was no.





“Morning by the Stream” by T.C. Steele, 1893


Today the weather
is a grumpy neighbor
I’m trying to avoid
so I don’t get the mail
or disturb the wasps
trying to use the mailbox
as a place to make plans.
So far they are only annoyed
by the twice daily disruption—
first the delivery
then the gathering—
and not once have they
attacked or even moved.
They just appear there
each time I open the door—
never more than a handful
and never in the same spot
so I know they’re alive
inside their plump red bodies
that are like drops of blood
with long black wings—
something almost hideous
about the way they look
in the dark shadow of the box
because I know
what they could do
if their peaceful protest
turned into a riot—
and every day I expect them
to grow in numbers
which is why I have ready
a can full of killer
every time I reach in
to extract the stack of bills
that never includes
a handwritten letter
from a lost love
telling me something
that would cause my eyes
to water and sting.





First time was in preschool
he and I were only 4 years old
after which
my heart needed to take a break
until it felt stronger
more mature
better equipped to handle rejection
and the boy who lived down the street
when I was 12 years old
was the apple of my eye
until he liked me back
and then I panicked
when he wanted to kiss me
so I told him he was fat
because I knew certain words
were cruel enough to protect me
from a kind of intimacy
that scared me to death
and it took four more years
for me to fall in love for the first time
with a disaster
who wrote in my yearbook
that I wasn’t enough of a challenge
and all of a sudden I was 19
with a boyfriend
who had another girlfriend
behind my back
and she called me on the telephone
to tell me she was going to take my place
and the baby in my belly
didn’t even exist
until later that same day
when I puked and took a test
that told me I failed again
in a strange and beautiful way
and then I spent years
passing out chances
as if they were coupons
buy one get one free, my daughter and I
and there were times
I thought it might be okay
if I couldn’t love him or him or him
it was enough
to have someone promise stability
even if the earth didn’t quake
and my knees didn’t shake
because I didn’t deserve a fairytale
after all
after the mistakes I made
and I need to be pragmatic for once
instead of romantic
so I said I do hoping I’d mean it
hoping a second marriage
would be better than the first
and it was
but it still wasn’t right
after a dozen years
so I set sail and dove in
to someone who wasn’t expecting me
to land on his shore
so I waded out as far as I could
back into the ocean of others
where love watched me and waited
for nearly two years
while I tried to convince him
he was overqualified
that I wasn’t worth the meager dividend
when he could have her or her or her
but he persisted
even when I cut my hair
to prove I wasn’t beautiful enough
he just laughed and said even a razor
couldn’t alter the way he feels
or remove his wish
to exchange the rest of his life
for my love.










you rack your brain
for answers
why how why how
were you mistaken
is it possible
you were mistaken
he was too good to be true
after all
which can only mean
he wasn’t
that he wasn’t true
after all
because if he was
if he was really true
he’d be looking for you now
in the haystack of this city
with a population
of not very many needles
and you aren’t that hard
to find
because he knows
where you live
unless he doesn’t
unless he is
unless he was
just a dream after all
and you keep thinking
about him
about the dream he was
and about the dream
you had last night
where you were next to him
on the train
and you were happy
and you arrived
in some future
with blue streamers
and carved hearts
on every wall
they were almost beating





“Chambered Nautilus” by Andrew Wyeth, 1956


Separation Failure

protests against protests
in the form of weather
conflict everywhere
lovers raging
marriages ending
walls going up
need from plenty
even the birds
over the abundant seed
but here—
you and I
are floating passed
the past
your gentle hands
massage away
my worry
before we sleep
before we sleep
we lie awake
for a long time
holding on to each other
letting go
letting go
of everything
we have already






“Couple Duos Chez” by John Singer Sargent, year unknown

Our Mothers

Everything they told us was wrong.
Hold your stomach in.
Nod your head.
Respect yourself, they said —
by saying no.
By giving boys nothing but a smile
until they offered us
a finite circle made of gold.
They only want one thing, they told us.
And we believed
that the one thing they wanted
was somehow different
than the one thing we wanted too.
And because trust is involuntary
according to evolution,
we believed our mothers—
believed we were wrong
for wanting to sample
as many fruits as we could
before we agreed that only one
could possibly taste better
than all the rest—
for what was left
of our desirous and insatiable lives.


“Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window” by Mary Cassat, 1902

Wholesome Life

I take a deep breath
reach for the phone
to type words
to beg
to explain
to express
to ask questions
I don’t have a right to ask
I put the phone down
leave the message in my head
where it belongs
I don’t explain
my reasons
my silence
my inability
to keep untangling
your tight-knit
wholesome life
the one I make you forget
the one you always
return to…