THE BLOG
08/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Some Poetic Advice for a Love-Struck Governor

The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (and who can resist an Argentine) once wrote:

If I could live again my life,
In the next - I'll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect

Borges wrote these lines at the age of 85, so South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who discovered their wisdom before turning 50 (and then acted on it) is, in some ways, way ahead of him. Sanford--whose much publicized international affair you're no doubt aware of--has become quite adept these past two weeks at tearfully recounting his mistakes while stubbornly standing behind them. At one of his press conferences, he noted that at least he'd "be able to die knowing I had met my soul mate."

But the "soul mate" defense has proven a tricky one. It's wilted a bit under the relentless questioning of reporters, and the inevitable Oprah interview is looming, wherein Sanford will, no doubt, be forced to elaborate on the whole "soul mate" idea. John Donne, the great English poet and preacher who, himself, was not unacquainted with sin, did his best to explain how it works in this excerpt from "The Extasie"--which literally describes the soul's coming out of the body. In the case of Donne's poem, there are two extasies happening at once:

Our hands were firmly cemented
By a fast balm, which thence did spring ;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes upon one double string...

As, 'twixt two equal armies, Fate
Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls--which to advance their state,
Were gone out--hung 'twixt her and me.

And whilst our souls negotiate there,
We like sepulchral statues lay ;
All day, the same our postures were,
And we said nothing, all the day.

Other than the whole eyeballs on strings thing--which is weird--maybe Sanford could steal something from Donne. And he could also use a little help, in this writer's humble opinion, with his romantic email communiques (which have been published). Here are a few choice lines that the governor sent his lover:

You do not need a therapist to help you figure your place in the world.

That sounds like a fortune cookie.

You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty.

A little better...

There is something wonderful about listening to country music playing in the cab, air conditioner running, the hum of a huge diesel engine in the background

Oh dear.

I mean, if you're going to ruin your family and career with an affair, shouldn't you at least make it a little spicier? I'd suggest this sonnet by Pablo Neruda ( "Love Sonnet XI" translated by Stephen Tapscott).

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

Rowr. Now we're talking.

In truth, I feel a little torn picking on Sanford. His mistake is a common one, and the urges behind it are universal. And let's be real here, it's rare for politicians to be as honest as he's been even after they're caught. Now if he just hadn't based his political career on "family values." Ah well. The rest of the Borges poem I quoted earlier, called "Instants," might really help him.

I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygenic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lime) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginary
ones,
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Offcourse that I had moments of joy - but,
if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know - thats what life is made of,
Don't lose the now!

Don't lose the now! Good advice. Especially when it's all you've got left..