Photo Credit: Saltwater Photography
I started writing love poetry when I was 8 years old. I would pull out my pencil and my steno notepad after dinner with an air of dedication. My mother would be doing the dishes perhaps, and the house had the whole stillness of a family just recently contented by food and evening. I would perch myself thoughtfully on a dining room chair, hunched over, writing. I had lots of material to cover.
There were so many things I loved then, because when you are very small, love is a floating shapeless object -- it can and does fit in many of spaces. I loved my best friend and my Little House on the Prairie books, I loved the pioneer girl costume my great aunt had made me. I loved the boy across the street with such fierceness that I was sure that my heart (the size then, I imagine now, of a very large plum) seemed it would explode. Until he learned I couldn't ride a two-wheeler yet and stopped coming over after school. And then I gathered up that love in a slingshot and aimed it right at the tall boy with freckles who chased me around the playground. His name was Tony, I think. Or Troy. Tom? I'm sure it started with a T anyway. It didn't matter what or who, from the time I learned to press my pencil to paper, I had a love poem living in me.
I wrote some wonderful poetry as I learned to live, wonderful, in that it is a record of my life. As I grew, the love became more solid, more formed and tangible. It stopped floating and started fleeting. I gave it less but when I did give, I gave more of it. It seems to me that we find that the "things" we loved when we were very small, pale to the blindingly bright lamp of the "persons" we love when we grow. And it becomes scarier as grown-up people, because there is the sense -- suddenly -- that in loving, we have invested so much that to lose it would be... devastating. And, I have been devastated. Of course I have. Haven't we all?
And so all of this made for a life of lovely, passionate poetry, but not that one achingly moving poem about passion, about love.
Until I knew him.
I understood, finally, the verses in the hardbound books in the back of the library, the subdued music in the way the words come lilting off the tongue when they are read aloud.
And I began to whisper those verses to myself in the shower, to the stillness of his nighttime figure beside me, both of us sweating, but only him sleeping.
"When you are old and tired and full of sleep" and "Hope is a thing with feathers" and "I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz." Those words made sense to me, finally.
And I wrote words all the time then, unlike I have ever written.
We might be sitting at a table outside at the bar down the street, squinting at each other from behind our sunglasses. And suddenly his collarbone, jutting out from above his golf shirt, was a verse of presumption. It was all of the words, right there. The knotted bone and flesh of six months, nine months, one year of longing and skin and the echoes of his contended sounds of sleep.
I wrote about our adventures. About falling into contentment and out of a kayak. Scraping my knee and losing my shoes -- the poetry was in the mayhem and the way we could just Let. It. Go. We had lost so much already, we had both been divorced, abandoned, disappointed, disappointments. The river couldn't take anything more. The things I wrote about were fixed from the sun -- a scalding sunday morning and swans, the way he patiently let me get the feel of the paddles and the boat.
If I have come to know anything about writing in this year, before we fixed our boats together and made the journey in very same boat -- it is that writing is borne from living. I have learned that great reward comes often after the greatest risk.
* * * * * * * *
We were alone. It was small and quiet, a paradox really to the way I wanted to belt out my love for him, to shout it to my neighbors or the stranger in the street.
He stepped in to my house, in a suit, in the simple tie I bought him, it was Friday morning. We had done it big before. This time, it would be small. When he saw me, he cried. Do you know how expansively beautiful that feels? I wish that for everyone, to see a face that is lit with something brilliant just for you. And then it was his eyes that carried me to the courthouse, to "Will you?" and "I do."
I have struggled with writing it in a way that would befit the wild hopeful madness in this day, in this marriage. Because I am not many things, can't give anything I do not have.
But, what I am for certain is a love poet inside. That was there from my earliest days, as a child. And I want to write him verses that lift him up and keep him safe. I want to give him the gift of having been found and wanted. I want to write it all down with the same passion of the 8-year-old girl that I was, in the voice of the 34-year-old woman I have learned to be.
I will try.
But I know in the end, I can't give him anything as grand or beautiful as what he has freely, wholly given to me and what I take, without obligation:
his last name.
Photo Credit: Saltwater Photography