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.
7 thoughts on ““How We Entertain the Angels””
I’m not sure the poem speaks of love at all, but it’s interesting.
Interesting! What do you hear when it speaks?
The line about naming things, stands out, which love doesn’t have to do in order to be love, in my opinion… feelings as strong as love don’t have to have names… but maybe when this particular poet is feeling love and tries to capture it in her poems, she hopes for a name to anchor it? I’ve read it more than once and I like it. But it doesn’t stir love up for me… it doesn’t feel “present” to me. It’s already imaging death. Maybe that makes the poet feel more precious about the time shared… but I guess for me, it speaks about comfort and fear. I guess that can be love.
Anyhow, thanks for your forum.
I understand your point. Love and death are a heady mix. I thought it was regretting the little time LEFT to love, or a love so strong it wanted the confines of forever. That’s the beauty of poetry, though. Readers get from it different things!
I think you’re right about it’s intention, but it fell cold for me so I can’t quite accept it somehow. But I liked it because it’s different… it’s honest. It’s a good poem. I just don’t know if it’s about love yet. But thanks for the dialogue. I like thinking about good poems. And ambiguity is lovable.
Hi again, no pressure to look at this, but here’s my poem about love poems more or less… because I write love poems. And I look for them on purpose, because when someone writes a really good one, it sings… and yeah, thru death and the mundane… but I wanna “feel” it when I hear it. So again, thank you for the dialogue. And for the poem you shared. It helps even if it doesn’t sing to me.
Gored? Not gorged?
“—beholden to heat like dawn
indebted to light.”
pretty stiff simile though I like the rest of the poem…