I wish I had written a great love poem. I wish I had written a great poem, period. So far, I've written some poems that don't totally suck, but a great one? I have yet to write one. That's ok, that's why I'm in school, and I think someday, it might happen. I might write myself accidentally into a great poem.
This poem by Marilyn Hacker is great and about one of my favorite subjects -- love gone wrong. It's well-tread, familiar poetic territory but Hacker, with all her unexpected similes and images, makes it seem new. The first time I read the poem, I didn't pick up on the rhyme scheme -- that's how subtly and brilliantly it's incorporated. I know so many poets who are terrified to rhyme, worried about it sounding too Dr. Seuss or whatnot, but this poem is proof that when you pull it off, it can be incredible.
What I also relate to in this poem is the intensity of the relationship described -- intense, all-consuming love can be disastrous/toxic but for better or worse, I always crave it. When it comes to me and love, it's go big or go home.
But enough about me -- here's the poem.
Nearly a Valediction
You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.
I don't want to remember you as that
four o'clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.
While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days' routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.