what we know of love

abstract-love-wallpaperWanting to be loved, “I love you,” was what I said… from ‘Full Circle’ by Alden Nowlan

You never see it coming but always see it leaving./It waits by the door, bags packed,/full of stones from your life. from ‘What Love Cannot Do’ by January Gill O’Neil

Valentine’s Day is a mixed bag inside prison. On the one hand, everyone wants to remember – and be remembered by – loved ones on the outside. Yet, for those who do not receive any kind of remembrance, the day can feel hollow, lonely, far weightier than its Hallmark intentions.

Come to think of it, this is not unlike grade-school scenarios of my youth – the popular kids raking in the candy-coated heart-filled valentines while the rest of us walked around empty-handed and -hearted. Or simply dis-heartened.

So it’s a challenge to navigate. Last week we aimed for a middle approach by offering writing prompts that could be interpreted a variety of ways; then turned to making actual physical valentines with traditional red, pink and purple paper, complete with glittery tape, white markers and some red ‘I Love You’s’ in cut-outs. The dozen women around the table jumped whole-heartedly into both activities, producing memories, yearning, fiction and highly original valentines for their children and loved ones.

Titles of the writing spanned “What I Know of Love” and “Symptoms of the Love Bug” to “I Wanted to Know What Love Was” and “Maze” to “Mine.” So many strong lines filled with pain, wisdom, longing and regret! In honor of the vast range of emotions raised by this annual honoring of the heart, I post the poem ‘found’ from lines of all the readers who shared their words that day:

IS IT OVERRATED? – found poem
I wanted to know what love was,
to feel butterflies in my stomach,
the harpoon of love
swirling and twirling faster and faster,
the rapid beat in my heart
my metronome, my one steady singular
love you give for free,
the tangible solid mass of emotion
making my soul fly away.

I looked for love in you:
your hand in mine
the life we share, the family we made
the hearts of our children.
Forever is what I wanted with you
always there for me, my best friend.
I had so much to say to you
you’d forget how to speak.

But I took the road that went backwards
anxiety and excitement
thumping through the woods.
At first you were a charmer.
Now I’m full of cuts and bruises,
Pain shattered me to the core;
impossible to breathe,
I would falter and break.
I hate what you have become.

What Hell you put me through!
Why did I do that? why didn’t I listen?
My desperate devotion lives in me
shattered against the wall;
it was never meant to last.

We scattered to look for love in the world
a love we could believe in
wrapped tightly around our hearts.
I hope we choose right.


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