February, despite its gray, cloud-fill days, and perhaps because of its cold nights, brings thoughts and remembrances of love. Valentine’s Day plays no small part in this. As if a brazen precursor to Spring, we’re reminded of hope, and whispered promises, and love.
Poetry, through its minimal yet precise use of words, is the perfect vehicle for expressing something so intangible.
I’ve read, although can’t vouch for it first hand, that while there’s only one word for love in English, in Arabic there are over forty. Whichever language, nuances exist for this most mercurial of emotions.
Most famously, there’s the lift you off your feet, rocket your pulse, and throw you into a dizzying spiral, type of Love-With-A-Capital-L. It leaves you breathless, foundering, grasping to keep it from slipping between your sweating palms. Wars have begun, been won and lost, over this type of Love. As have countless lives, hopes, dreams, been enlivened. This is the Love we dream about, sing about, pray for.
Marina Tsvetaeva gently touches this Love in her classic poem, A kiss on the head:
A kiss on the head–wipes away misery.
I kiss your head.
A kiss on the eyes–takes away sleeplessness.
I kiss your eyes.
A kiss on the lips–quenches the deepest thirst.
I kiss your lips.
A kiss on the head–wipes away memory.
I kiss your head.
As with all great poems, nothing is straightforward–just as with all great emotions.
Then there’s the private, secret love that comes from each of us being unique, loving beings. Edgar Allen Poe sums this up powerfully in the first two stanzas of his haunting, Alone.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were–I have not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow–I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone
All I lov’d–I lov’d alone.
While Poe dramatizes the issue (and leaves us with a haunting ending, do find this poem and read it) each of has our own inner loves. Perhaps those that speak to us alone and we keep close inside.
Yet, what we forget is that every single time we’re in the presence of another human we have the opportunity for a quieter, shyer type of love–that with a small l. But one no less meaningful.
This quiet love speaks so loudly it shifts lives. Rather than pursuing the battle of I’m Best! I Know the Most! I’m The Most Wonderful! …instead, direct your attention outwards, to those around you, and think of something to bring them up. It doesn’t need to be much. It could be in line at the store when you briefly smile at the person behind who seems locked in her own prison. Or coffee with a friend where with small, quiet words you can lift them up, reflect their own magic back to them, and nurture their soul.
It could be as easy as “Well done,” or “You look great today,” or “You handled that well.” Instead of throwing bones to our own insatiable egos, how about we take a moment, every day, to make someone next to us feel like the most special person in the world. Because this is the truth for each of us.
Marina Tsvetaeva paints it one way with I know the truth:
I know the truth–give up all other truths!
No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.
Look–it is evening, look, it is nearly night:
what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?
The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,
the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.
And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we
who never let each other sleep above it.
Whichever kind of love you find this Valentine’s Day, I hope it brings you peace…and chocolate.
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