Poetry Tuesday: “Love. What Is This Word?”

Latte Heart

Got your coffee?  A cup of tea?   Here we go.

So the conversation begins (see yesterday’s post) with a sampling of my tetrameter (eight syllables per line, roughly) musings, a discipline I’ve continued each morning for over a year now.   I’ve decided to ignore whether or not these writings can properly be called poetry.   They are what they are, and I’d love to publish a bunch of them someday.  We’ll see.

This from a few days ago (picked almost at random for this post, the riffing coming after I’d chosen it), reflecting on the way we use the words “love” and “hate” in our language.   I think it’s hard to hear what people mean by the words they use.    The lack of nuance in these English words provides enormous opportunity for misunderstanding, murky feeling and thinking, and sometimes, manipulation.    These days, when people use the words “love” and “hate” in popular culture and in social media, my radar tends to wobble over toward curiosity and suspicion, wondering just what they mean, and I’m often sad to realize “love” and “hate” are being used–sincerely, most of the time–strategically, as rhetorical devices in some sort of power battle over policy.  Who most persuasively defines the popular meanings of the word “love” and “hate” holds the moral high ground.

What is this word?
Swelling of  heart and tear ducts
When hunger looks at we well-fed
And we, full of pity, feel sad?
Or need we feel at all to love?
A hand offered in bitter hate,
The hate made all of feeling rage,
But the mind o’ercomes it and bends,
And the muscle of the hand moves,
Out stretches itself, and lifts up,
And love and hate live together,
And the lift is all that matters.
Is it true of all hating, too?
Such warmth in our breasts for poor folk,
But eat we on, the muscle staying put,
Nothing stretching out, not at all,
And the poor, so appreciative,
So respectful of our warm glow,
Die as we shake our heads, all sorrow.
What are feelings that they serve us?
Action is the coin of the realm.
The kingdom of God does not bend
To mere emotional sweat, but
Works day after day, in all hope,
Against despair–Oh, poor feeling, that–
Believing goodness and thick joy
Will one day stretch out like that hand,
That muscle, and we will no more be torn.
Love of heart and love of muscle,
Love of first move and love of work,
Love of touch and hand and kiss,
And love of giving up our lives,
Knowing  we cannot keep them.
To hold the fist tight is to lose,
To die, to forget, to never love.
How severed at heart and soul’s joint,
And only Easter seasons heal,
Though we won’t know it until then,
Until death rolls us in its grip
And we fly to whatever waits.

Empaths value feeling.   Workers value action.   Muscle and heart go together, don’t you think?   What we do is our heart, and if we say we love, describing sincere feeling, sincere inclination of the heart, and yet we do not love, at least as understood by the loved, then which is true?  Do we love or not?  Have we loved or not?  Who gets to say?

If you’re wondering what I meant when I said “love” in the sentences before this, you may be getting the point.

Why is this such a big deal?   Because “love” is at the core of things.   God is love, we say.   Oh, no, he’s not, say others.  This is love.  No, this is love. If you loved me, you would do this.  If you loved me, you would feel this.  You would do this to show me you felt this.   And if the notion of God loving us is the big idea behind so much religious thinking (not only in Christianity, but other faiths as well), it seems to me it matters what we mean.

And, I suppose, for me, in the end, sadness creeps in when I realize that folks who originally sought love, trying to understand at a deep level, often get lost and end up shouting and warring, metal and/or linguistic guns at the ready.   How odd that we must war for love.

How odd that we must war for love.  

And of course, if we must war, people who sit thinking about these things while the battle rages make for easy pickings.   “Nice guys finish last” comes to mind.

“Move soldier, there’s a war on.”   



One Reply to “Poetry Tuesday: “Love. What Is This Word?””

  1. In Ephesians 6 Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God. And he says our war is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers in heavenly places. I think Jesus showed us how to love the sinner while hating the sin. Your poem is a powerful expression of these thoughts. Thank you.

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