This is not a love poem.
See, I’m not the kind of poet
who does happy endings,
and not the kind of girl
who goes after what’s easy —
and writing love poems about him
is the easiest thing in the world
He invites them, he inspires them,
So this is something different
It’s infuriating because
he is the kind of guy who holds open doors,
and kisses me goodnight,
and brings me tea in the mornings
but lets me pay him back —
and, yeah, he likes girls with short hair,
and he doesn’t mind that my favorite shoes
make me taller than him
He is my Prince Charming of Starbucks,
my bearer of the caffe mocha,
my conquistador of chai lattes.
And I repeat that this is not a love poem
even though it kind of sounds like one,
because, really, who cares about
high school love poems?
They’re like junior high diaries
or new year’s resolutions,
and he and I are way beyond that —
Because if this were a love poem
we’d have to be boyfriend and girlfriend,
which we’re not,
want to get married,
which we don’t
If this were a love poem we’d be characters
with lives “pre-us” and lives “post-us,”
characters who are thrown together into a poem that is
too damn easy for me to write —
See, love poems flow out of my fingers
like cuss words,
unstoppable, and instinctual,
and not something I flaunt to my parents
Love poems are just postcards,
really pretty moments in a relationship
that might not always be
They are something to look back on, fondly,
when you’re married to somebody else
and going through an old memory box
They’re an annotation in your yearbook
or an awkward hello at a reunion,
and I’ll be damned if I want that for us
I don’t want to write a poem
that represents everything beautiful
about him and me —
I want my life to be a love poem.
I want our life to be a love poem.
I want our every conversation to be another stanza
in the ode to love that we are composing,
even though he is not the kind of guy
who writes poems or reads poems —
but he is the perfect subject for this thing
that is not a love poem
I wrote this poem in early 2010 as the Valentine’s Day pressures began to descend on my high school. It was about the object of my affections at the time, how our relationship was not romantic but still very much a loving one. It was the most personal thing I had written at the time, and it took a lot of courage to perform it at a theater club coffeehouse/variety night. The audience loved it, to my great surprise.
Performance-wise, the audience plays a huge role in the flow of this poem. I make a lot of eye contact, pause a lot, and react with the audience — laughing a little when they do, smiling back when they smile at me, letting my kind expression fade to indicate a tonal shift. Stanzas six through nine are more personal, like the narrator is having a private thought onstage. I make a point of re-connecting with the audience before stanza ten, because this is the narrator’s main point. Hopefully they pay attention as well.
I hope audiences walk away with the understanding that the narrator and her loved one share something that is unique and passionate but perhaps understated, yet every bit as devoted as those famed “love poem” relationships.