Love Poem

The one time I wrote a love poem

it was to a dead man who, when he was alive,

had taught me how to see behind

my own words for shadows,

shadows, which, more often than not,

contained stories I was ashamed to

tell myself, but really wanted to hear,

since some more unconscious part of me

knew embarrassments were always more

deeply meaningful than philosophies.

But it wasn’t easy to read this deeply

at first, and I turned my face away from

the practice as cleverly as I could,

since the last thing I ever wanted to share

with my reader was what I really wanted,

and I thought most of my writing friends

would scoff at the idea of introspection

being a kind of poetry.

Though in usual fashion, I was harder

on myself than they could ever be on me.

Aren’t you being a little self-centered

and narrow-minded, I told myself,

each time I intuited my way behind

words on the page only to avoid

acknowledging that,

in addition to not understanding what

I’d just written, I was vigorously defending

an idea of what I thought the poem was,

its arms crossed, its logic broken and closed,

like the heart of a drunk with some sound

advice.

That’s when I started to really write, I think,

since without a way to hide from myself

anymore, which, to be honest, is why I initially

started writing, I felt obliged to depend on

the nesting doll-like darkness of memory

and whatever ordinary half-buried likeness

of character I revealed there,

as a way to be as explicit and forthcoming

with myself as I could, telling myself

the story of my trying to find a story, and how

I didn’t know how to do that just yet.

So, yeah, I think it’s this story behind the story

and enactment thing

that I’m reminded of whenever I think about

what a love poem means to me now,

it’s like it’s not the flower that I give to myself

or anybody else when I’ve made sure nobody,

not even myself, can read that, but the power and

freedom in unspooling, plainly, how I secretly

want to be like the flower, after I’ve made sure

everyone can.

Author: Chris Russell

Chris Russell holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Concord, New Hampshire where he follows two paths: a calling as a poet, and an altruistic vocation as an education support professional.