Monuments to the Moment
For me, I’d say the greatest poetry is sometimes written by those who pine away hopelessly; by those who are devoted to and/or obsessed by someone who will (almost certainly) never (be able to) return their affections — that which waxes poetic about unrequited love (saudade). This is so from Sappho and Catullus through the medieval courtly love tradition; through Shakespeare and Spenser; through the latter-day Romantics, to the recent British poet laureates.
This is one take on unrequited love by the poet W. H. Auden. “If equal affection cannot be,” pens Auden, “Let the more loving one be me.”
The More Loving One
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
— W. H. Auden
Stevie Smith’s “Pad, Pad” is penned by one of the twentieth century’s most eccentric poets. It is spoken by someone whose lover sat down and told them that they no longer love them. The animal suggestion of padding rather than walking, as well as the ‘tigerish crouch’ of the departing lover, are typical of the way Smith writes and, as many have argued before me, make this poem all the more affecting.
I always remember your beautiful flowers
And the beautiful kimono you wore
When you sat on the couch
With that tigerish crouch
And told me you loved me no more.
What I cannot remember is how I felt when you were unkind
All I know is, if you were unkind now I should not mind.
Ah me, the power to feel exaggerated, angry and sad
The years have taken from me. Softly I go now, pad pad.
— Stevie Smith
Carol Ann Duffy’s “Warming Her Pearls” is narrated by a maid who clearly harbours a secret love and burning desire for her mistress. It is very sensual and talks to us of unrequited or impossible to fulfil love. Might though the Lady one day entertain and sate her maid’s desires? This is not an inconceivable outcome, she can’t but not know about her desires for her — the parting of the red-lips — and maybe she’s somehow not being fulfilled sexually herself I like to imagine a lesbian Lady Chatterley type tryst here. But whatever to my digressions read it and breath in and soak up the kind of desire that keeps one wide awake in the depths of night.
Warming Her Pearls
Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,
resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.
She’s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.
I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot,
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.
Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head…. Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way
she always does…. And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.
— Carol Ann Duffy
air’s thin on the edge.
Someone said that the pain of losing the one you desire, the shame of being rejected, the self-doubt that sets in when you’ve been denied, would teach those exposed to it how emotional pain can feel far worse than physical pain.
That same someone listed some ways to slowly overcome such pain one was to accept you’ve no control, another was to give up (false) hope. I agree that one has no control over outcomes (especially if you’ve been told that to prove your love to the one you love, you mustn’t contact the one you love) but, I do deeply disagree with giving up the idea that such a broken relationship is impossible to potentially mend. I just do not and can not accept this. My pencil and I will dig & etch, labour & strive for as long as it takes our former lover and former soulmate to see that the pain we caused them is (1) understood and deeply regretted and (2), can be absented from any future rekindling of our lexicon of love.
Oh let the hopeless amongst us bow to the Latter Day Romantics . . . . . .
— John Keats lived to 25
— P. B. Shelley lived to 30
— Lord Byron lived to 36
. . . . . . . we can revise the tires but let us not replace the wheels; far better to pay yesteryear some degree of heed. But ya Jay Bae don’t here get me wrong, we do too need to be creative and inventive. It is true indeed that we can’t stay stuck perpetually in past’s lust but, we need to read a bit about it before we can gainfully dig for and articulate convincingly pleasures new.
A Master Cannot Serve Two Mistresses
“Now I know what love is.”
— Virgil, Eclogues, VIII.
“Where [there is] love, there [is] pain.”
“Love conquers all: let us too surrender to love.”
What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.
The coming has currently ceased; at an unknown point in a bitter Arctic winter, I wonder whether I shall ever see the treasure trove’s golden glow again.
Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.
The generic Y.O.L.O. became our W.O.L.O. did it not dearest Jay?
a marooned schooner,
I was way down, deep deep down below the decks and it’s unbattened hatches, scouring and lurking around like a stowaway seeking succour. It seemed as if there was no tonic to be found; no medicine to mend, for a time, my moribund mood — all the hammocks were of hemlock, no harbour on the chart could afford me birth to lay low in and ease, for a while, my knotted mind — but then, a hint of respite, the faintest of breezes did blow and the sagging sail taunted ever so slightly, I happened upon the following line, penned by one Scott Jeffrey: “There are three main ways to learn about human psychology: read Greek mythology, read Carl Jung, observe others.” He went on to say that while observing others was the most powerful, reading about the psyche helps inform such observations. As currently I’m at sea, I’ve few, and ‘no ‘ new humans to observe, I thus decided to hold course and scrolled down to see which books he’d recommend — this, the going off on absentminded digital tangents, the seeking out of uncharted waters, is what I’m now driven to do — my one&only has abandoned ship and thus, locked shut the open book that we would deviously delve into on a near nightly basis; these nightly trists did span for more than the proverbial one thousand and one nights (they lasted just shy of 6 whole years, 6 deliciously delectable but deeply destabilising years) — but anyway, nevermind (well obviously I do deeply mind but this is my burden to battle with, not one that tonight at least, I’m able to thrash out and fathom in the public arena: Oh! Ladies of Rome, lend me your ear for I’ve a tale to tell of yesteryear) — of Jeffrey’s recommendations was Victor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. I didn’t realise what it was about but it is, I learnt, well received and has obvious pulling power. Upon the embarkation of my investigations into Frankl, I stumbled upon Lapham’s Quarterly – a magazine that (and I here quote verbatim), “embodies the belief that history is the root of all education.” To which I say, “here here to all of that.” You see, the magazine’s editors juxtaposed an excerpt from Frankl’s book, in a feature section called ‘Conversations,’ against a passage extracted from Leviathan (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). You tell me. You tell me because, after that, I then ‘stumbled’ upon some eerily touching poetry it seemed to be speaking directly to me. It is alas the sort that’s uploaded on social media platforms as images and thus not easily sharable (of course and probably, that’s the point). I feel I’m going mad (maybe) because I feel it is being written in an indirect but explicit way for me to see and read. I was compelled to ask myself if I’ve now become the Captain of that fabled becalmed clipper ship, doubting my sanity and questioning my very existence but think — I reason to myself — of the Midnight stalker, the Mute troll; I mean, I’m saying, was I not prowling known hangouts? Was I not trawling about in places where I should/shouldn’t be? Where I was/wasn’t assumed to be cruising about in? Maybe I’m not as delusional after all. It is as if my departed other half is pouring out their soul to a receptive receiver who in turn is converting these pains into poetic form and posting them online. But it can’t be, can it? Well, technically it could be. It really speaks to me and the trials that I imagine my absconded soulmate to be going through seem to be those that I read and the imagery of scars could at a push be those that I may be considered to carry… it was said, was it not, that you could have (had) it all…
Yeah, they’ve cut and run, left me high and dry to cry out and die a thousand deaths but it was i. It was me. It was i who’d made them walk the plank a hundred or more times, knowing full well they were no good with convoluting currents. It was i that unleashed my vile cat-o-nine-tailed tongue and delivered vitriolic diatribes of great length (with her highness Hindsight these were a consequence of my guilt on the one hand and my anger at not being able to be with my one & only day and night — context, culture and circumstance did forbid that from ever realistically coming to fruition during those turbulent times). And maybe the lost love i read about in those jay-peg image poems is between another pair of nature’s most mentally troubled creatures. We can all of us read into something whatever the fuck we want to read into it; some like the sea of tranquility, others of us prefer the fire and the fury.