Valentine's Day is my absolute favorite holiday, with my birthday a close second. I love birthdays in general; we rarely have personal holidays and how wonderful is it to be able to celebrate the fact that someone was born, that they exist?
Valentine's Day is a creation of the flower-candy-Hallmark industry, but fuck them! I say let's subvert it! If it's all around us anyway, then let's make it a day not to feel guilted into buying stupid shit for our friends, family, and loved ones (like, say, oh Christmas) but a day to celebrate Romantic Love.
I love love! I love you!
My favorite part of Valentine's Day is seeing macho, tough guys on the BART train carrying around big ole' teddy bears that say "You're cuddly" or something else retarded.
Love and sex are great equalizers. (Almost) everybody wants it and when we get it, we get all mushy and soft. We listen to Celine Dion and we think, "Wow, she's really on to something."
But then there's the nasty side of Valentine's Day, when the heart-broken and the lonely-hearted get pissy and jealous and decry the whole stupid holiday. Bless their hearts. I've been broken hearted on V-day before--last year, as a matter of fact, but I managed to keep up my good spirits until about 10 o'clock, and then I just went to sleep. And maybe, maybe, I held a private pity party in my honor, but that's really none of your business.
One way I've celebrated Valentine's Day in the past is putting a little red table out on the street and giving Love Advice for 25 cents. I bring all my favorite poetry books, ask folks about their problems or situations, and then read them a poem that relates to their situation. The first year I did it, 2003, I made $28. I gave advice to a police officer, a former heroin junkie with a tattoo of his forever love, Lola, who had died of an overdose, a bell man who had finally, after a year of peeking in the window of the shop window next to his hotel, asked out the woman whom he had a crush on (for that night!), a couple who had bought a new car and sold the wife's old car that she missed (I suggested the have sex in the new car so she'd have fond memories of it), and a young woman whose boyfriend had just begun to be mildly psychotic (as in, bat-shit-crazy). There were many more. And two people brought me chocolates in addition to their shiny quarters.
I did Love Advice several more times, but, like crack, it was never as good at the first time. What was so wonderful about it initially was that it was completely spontaneous and none of my friends were "supporting" me; it had nothing to do with my identity. Now when I do it, I feel like "this is something I do" and it just rings false. That's why I'm not doing it this year. Instead, I would like to just share with you here three of the poems I read most often.
Poetry is infinitely more therapeutic than the best psychiatrist. That is, if your heart is open enough to hear it. (And I suppose a good psychiatrist could help you get there).
The first is the one I read most often:
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,
To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then?
I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women and looking on them, and in the contact and odour of them, that pleases the soul well,
All things please the soul, but these please the soul well.
--Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass "Children of Adam: 4"
The next one is keen:
Because we were friends and sometimes loved each other,
perhaps to add one more tie
to the many that already bound us,
we decided to play games of the mind.
We set up a board between us;
equally divided into pieces, values,
and possible moves.
We learned the rules, we swore to respect them,
and the match began.
We've been sitting here for centuries, meditating
how to deal the one last blow that will finally
annihilate the other one forever.
by Rosario Castellanos
The following is copied verbatim from my zine Here Are Some Poems I Like. I annotated this one, because it seems so simple on the surface:
This Is Just To Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold.
The love poems that hit you hard are the ones that are often not about love. This poem is like that to me. I think it may be the most romantic poem ever.
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox
Back in 1934, people had iceboxes instead of refrigerators. The poem begins with a confession; he just comes right out and says “it was me!” He is confessing his sin. The plums tempted him and he succumbed.
and which you were probably saving for breakfast
Who is he talking to? I think it’s his wife. This being 1934, she is most likely the person who puts plums in the icebox for breakfast. Breakfast isn’t usually a meal where you invite company. She put the plums in there for both of them, for their breakfast. She saved them for both of them to eat them together. They weren’t saved for her breakfast, just “breakfast.”
However, he doesn’t know for sure that she was saving them for breakfast. He says “probably.” Read the line without “probably.” It kind of makes him sound like an asshole. It makes his sin greater. However, the small space that may exist, where he may not have committed a sin (she may not have been saving them for breakfast) permits him to have done it.
Forgive me they were delicious
He asks her to forgive him by telling her how much he enjoyed them. He assumes that she will forgive him because he enjoyed them so much. Darling, I couldn’t help myself.
This line is the only capitalized line in the poem.
so sweet and so cold
A perfect plum. A passionate, dark fruit. Sweet by nature, cold because she put them in the icebox.
The way I’m explaining this, you might think that this poem were some sort of code poem for a man committing adultery. “Forgive me, she was delicious.” After all, this poem is literally about forbidden fruit. However, it’s not that. The plums are irresistible because they are “so sweet” but also “so cold.” They are “so cold” only because she put them in the icebox. She put them there for both of them, as an act of love, to please herself and to please him. It pleased him so much he couldn’t help himself. She might take pleasure in knowing how to please him, in pleasing him so much he acts irrationally. He knows that she will forgive him, that’s why he comes out in the first line and just says how it is. Instead of justifying it in the most logical way, the way that most people would, the way that she would have to forgive him, by saying “I was very hungry” or “I didn’t know that you were saving them,” he admits the truth and justifies his indulgence by describing the temptation that she created just by doing what she liked to do. It’s a sort of reversal of Adam and Eve. She creates a temptation for him; he indulges and the consequences are benign and ultimately inconsequential. However the fruit and this situation serve to illuminate the nuances of their relationship.
There is so much understanding between the two of them that he writes a poem celebrating his temptation and her forgiveness. It is all so safe and benign but simultaneously passionate and intense. It’s their illusion that they play together.
How sexy is that?
Have a Lovely Day!