My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie. He says that he believes a person can love someone and still be able to murder that person. I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment. Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me” think “me” and kill him. I say, Then it’s not love anymore. Michael says, It was love up to then though. I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word. Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the murderous heart. I say that what he might mean by love is desire. Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it? We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say to him. Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at someone you want to eat and not eat them. Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby. Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to live in purgatory. Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight. I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought— again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from the hole the flip top made. What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says. But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are a nun.” Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things of me even if he’s not thinking them? Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder. Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen, we both know the winter has only begun.
From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.
I look for words in the dark,
silently describing to myself
the particular conditions of the weather
on the morning I saw you most recently—
the wind, its patterned disarray—
my mind elsewhere, distracted, lyrical,
while the pianist plays an encore.
Mozart was born on this day
257 years ago. All day
I have been ungenerous, resentful,
impatient. In between
movements, no applause
but the old ladies cough loudly, violently.
We cannot last forever.
I loved music before I loved books.
I loved Mozart before I loved you.
Copyright © 2015 by Richie Hofmann. Used with permission of the author.
It was not penitence I sought, standing outside
the bedroom in the old apartment
where you had spent the night alone.
To bend, to kneel before some greater force—
that was no longer what I wished.
Clouds blew in from the coast, and I felt
the sun abandoning the window behind me,
making the bright walls suddenly colorless,
obscuring everything, for a moment,
that I wanted. When I finally entered,
I saw you still asleep—a wet strand
of hair tucked behind your ear, the husk
of your body—and lingered there for a minute,
before walking upstairs to shut the windows.
Richie Hofmann, "Bright Walls" from Second Empire. Copyright © 2015 by Richie Hofmann. Used with permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.