Stick-Shifts and Skipping Stones

Photo: “Hand-Stitched Love Notes” (mixed media “quilt square” Mobile detail #3) by Kay Jay, May 2019

Stick Shifts and Skipping Stones

I don’t want to admit to you I peeked at other people’s love poems…

I did not want to do it. You know I’m no voyeur. You know I don’t appreciate the swooning arbitration of Valentine’s day cards.

I purposely did not want to be influenced by their intimate life styles, how every word gets in the way or falls short for them.

I purposely did not want to listen to the pentameter of their lovemaking, or when to break the rules of rhyme and reason.

I purposely did not want to end up comparing our love poems to theirs… and the way we go back and forth.

But I did it out of curiosity~

I peeked at other people’s love poems

wondering if there was anyone that wasn’t typically quoting Shakespeare, or Elizabeth Bennet Browning, and I especially wanted to avoid Byron and Shelley and Keats and all their greedy usurping of the word love that never created the tension nor reached the climax they boasted of when they were drunk. I did not want to flounder through their archaic flowery language or proper stanzas, the non-specificity of a rose by any other name; even if I could depict the way you smell after I’ve drawn you a lavender bubble bath and watched you recline into the suds…

I wanted to discover a modern poet worth his “title” who was sifting through the mundane to find the treasure and see him hold up the junk as his trophy;

like how life really feels

when the falling went deep at first,

and planted the right seed too fast,

so the roots would grow deeper yet

and before we realized the choices of our proximity, they were pushing up sidewalks and threatening sewer lines,

A great big branch crashing down on the breezeway during the storm

leaving us amazed our tree would still stand

and barely miss crushing us.

I didn’t understand what Adrian’s poem meant at all or how she was using the words exactly, but her word choices buzzed and vibrated and her lines became increasingly wet and somewhat sticky, if not hairy, as if she was enjoying the trace of albumen in the runny yolk of soft boiled eggs dripping down her chin, while demanding her lover watch her chew with her mouth open…

and I decided, Wow, that’s a pretty good love poem even if I do not want her eggs for breakfast.

Kim’s poem was easy to understand. She listed her desires in an outline mimicking the sound of her heartbeat, revealing her character flaws as habits she’d be keeping, to keep feeling racy and racing; like if you wanted her in your bed, you’d have to be able to tolerate her bringing sand into your sheets after a day she’d spent drinking whiskey, barefoot on the beach, without you. Her lover would surrender to the backhanded compliments she’d give herself, and find her irresistible all while she notched them on their own bedposts…

and I decided hmmm… that was a good enough poem about a certain kind of loving even if do not want her pocketknife whittling crosshatch into my headboard.

The poem by David did that thing with his lines where the two people are opposites; how they argue. He showed when they divided and where they united and he anchored it, by looking through windows at pretty places they both loved but spent time differently in; their needs being met even when part of what they needed never allowed them to meet…

and I decided Yes, his love poem was the kind that makes you feel like crying even if I do not want to be moved to tears, because I do not like all of it, imagining the way he ate those tiny pretzels during late night extra inning baseball scores, but everything about it ended up true.

I stopped peeking at other people’s love poems after that and I thought of sticks and stones…

I wept at the giant boulders of Yosemite, for the sheer size of them.

Your brother skipped flat stones across the water and split your shorts that he’d borrowed, at the seam of his seat when he jumped into the motel pool, so that he only had his tidy-whities at the river to swim in and you said, “That’s my brother,” like no such thing as modesty was gonna stop him and you laughed.

On our way back to your pickup truck where we’d squeeze the three of us back inside the cab, a shoulder to shoulder sandwich and barely any room for my legs by the gear shift; or your knuckles knocking on my bare kneecap, you lifted a rock with a stick to show off a scorpion that remained still and appeared blue, and pointed out why to be mindful in such beautiful places.