It’s always risky business writing about love. The masters seem to get away with it more than contemporaries. Think Robert Burns: “O my Luve is like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June,” and all that lovely stuff.
Still, I admire modern poets who try their hand at such heady topics. I admire them even more when they allow themselves an “Oh!” or an abbreviated “O!” just to put on a Burns-like show. Nicole Sealey shows us how it is done in the poem below. Raw and honest, I’d say, and the ending says as much about human nature as it does about love, only adding to its appeal.
We wake as if surprised the other is still there,
each petting the sheet to be sure.
How we have managed our way
to this bed—beholden to heat like dawn
indebted to light. Though we’re not so self-
important as to think everything
has led to this, everything has led to this.
There’s a name for the animal
love makes of us—named, I think,
like rain, for the sound it makes.
You are the animal after whom other animals
are named. Until there’s none left to laugh,
days will start with the same startle
and end with caterpillars gored on milkweed.
O, how we entertain the angels
with our brief animation. O,
how I’ll miss you when we’re dead.
Like love itself, a little beautiful and a little sad. Who wants to give it up? Who wants to see the beauty of the rose meet its withering end? Not Robert Burns. And apparently not Nicole Sealey, either.