A lot is written about love. A lot is said in the name of love. A lot — ah, but talk is cheap. Hallmark will gladly say it for you; that is, they’ll help you say what you think you are supposed to say. It’s tricky coming up with the right words, so we find ourselves in the greeting card aisle, eventually plugging our noses and selecting the least-tacky valentine’s card we can find. My personal favourite is the blank card, where you can simply say what you wanted to say in the first place. Don’t think that poets have it easier than others in this department. We’re supposed to always come up with just the right words; such an expectation is the world’s greatest source of writer’s block.
I believe that the toughest subject to write about is love. Another difficult topic is God — although, I suppose in one way, they are the same subject. Again, it’s hard to write about love, or God, because we think we know what we are supposed to say. We often opt for sentimentality, instead of carefully-thought-through perceptions. The Harlequin romance sings of the happily-ever-after in a world where every handsome prince becomes self-absorbed and bungles his role. The religious poet can wrap into a neat package what doesn’t honestly fit into a neat package. When it comes to love — just like with good writing — it’s the showing not the telling that really rings true.
Something that I have found works is to approach the subject indirectly, like native buffalo hunters sneaking up on a grazing herd. Here’s a love poem, I wrote for my wife, Gloria.
As A Baker
As a baker she’s a maker in a holy tradition the daughter
of a farm daughter from Manitoulin bringing delicacies to my mouth
Her fingertips understand the transformation of flour to
dough to flaky pastry & how to stir my attention
She makes music with raspberry & blueberry with strawberry
rhubarb & cherry takes the humble apple spy cortland mutsu &
macintosh & mystically with perfectly unmeasured cinnamon
She wakes my senses makes sweet squares at Christmas
brings forth fruit pies cobblers & crisps in season or draws
delicacies from the deep freeze a large serving of summer cooled a
long age in winter’s deep well
She shakes my appetites alive with tastes & textures on my
tongue For my sake she’ll shake & roll & sprinkle sweetness in her
kitchen alchemy She knows the way to a man’s stomach is through
his heart making me receptive to all she has to bring tuning my palate
to her particular talents developing my dependency on her presence
her smile her voice
I cannot pretend that I am always the husband God desires me to be, but I believe I got the words right — at least this once.
D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his new poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), and his chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed are available at www.dsmartin.ca