You know the moment when you’ve collided with a hole.
You reach out to your loved one, offering a hug or smile, and swipe air. That holy-shit-what-happened-here moment. See — the faceless joker holds hearts pierced thru, these holes are what I am talking about.
The trauma spots wriggle into everyday life and reduce a beautiful competent partner to a raging tear-flung lunatic in the event of misplaced car keys. They morph a normally affection-able partner into a cold-hearted bastard. Don’t expect a movie about this or even an HBO series. These heart holes open at a moments notice — white-hot or pale-cold — to suck all good comfort dry.
This is the un-fun part of love. The possible break-up part. Doesn’t make a good Jane Austen book. Or Shakespearean sonnet — This.
Maybe you choose to wander through childhood piercings/past relationship woes with your partner or friend. Maybe not. Either choice acceptable. You can still be friends — you can still be lovers. Much depends on the sunflower.
The joker here is a scale, balancing the Swiss hearts. Two up-sized sunflowers flame divine, possible healers. The repetition of a table cloth, our daily life, interrupted and cracked by the hole moments. Making us decide how much we are willing to give. Is there enough sunself in us to comfort or at least stay calm. Enough to try to understand another? Would they do the same for us?
Don’t try to mend, fix, or patch these holes. See them, and notice their shape. Such sighting takes un-named courage. We decide if we want to give it. Maybe we will keep it for ourselves.
But I have an interesting idea about compassion when its shared. It tends to grow . . . for both. And this, I call this love.
In a gallery far far away. . .
HERS: Need I explain a heart surrounded in darkness? Dark knot of isolation. A heart in safe surround, in pearl white hermitage?
HIS: This looks like pretty much like guts to me. A heart stuck in a white gumball in outer space. Simple.
HERS: Are you kidding? This heart is asking BIG questions– motheaten through heart — has decisions.
HIS: Those are holes? Naw, those are bits of shaving cream left over from a dull razor. Or maybe blind spots.
HERS: Will the blackness be a self-grown cancer that tightens in the belly of this relationship? Refusing to nourish? Feeding only.
HIS: Oh God I’m hungry — how long before our table’s ready (checks his phone for a text message from the restaurant, looks up) You are missing the heart-shaped skittles everywhere.
HERS: Or is the dark slowly being broken, digested by compassion, melting in its multi-hued warmth? Multitudes of heart shaped cells of care. Kind words, kind actions, a little kiss, a full on hug, a compliment, a cup of coffee, a belly laugh.
HIS: Ugh sounds like too much work. This is inside a belly isn’t it? Get in my BELLY! Ha!
HERS: (Rolls eyes) The reasons for this heart’s self enforced privacy are probably pretty good. Protection. Survival even.
HIS: Survive? Who survives love?
Recently the question “what is love” google-ranked into the top ten question searches. Who’s asking? Who isn’t?
What is love? That depends on what time it is.
Is it the time when the great noise parted — the only sound — the breathing of you and another? Whose dilate eyes held in them all your healing and possible death. Who captured your soul with their fingers?
Is it the time — fifteen years in, goldfish crackers crunched to floor, high on exhaustion, child echo in your ears, when you look to your partner and feel a sense of long-lived loyalty.
Is it the time after you’ve thrown a rose down an earthen box, heard it soft thump. Tasted your tears and groped around to find some feeling to name? A duty — and still is love.
The truth is — love grows and dies on the same tree — our lives. We have a myriad hearts we’ve encaged to many people and things. And our several loves, delicate hued, have a variable shelf life. Your limited number of hearts, your time-limited love. To lavish on others, to lavish on ourselves.
We want to be free, but we want to be loved. One condition opposes the other. And the struggle between the restrictions of love and the care of self are paid in seconds ticking by. We make choices. So the cage door closes and the cage door opens. The joy close. The sorrow open.
These intricate economies of time and passion we call love.
Robert Creeley, “I Know a Man” from Selected Poems of Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991
Watch the structure of this poem – how the words veer and weave. The poem itself feels like a car on the edge of control. Speeding between desperation and the need for some kind of personal efficacy against the unknown (or whatever you interpret as the “darkness”).
Clemente paints Creeley with one eye open, a wink and a nod perhaps to both his clear insight as a major modern poet and his characteristic humor in confronting life’s big hairy questions.
Enjoy both friends!