Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Celebrating love

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:27 AM

Pablo Neruda’s Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines, and Anthony McNeil’s the Catherine Letter are heartbreak poems that first come to mind when thinking of ‘love’ poems. So, too, is the sad Anabelle Lee, by Edgar Allen Poe.

The poems below, however, are not all heartbreak poems although Camille Dungy’s poem, written in the voice of a former freeman now slave, is a beautifully sad reminder that Valentine’s Day is almost smack in the middle of Black History month.

At Meeting Ground, we share poem-chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Here are some. Enjoy the flavours.

 

Love Is

 

A giving

& a measured taking

 

amputation

re-creating

 

everlasting

interface

 

a prison

& an open space

 

a teasing glimpse

of holy grail

 

a generator

that can fail

 

the naked jugular

the knife

 

the torsion balance in my life

 

Reprinted by permission: Mervyn Morris (Jamaica) Peeling Orange, Carcanet: 2017

From the Unwritten Letters of Joseph Freeman

 

(February, 1841)

 

Melinda, I’ve been preparing to write.

That peculiar girl named Molly,

who has a bit of liberty in the house,

has said she’ll find some paper.

I have practiced mixing charred wood with water

and have managed to shave a twig

so one end nearly resembles a nib,

but tonight Lila got caught up

under the good Doctor’s whip

for such a little offense. I am frightened.

Doctor Jackson brought in a new troop of slaves today.

A boy of thirteen among them had the welted cheek

that speaks of a driver’s dissatisfaction.

Lila put a poultice on to ease the swelling,

but Jackson wants the boy to understand his place

and thinks a scar will help. Lila’s back

and neck and arms have thirty new wounds

to replace the one she thought to heal.

Melinda, how is Jacob? Ever yours,

 

Reprinted by permission: Camille Dungy (USA). This is the first in a series of poems, taken from ‘Suck on the Marrow’ Red Hen Press 2010 (Winner of the American Book Award)

 

--------------------------------------------------

The Words Between Us

 

If you were a pinball machine,

I’d be the springs that move the pins.

Your arms would open and close for me,

and we’d kiss to the sound of sixties ska.

 

If a stranger in a crowded marketplace,

I’d take you by the hand and lead you to a dark place,

put your hands in my back pockets.

Lean into you, my cheek against collarbone.

 

If you needed a cup of coffee, I’d brew it in blue hills

on dying coals, blow on the embers till glowing and hot;

stir your coffee with the burnt side of my tongue.

The smoky brew would cleave you to me.

 

If you don’t know what to write, watch my hands:

they’ll fly so fast your mind will spin itself blue,

and you’ll find the words you never knew

existed between us.

 

Julie Mahfood (‘Jamaican in Canada’)

 

--------------------------------------------------

Song for Morven

 

these mountains here

’re bare this morning

 

blue tomorrow

bare mountains

 

whitened with snow

like me they’re lacking

 

you to walk with

these mountains here

 

bare mountains

blue this evening

 

if you can’t be here

then these mountains

 

& me we’ll surely walk

to where you stand

 

looking north

with blue eyes

 

Gerry Loose (‘Scotland’)

 

--------------------------------------------------

Arizona

 

On the desert’s high seas,

your hair floating,

Arizona,

you are the harsh morning of my life,

and an even colder night.

1863 days I sit still

in your lap full of sand.

You are beautiful, mum Arizona.

A little longer and I’ll sink

in your hip and your thighs,

Hesychia of stone,

and we will become one

– red silence.

 

Mina Glicoric (‘Serbia’)

 

-------------------------------

Love Notes in Water

 

No sound but the waves;

a cay and its coconuts;

a dark sea as warm as breath;

black pebbles scuttling up;

black pebbles washing back.

 

And these two, cradled

by the tide, in each other.

 

No sound but the waves.

 

Ann-Margaret Lim (Jamaica) ‘The Festival of Wild Orchid’, Peepal Tree Press, 2012

 

--------------------------------------------------

Little Red Plum

 

Crisis in the night.

My heart a little red plum

in my mouth. Glowing

its small fire in the dark.

How you, hand on my breast,

open my little animal cage

to watch me burn, eyes

marveling at the birds

that rush out. My voice rising

red balloons in the air. My hands

find a bright cardinal bleeding

through your shirt, my name

spreading softly on your tongue.

Swift cherry vine galloping,

stitching warm skin to skin.

I reach for you, reach into

The feathers of the dark,

wanting to stay here, wanting

to press each hour into vellum

so tomorrow I may search

and find our little blossom

still unfurling there. I slip slowly

into your light, kiss my red

Plum into your mouth.

Here. I give you all of me

In this little pink cup: hot mouthfuls

of fevergrass, of wild Jamaican

mint. Here, in the shadow of this

hothouse room, a red hibiscus

blooms and blooms

 

Safiya Sinclair (‘Jamaican in the USA’)

Reproduced from ‘Cannibal’ by Safiya Sinclair by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2016 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.

-----------------------------------------------

Palimpsest

Grandma, much younger

than her age-paper,

is giggling on the floor

with baby Jon

as with his daddy

forty years ago. ‘Age

is just a number,’

as the slogan says.

 

Grandpa seeming buried in a book,

gives thanks for her

endearing gift

and mumbles Larkin,

‘What will survive of us is love.’

 

Mervyn Morris (Jamaica) ‘Peeling Orange,’ Carcanet: 2017