The Weight of Love

1.     NOW

        It is turning now,
        the boat of our aspirations.
        The wild rope
        from the cottonwood tree
        out over the river.
        Turning now,
        the rope swing,
        the boat,
        the river.

        Turning now,
        the rope swing,
        the boat,
        the river.

2.     AT 81, WRITING

        In the clarity of early morning
        he sits, writing. Sunlight
        touches the fine hairs on his arm.
        Muscles ripple gently
        as he moves his pencil,
        the veins on the back of his hand
        illuminated. Little rivers.

        His worn cap is half in shadow,
        his childhood on the farm
        a field his pencil plows,
        new lines
        against furrows of forgetting.


        Bless the sweetness
        of the final days.
        Praise the last time
        he will understand
        the first time you tell him
        how to boil an egg.

        Bless the first time
        you understand
        that he cannot understand.
        Bless the silence
        when he gives himself 
        to sleep and bless
        the waking and his knowing
        who you are

        Bless the look
        behind you. Bless
        the years when he was strong
        and you were too busy
        even to notice.

        Bless the now,
        the noticing.


        It is interesting, isn’t it
        her husband says,
        the architecture of the snow.
        She looks out the window.
        The car wears a carapace,
        a wimple, a chador.

        She chooses “carapace,”
        sees the turtle pull his head
        back under his protection.
        She watches
        as her husband moves away
        from the window.

        He takes his poem,
        the one he will not write,
        with him.

5.     WEIGHT

        Who can describe the weight of love?
        Late we learn how heavy
        When grief is the flood we float above
        And love is the break in the levee.

        And who can take the measure of love?
        How wide it is, or how narrow
        When hope is the breath of the mourning dove
        And death is the quiver and arrow.

6.     COME TO BED

        Come naked into bed, my love—
        I will tell you with my body
        what your body can understand
        even here, where your mind
        slips on the slope of forgetting.

        Loss is a complicated giver.
        It comes, offering relief
        like a lover dressed to kill
        and it will. It will.
        Thief, beggar, need supplicant,
        whatever, this loss’s lips
        are fresh-wound red.

        Come to bed.
        The gift it gives us
        we would never choose—
        this naked understanding:
        how much we have
        to lose.


        I dreamed myself on my hands and knees
        on a long, long hill of dung.
        It was dried, mountains of it.
        I was no longer young.

        Dung as far as the eye could see,
        peak after peak to the sky
        and I was on my hands and knees
        and I did not know why.

        There was a door behind me
        and a doorstep, but no wall.
        I have dreamed that door before,
        just a door. No house at all.

        A voice spoke: There is treasure.
        But all that I could find
        was broken glass and danger,
        although the voice was kind.

        And then that dreaming disappeared.
        I watched explosions in the sky
        of fire, body parts and blood.
        Faces on fire, and I

        woke up and turned myself to you
        sleeping next to me
        and tried to sort out what was dream
        and what was prophesy.

8.     BROKEN

        Midnight, and the pain is gone
        but the ghost of pain rattles
        at the windows of the mind.

        How can it be that we
        are blind to love. Above
        the rafters, the ever-afters,

        we remember who we might have been
        when the house of our inheritance
        caves in


        I felt a slam of anger,
        hardening to ice,
        cold, heavy,
        yet I would not
        could not
        did not in the least desire
        to escape.

        I wore it, anger,
        like a finest fur coat
        in a season when fur
        is out of season—
        immoral, bad taste,
        dangerous to the world
        of diminishing animals.
        It is your animal self
        that is diminishing,
        and I am helpless
        to find you
        in this jungle
        of falling trees.

        The voice in me that needs
        to comfort you, comfort me,
        turned toward hibernation
        until I had nothing
        but a howl.
        I curled to fetal,
        hungered for a cave
        so dark I could no longer see
        what is becoming you and me.

        What is becoming you
        is disappearance,
        and I am unbecoming me.

        Anger felt solid, bold, numb,
        as if it might hold me some


10.   PRAYER

        Mystery for whom I have no name
        because all names collide, divide,

        help me.

        I go down on my metaphoric knees
        as I push and pull my pen
        along these dim blue lines.
        I feel the dust of the earth in my mouth.
        I am a beggar with a tin cup.

        There is a place beyond a poem—
        beyond naming, beyond claiming
        any righteousness or craft,
        where I have nothing left
        but one word: Please.

11.   ALONE

        I’m already alone.
        What’s known to me
        can’t be

        known to you.
        I must protect you
        from yourself.

        But I can’t know
        how far you go
        protecting me.

        And so
        it may be that we
        are each already alone.

12.   OLD LOVE

        Old love is a ripe persimmon
        on a wild persimmon tree.
        Love, we are old, have you noticed—
        you, and me?

        And our love is old, and sweet and ripe
        on the tip of the lover’s tongue.
        Remember, love, the bitter sting
        Sometimes, when we were young?

        But now we have ripened, round and full
        of golden sweetness, golden sun,
        and we look with surprise at each other:
        You are the one.

        You are the one, beloved,
        we say. Don’t fear the flight.
        We’re just taking the seeds of this sweetness
        back to the earth’s good night.

13.   FOR THIS

        It is for this
        we have been torn
        and mended
        and torn again.
        This glad rag of my old body
        almost every night 
        pulls itself across a white expanse of sheet
        into your arms.

        After harms and threats of harms,
        alarms on the evening news,
        we bear the bruise of knowing
        this world that we love
        will not be ours to mend.
        We bend our bodies into one
        and ride the world once more
        around the sun.

From The Weight of Love (Negative Capability Press, 2019) by Pat Schneider. Copyright © 2019 by Pat Schneider. Used with the permission of the Estate of Pat Schneider.