The woman I loved
Chances to have drifted nearby
From across country;
Alights on a section of the city
Typically distant to me
But I happen to be there in evening
And see her photo on my phone,
A few blocks away in person
But still (safely) states away in heart.
I still proudly disbelieve in fate
But feel the irony that twists my heart
With thoughts of how we’re linked
And in the future, published,
I envision a woman reading these words –
Not her, someone else
Who I imagine myself feigning to love,
Imagine her reading and feeling sorrow
Because she never loved me in return.
I always see someone I think I know
But it turns into a different face.
Tell me –
Who did I see?
Did the face really turn
Casting uncertain quantum waves
Like a soggy blanket over my feelings
On a cold night, rain-swept and infinitesimal?
If I see you in so many faces,
Can’t you learn to see me too –
Anguished and searching all those eyes
For a semblance of someone I used to know?
Memory is not even a feeling
But a memory of a state of feeling,
An aborted daughter in the womb of childhood pain
Cut from limb to limb
But somehow still living.
Which face goes where?
Who places them like guitar strings
In their proper slot in a floating bridge?
O Floating World, over-full
Tune me tightly, like a lover
Until I snap from rage
Then turn again
And let your face be the one that I place there
Threading you through a bridge
Gently pulling you up and down
Smoothing out you’re trembling,
Wrapped in soggy night terrors,
Lost to the turning of eyes.
On Brighton Beach after dark
The lovers take the lifeguard chairs
Keeping watch as their love goes out to sea.
What does it mean to love myself? I’ve noticed that there seem to be two different forms of human love, in broad terms. Erotic love is the first, and it means possessive love. This includes but is not limited to sexual love; any form of love that is rooted in desire for possession of an object of love can be grouped under the heading of Eros. More forms of love than we might like to admit can be found in this category. The second form of love is what I think of as charitable love; a love rooted in giving. It’s the opposite of erotic love, in a sense. Charity is divine love. (But isn’t Eros also a form of divine love? A tangent for another time…)
What I’ve noticed is that, when it comes to self-love, possessive love always fails. “Self-Eros” is emotional masturbation, the desire for the self. Self-Eros is ultimately self-hatred. To love myself does not mean to possess myself as an object of desire. The unencumbered ego goes the same way as the unencumbered libido. It follows that I cannot form my own identity because I cannot possess myself as an object of my own love. But this is just what I constantly try to do. Individualism is an attempt to possess the self. But the innermost self, the spiritual self, is distinct from consciousness and can’t be possessed by the intellect. The conscious self can think about the spiritual self, but only the spirit can “know” in the sense of gnosis; the knowledge of participation, of the consummation of the spiritual, mental and physical. Possessive self-love emanates from the intellect, from self-consciousness, but it always leads to self-hatred, because the beloved is never possessed; the true self remains elusive to the intellect. Real self-love, then, is not possessive, but on the contrary, to love oneself can only mean to totally let go of oneself.
Self-love is self-charity. It means giving to myself in the way that I give to others. Extending forgiveness to myself in the way I extend it to others. Seeing past the mistake of a moment to see the arc of my history, as I do when I think about the reasons that I love someone else. Possessive self-love fixates on my moment-by-moment existence and relentlessly tries to form my identity by the decisions of each moment, but charitable self-love pulls away until my conscious self can see all the moments that make up my life. Charitable self-love doesn’t demand that I define my own identity. It simply sees me for who I am: the sum of every moment of my life, an empty vessel filling up with experiences, a physical body with a brain, which possesses consciousness, which is aware of my spirit. Charitable self-love emanates from the spirit. It exists before thought, before self-consciousness. This is why we have it as children, but lose it in adulthood. The task of loving myself is the task of relearning the love of the spirit.
Loving myself rightly is crucial because it’s impossible to love others if I don’t love myself. But charitable love originates from God; it’s the divine, the original love. It emanates first from him, and when I accept it into my spirit, I learn to love myself first, and then I learn to love others. Charitable love means loving intrinsically, before thought, without thinking. This means that not only is God’s love unconditional, but it I’m free to love myself unconditionally too. Loving others unconditionally should flow freely from this way of living. God, teach me to love like that.
On Evening Avenue, the streetlights are always half lit
A sunset always permeates the space between
The circlet of a girl’s silhouetted chin
And the primordial mess of her hair
And it usually reflects back to you at a sidelong glance
From the mother walking towards you
Or a refracted flash from a driver’s ed Taurus
Might momentarily blind you
As you walk the length of the evening from it’s birth
To the night at it’s end.
As you walk down an after-dinner way
Ask yourself again what made you come this way
Or why you unexplainably sat next to someone on the train
And heard him write the novel of his life
Though narrated, unreliably, in fits and starts
Ask why you sat that way, or came this way
Or what made you leave early, or come late.
After all, at the hour just before night
Any path you take can lead you to or from the leaving sun
And you’ve not forgotten why you didn’t know
How your left or your right might lead you
To a half-light momentary suburb-like glow –
Come here again tomorrow night
And every closing storefront,
Every ten-minute-late evening dinner date
Will change, and no colors will look the same.
No, you’ve not forgotten
And the reason why you wouldn’t know
Might be a girl in a distant low-rent salon
Or a high-rise forty-second floor flat
Filled with new uncertain friends
Grouped around an ancient text
Wringing out their hands and hearts
Ringing out the feedback from the line array
That broadcasts the bloated doubts
That brought them there –
Yes, the answer might be here
In amongst the shelves of these closed books
Waiting to be read
By a man like the man on the train
Who at least could speak his mind
Like reverberating sunday evening church refrains.
Yes, an evening road like this might lead to many places
But when you find yourself
Remaining, listless, by some bleak Victorian porch
Imagining all the past embraces
And faces filled with evening sundown grace
That must have lingered in that place
Recall slowly to yourself
The other evening faces passing
Crossing differently at different ways
And let your eyes become the lanterns of the porch
That led you, years ago, to a home where wringing hands
And ringing bells
Wrought the iron in your heart
That keeps you walking down the evening way.
If you’re going to uproot
Half-hearted yanks won’t move roots.
Your hands will prove raw
dirt will keep the tendrils taught –
unless you yank hard.
It’s not indifferent, either
to yank hard.
Only bruises leaves and stocks
you need to kill everything you pull.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t seem right
but yank hard,
and you’ll clear enough space
to find the good dirt where love knows to sprout.
If you’re going to uproot
make space for compost.
Even what you kill can keep your garden
and shoots from other tills can keep it too.
All life throbs in matter
and joy knows which dying stems
tomorrow’s newborn grief will birth
and so she moves from age to age
in Abba’s ever-shifting sculpt
and whether shadows on the cave
or things in themselves,
breath and lung can only work as one
and all life heaves for each.
So if you’re going to uproot,