Monday, January 02, 2006

Letters of Love?

Here’s to lost love and loves that weren’t meant to last. Or is that love at all? I could get philosophical, but I won’t. That’s the purpose of the poems—to let you get philosophical without me leading the discussion. I’m happy to have a discussion if you start it.

Since I talked about love of a dog, love of children, and the beginning of love, let’s explore love that wasn’t meant to be. You know, those that you lost for one reason or the other. Maybe it was distance, or the wrong time, or just the wrong people toughing it out.

I feel lucky that I have letters from some of my lost loves. I’ve kept all the letters, some of love, some not. I don’t keep many other momentos, but these I have. They are like Wordsworth’s field of daffodils upon my inner eye and my heart with gladness fills. I don’t ever read them. It isn’t necessary. I know what they say. Maybe I don’t remember the exact words, but I do remember the sentiment. I only have to look at them to go back to the moment I first read them.

I have letters with the Naval Academy logo, some fraternity logos, and college logos all neatly imprinted in bright colors across the top. I cherish those letters and the emotion that exude from their pages.

I keep photographs of my past boyfriends and flings as well. I keep them for much the same reason as I keep the letters—to know that I have been loved or at least lusted after. It’s silly when I think too much about it. My husband is the love of my life. He is all those men wrapped up in one package. But I like to see the stepping stones toward this peak I am on. Each one is a learning experience.

I know I should put Wordsworth’s poem here now, but I really want to put this poem. I don’t know the author. My sorority roommate Alicia Harbour performed this for a class, complete with putting on and taking off over-shirts of the proper color. What did she have at the end? A very, attractive man wearing a red shirt on whose lap she sat.

The Shirts

They would be shamed to see back at us,
themselves among the others.
I have done this, have hung them
side by side. Did I ask this
Or did they come to me? And what
can it mean that I keep their shapes
without them?

They are all colors and one
has thin stripes with lavender. My hands
from the sleeves are another’s, reminding,
and the small, exact musculature
of his arms takes on my body.
When I left he said, “Take this. Until
I see you next.” Much later
he would tell her name, the woman
who bought it. Its changed face
where my breasts force out,
and the one thought: our size, the same.

The green one like the moss-light
of lovers on the forest floor, its
shoulders too broad, the collar sharp
with intention. Flannel, the fur
of winter, fires that light up the forehead
and cast they eyes in shadow. In it,
I am the young girl whose protector
fills her with dread and does not
return. Its caution: “Don’t
wear this when you meet her.”

This one is blue and the man of it
had eyes like that. “Blue,” I said,
“send me some good books, I
want to know how you think.”
He had a lot of  shirts like this one.
When I took it, he could not
miss it as the special one.

Only this have I given back.
The red one. The one with the blotch
of pitch that would not wash out.
Fire-shirt of the question: will it end?
Man with the passion to burn his love out
in me, nightly, daily, the white-hot
tongs of love. He wears it to breakfast.
Wants pure maple syrup. He likes the pitcher
full. He can stand the sweetness.

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