I set out to pen a love poem for my wife for Valentine’s Day. Nothing so mundane as flowers or chocolates would I give her to convey my love. I would instead present her with phrases flowery and rhymes as sweet as any Ghirardelli treat. I would give Shakespeare a run for his money and relegate Keats to sophomore status with the rousing lilt of my words and the nuanced expression of my adoration for this woman I am fortunate to call wife.
I would avoid the cliché trap and assiduously decline to label her as “soul mate” or “woman of my dreams,” although she carries the distinction of being both. No Thomas Hood-inspired Hallmark claptrap (“Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!) would invade this immortal verse of mine. Verily, the passion of my cantos would inhabit that immaculate air between the sun and the sea that Icarus failed to attain.
But, alas, herein lies the rub: The last love poem I authored, sixty years ago, began “Roses are red, violets are blue” and ended with a couplet so juvenile as to make a toad blush. And although I have since developed a more mature and practiced manner when it comes to setting down my thoughts on paper, the bald truth is my pen bleeds prose. Poesy, in all its condensed beauty, in the fine raiment of its figurative language, in its power of self-expression and its ability to penetrate to the deepest recesses of the soul, has remained for me as cognitively dissonant as someone speaking in tongues. It is like a diamond whose beauty I can marvel at but whose character and true value I have not the jeweler’s eye to appraise.
This is why more recently, when seeking a vehicle through which to express my admiration for my wife, I turned not to the sonnet or the ode. Nor did I deem a thing as pithy as haiku or clever as a limerick to be the appropriate mode. And in considering free verse or rhyme, it didn’t seem the place or time. In the end, I simply did what I do best; I penned a prose narrative titled “Why I Love My Wife: in 50,000 Words or Less.”
So while I am convinced my wife “walks in beauty, like the night” and is “more lovely and more temperate” than a summer’s day, I must confess I do not have the poet’s sensibility such sentiments to convey.
Then, again, as life is wont to come full circle, I could resort to …
To Karen, on Valentine’s Day, 2019:
Roses are red,
violets are blue,
my love for you
is tried and true.
Hey, you do what you can.