That’s not how love works.

Yikes! It’s only day 6, and I’ve already fallen behind! I fell asleep while working on yesterday’s poem, looked at it this morning and thought … um … no. Maybe I’ll catch up. We’ll see.

Still not in love with this poetic form. It seems to highlight more than most just how much of a poet I am not. I don’t appreciate that. I have a hard enough time allowing myself to dive into this pool once a year. I don’t need the form I’ve chosen making me feel even less capable. Sigh.

I’m still wrestling with what this form is “supposed” to be. It’s not the first form to give me this kind of trouble. I struggled in the same way with prose poems. It would seem that in my mind there are little walls around “PROSE” and “POETRY” and the twain are never s’posed to meet. So poems made of prose or made to evoke a prose form … it’s like the way my brain can’t handle green tea ice cream.

Yeah. I’m not loving these poems. But on I go …

Desperate Joy
Eight Years Old

You didn’t understand the thing about friendships —
that they weren’t competitions,
no one’s affection was a prize.
You wanted them —
you always wanted them.
Were they beads on a string, shiny adornments?
You showed them off but never brought them in,
never made them part of your life.
You were jealous of their love,
coveted their attention,
yet gave them nothing of yourself.
And once you won them, you cast your lines elsewhere,
seeking, seeking,
the next, better friend.

Look at the photos from that party in third grade.
The hurt on Terry’s face
watching you hug and grin on Lynn.
You’d called Terry your best friend,
for two years, your best friend.
Then threw her over at that party.
And Lynn lasted no time at all.
You moved on to Beverly,
then Nora.

And not one of them allowed to fully embrace you,
not one of them a confidante, a sister.

I want to hear what you think you’re doing,
maybe help you see a different way.
You were on a path and I want to shift it.
Of course I’m too late, but you hurt my heart.
You were looking so hard for something,
looking so hard.

But I’m mistaken, aren’t I?
The disconnection was deeper than friendship.
It was love you didn’t understand.
Did you think it was finite,
that you couldn’t give love to one
without taking from another?
That isn’t how love works at all.
You could have loved Terry, Lynn, Beverly, Nora,
because love is the sky,
stretching on and on and on.

I look at that picture, that long-ago party,
the sadness on Terry’s face, the desperate joy on yours.
You could have relaxed, leaned into loving,
spread your arms wide —
embraced every friend and your own dear self —
and still had the infinity of your love left to feel, and to give.

It’s National Poetry Month!

As I have done for the last forever, I’ve chosen a poetic form, and I’m going to try to write a poem in that form every day for the month of April. I don’t always succeed, but I always give it my best shot. This year, the form I’ve chosen is the epistolary poem — poems written in the form of an epistle or letter. They are also called verse letters and letter poems. I’ve also chosen a theme for the month. Each “letter” is going to be written to a younger me: 12-year-old me on the first day of junior high, 5-year-old me navigating the overt racism of her kindergarten class, etc.


8 thoughts on “That’s not how love works.

  1. Cyndi

    Love that image of love as the sky …

    Here’s a way to be kind to your writing self.
    Grab 13 scraps of paper.
    On each scrap, scribble the name of a different form of poetry, preferably only forms you really like or want to try.
    Fold or crumple them so there’s no peeking and put them in something beautiful.
    Each day, pull out 1 and only 1 – no dumping back in to try again.
    Let the form guide the letter poem to your younger self.

    Now that I’m thinking of following these steps too, I’m wondering if they’re a way to be kind. Worth a try!


  2. I remember my when my youngest, then all of eight-years-old, was not happy with the discipline the deprived him of cookies, pouted and pronounced “Your not my friend.” It was the most devastating epithet he could hurl at me. Being a friend was important. In an odd way it is a child’s only form of currency, but I’m sure none of us understood all the dynamics or value at that age. Especially the concept of best-friend.

    Don’t be so hard on her. or yourself.


  3. I found this poem to be very moving. It successfully evoked those snapshot memories, and the pain associated with them. (I know that I have been on both ends of the hurts of friendship, both as a child and an adult.) For what it’s worth, I am not generally drawn to poetry as a whole. But I do enjoy reading poetry by some writers. And I always love reading your words, whatever form they appear in.


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