We are overdue for another Thursday Love Poem, and as I’ve said before, “a Thursday Love Poem isn’t your grandmother’s love poem, baby.” It’s an unconventional love poem at least, and sometimes it’s a downright anti-love poem, as in the flagship poem of this feature, Edna Saint Vincent Millay’s “Thursday.” If you aren’t familiar with it I encourage you to follow the link, but for now, here is the little controversial gem in its entirety:
AND if I loved you Wednesday,
Well, what is that to you?
I do not love you Thursday–
So much is true.
And why you come complaining
Is more than I can see.
I loved you Wednesday,–yes–but what
Is that to me?
But of course I don’t want to be all “Down with Love” here, so truly emotional and heartfelt pieces about real love are not out of the question. It’s just in order to qualify as a Thursday Love Poem ”it will have to look at that tenderness squinting sideways, maybe standing on its head, in order to give us a unique view, one other than what the masses have come to expect of a love poem.”
I recently finished reading the lovely little book For All of Us, One Today, by Richard Blanco. It’s all about his experience of being asked to read for the president’s inauguration last January. It also chronicles a bit of his life story as a gay man and a child of Cuban exiles, who had to discover how he fit into the story of America for himself. It’s a splendid little read that I plan to write more about here soon. I highly recommend it.
You may not realize that an inaugural poet has six weeks to compose three poems to be considered by the inaugural committee. They vote on the appropriate piece and the poet has a short period of time to edit it before inauguration day. Lots of pressure.
My son Micah and I, and our whole Poetry Under the Paintings gang had the privilege of hearing him read in person at Penn State University back in October, and Blanco was a class act, kind and engaging, humorous and brilliant. But aside from the poetry, what impressed me most, even more than his wonderful talent of story-telling, was how, though we were last in line for book signings, and it must have been a terribly long day for him, he took the time to ask my son about his writing, even about the origin of his name. It was a great experience all around.
One of the poems he read that night was this week’s Thursday Love Poem. And when I came home I had to sit down with his book Looking for the Gulf Motel and read it to my partner Brian. As Blanco said, in each relationship there seems to be that one who doesn’t check his phone, rarely returns calls or texts, and then there is the other who is prone to worry and exaggeration. Yup, that last one is me, and it’s also Richard Blanco, as you’ll see in his fantastically perfect poem “Killing Mark.”
The text is below the video so you can follow along.
His plane went down over Los Angeles
last week (again), or was it Long Island?
Boxer shorts, hair gel, his toothbrush
washed up on the shore at New Haven,
but his body never recovered, I feared.
Monday, he cut off his leg chain sawing—
bled to death slowly while I was shopping
for a new lamp, never heard my messages
on his cell phone: Where are you? Call me!
I told him to be careful. He never listens.
Tonight, fifteen minutes late, I’m sure
he’s hit a moose on Route 26, but maybe
he survived, someone from the hospital
will call me, give me his room number.
I’ll bring his pajamas, some magazines.
5:25: still no phone call, voice mail full.
I turn on the news, wait for the report:
flashes of moose blood, his car mangled,
as I buzz around the bedroom dusting
the furniture, sorting the sock drawer.
Did someone knock? I’m expecting
the sheriff by six o’clock. Mr. Blanco,
I’m afraid . . . he’ll say, hand me a Ziploc
with his wallet, sunglasses, wristwatch.
I’ll invite him in, make some coffee.
6:25: I’ll have to call his mom, explain,
arrange to fly the body back. Do I have
enough garbage bags for his clothes?
I should keep his ties—but his shoes?
Order flowers—roses—white or red?
By seven-thirty I’m taking mental notes
for his eulogy, suddenly adorning all
I’ve hated, ten years’ worth of nose hairs
in the sink, of lost car keys, of chewing
too loud and hogging the bedsheets,
when Joey yowls, ears to the sound
of footsteps up the drive, and darts
to the doorway. I follow with a scowl:
Where the hell were you? Couldn’t call?
Translation: I die each time I kill you.
Reprinted from Looking for the Gulf Motel, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012