14 Words for Love

These are little morsels I’ve written over the past few years for a brilliant poetry project created by writer Jodi Barnes called 14 Words for Love (14wordsforlove.com and on Facebook). It’s a fun exercise to do around Valentine’s Day, or on any day. As Jodi says, “14 Words For Love exists to create opportunities to express kindness, empathy, gratitude, compassion, hope, peace, forgiveness and love to one another though writing. … We believe that love for each other is stronger than politics, religion, income, race, age and gender identity differences. Now, more than ever, we need to empower ourselves and others to speak, write and artistically express a world that values and honors everyone. A world where disagreements don’t include name-calling, hatred and violence, but rather listening, asking, sharing, and patience to find mutual purpose.”

Your smile bathes me
in streams of light,
and my heart
bursts into flowers.

To hold,
not to have.
I let you go,
and the emptiness buries me.

Through an open window,
I exhale my stories.
You catch them,
the curtains sigh.

The gift of your embrace,
folding me into
the sanctuary
of your velvet shadows.

I don’t want
to just fall in.
I want to be caught,
held forever.

It is always Now —
every second a cusp
of goodbye,
the beginning
of unbecoming.

Spring shoots us with possibility.
Leaves lick the sky ~
so many flavors of green.

Words reach out
like hands
hugging my heart.
Our shared language
of sustainable losses.

Her cupped hands
cradle hearts
with a butterfly’s grace ~
steward of words with wings.

Later I learned
where you’d gone.
You’d found your passion ~
it just wasn’t me.

I’ve devoured Barcelona
licked Rome
kissed Paris ~
yet I’ll always be hungry
for you.

Not on yellow bricks
but hills slick
with panic ~
many pilgrims, one path:

Diamonds collecting dust,
Chanel turning acrid ~
Wear them.
each day,
a special occasion.

my bleached bones buried deep,
my dreaming marrow stirs
under your vermilion kiss.

Rose sea ~
red, yellow, orange ~
waves of frangipani, honeysuckle, gardenia ~
you, every sweet petal.

Your smile ~
dawn sun mirrored off the barn’s tin door ~
outshines the shadowed eaves.

Like walking across Spain ~
strictly forward ~
with less ~
when you have all you need.

From farthest arteries you resurface,
tourniquet around my heart.
The bind that unties me.

She collects him from preschool,
face bright as night on the Fourth of July.

Crystal goblet clatters to the floor.
Into how many pieces can the heart shatter?

I digest Lucille Clifton while stirring oatmeal for two.
Attention split, the poems burn.

Scarlet berries bleed against the snow.
The course of passion streams hot and cold.

A true test:
She reaches for the horse’s muzzle.
He nods in velvety assent.

“The Mikado,” 1993.
We met in the wings,
a quiet play outside the play.

Inadequate alphabet:
Twenty-six letters,
yet none can spell
what you are to me.

Saffron beads of pollen coat the tulip bowl.
I nose in, voyeur to life.

This close:
You note yellow flecks
in my blue irises,
seeing what I cannot.

Even when we’re apart
you’re with me,
I wear from my insides out.

From snails to stars,
every grain of sand to Mars,
you are my universe.

I wake up
with the answer
to every question
you’ll ever ask me:

See the sky in you, she said,
not the clouds: clear, infinite, divine, whole.

Not middle C or a major key ~
the grace notes, the silences in between.

Sunny Saturday, Bob Marley knocks from within.
I open my throat, belt him out.

“Apaga si quieres tu luz.”
My Spanish teacher’s lesson,
Tagore inked on a napkin.

In us, a room of Rothkos.
Endless reds, the feverish work of a lifetime.

Bécquer whispered your gift to me,
una perdida estrella.
I never felt so found.

Still a child herself:
“I’m getting a puppy tomorrow!”
One angel to receive another.

I know you’re a hot stove,
know I’ll get burned.
I lean in anyway.

I chase your image,
stealing light and time.
Failing, I shoot at the sun.

I’ll sit with your suffering,
try not to fix it.
I, broken; you, whole.

Light floods the path I
Often turn away from.
Voracious need
Entwines me still.

Birds peck for leftovers on the snowy deck.
Before eggs, he fills the feeder.

Him: Let’s see the world together.
Me: Fine, because wherever you are is home.

My rock, my cushion:
He’s always there for me,
even when I’m not looking.

I whimper for dessert.
With flour, eggs, milk,
he wraps me in sweetness.

Newlywed decisions:
Expanded lives, aquarium store.
“What kind of fish?”
My prince: “Happy fish.”

Sealed, stamped:
Her card, inky swirls of
“dearest,” “friendship,” “gratitude.”
Held close from afar.

Our “I do”:
Sealed not with a band, a spiral:
You twist, I turn.

Neighbor’s garage-door banner:
“You’re The Man
Family hero.

With a surgeon’s finesse,
you scale the fish.
it is I who am deboned.

The six tastes ~
sweet sour salty bitter pungent astringent ~
our geography on my tongue.

In the folds of my ventricles and atria,
You: pulsing in a hidden chamber.

A bee will drink from any flower,
too busy to grieve the sweet forever.

Heal my wounds, I said.
No, he said: The light makes your scars shine.

My soul likes to wander.
When I can’t find it, I look for you.

Open secret:
Each of us thinks
the other one
is getting the better deal.

The piece of chocolate cake you brought me,
the one I never asked for.

the middle of my seesaw,
hold me steady while I soar and sink.

As innocent as a sunrise,
my nephew asks:
What did you dream last night?

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