A Poem for Valentine's Day

In February 2003, sabers were being rattled by a president determined to go to war. We didn’t know just how many steps had already been taken in that inexorable march, but we sensed that the promise to exhaust diplomatic solutions was hollow. It wasn’t a question of whether an invasion would happen, only a question of how soon the actual shooting would start.

I was working in Salem that year, with a long daily commute and lots of time listening to the radio to keep awake. Just before Valentine’s Day, I was on my way to work when that day's edition of “The Writer’s Almanac” came on. Garrison Keillor read a poem by Philip Appleman called “This Year’s Valentine.” In its horrific imagery, it encapsulated a powerful sense of enduring love and devotion in the face of adversity and stuck with me. Later, my wife and I chose the poem as one of several read at our wedding. I hope the poet doesn't mind that I'm sharing it again.

This Year's Valentine

They could
pump frenzy into air ducts
and rage into reservoirs,
dynamite dams
and drown the cities,
cry fire in theaters
as the victims are burning,
I will find my way through blackened streets
and kneel down at your side.

They could
jump the median, head-on,
and obliterate the future,
fit .45's to the hands of kids
and skate them off to school,
flip live butts into tinderbox forests
and hellfire half the heavens,
in the rubble of smoking cottages
I will hold you in my arms.

They could
send kidnappers to kindergartens
and pedophiles to playgrounds,
wrap themselves in Old Glory
and gut the Bill of Rights,
pound at the door with holy screed
and put an end to reason,
I will cut through their curtains of cunning
and find you somewhere in moonlight

Whatever they do with their anthrax or chainsaws,
however they strip-search or brainwash or blackmail,
they cannot prevent me from sending you robins,
all of them singing: I'll be there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I loved the poem when I heard it at your wedding, and I've always meant to ask you to show me where to find it.