Fourth of July Love Poem

Because you deserve a love poem,
I will write you a love poem.

Not to praise you, not to idealize.
Not to drown how I really feel
in sugar tea or to deny
how much I miss you.
Not because you said or did
the right thing,
but because you accept me
as the grass is green,
as the lilies bloom
and the coffee brews.

I will write you a love poem
because I can and I want to,
knowing the great privilege
I was born into
that led me to write
the words that led you to write
the words that led our lives
to collide.

This is a love poem for you,
and for the freedom of being safe
to speak the truth and
spill the secrets,
but it cannot be sung
without a shadow–if one is imprisoned
and none of us is free,
then what is my duty?

This is a love poem to coaxing
the shadow from its shell,
to a yellow finch on a branch,
to the great honor of walking
barefoot on the grass
or in the sand.

To distilling the bitterness
that rises and boils
revealing the grief essence
that still requires tending.

To your voice on the other line,
not coaxing, not coercing,
but sharing and listening,
spacious as the miles between us.

To those who are confined
by bigotry or poverty, or by
the spinning coin
of insecurity and narcissism
that heads or tails will never win.
To those who’ve taught themselves
to read and write in the dark
though they’ve been called
monsters or ghosts
and forgotten.

I’m writing this love poem
because it is my patriotic, matriotic,
symbiotic responsibility
to do so.

Because we could celebrate our bravery
and rest on our laurels,
self-congratulatory and back-slapping
we could storm the streets
and shun the man,
we could condemn the status quo
and resist business as usual,
we could call it an army
of love,
but true love has no armor.

I write this love poem to you
who dismantles the facade,
shakes out the secrets
and hangs the laundry
to dry
in the unstoppable winds
of change.

I write this love poem today
to change itself, knowing that you
can call it courage but that I sit
here in the most
peaceful environs, musing,
iced coffee at my side,
a bikini top dangling over the railing,
slowly recovering
from two years I call brutal
but never once left me bruised.

I write to the women who hear the latch
turn and fear
for their safety,
to the child soldiers
and to their captors too who
were children once, if long ago.
What of their mothers?
What of their fathers?

I write to the houseplants
and the housekeepers who take three buses
each way to work each day,
and to the watering holes
and the drunkards and the batterers, too,
in prayer.

May someone read you a poem
someday, stop your rampage
and look into your eyes without flinching,
may you lay down your weapons
and open the fist you clench
even in sleep.

There is enough pain in the world,
and violence, and shame,
enough war and ignorance
to fill a thousand pages
with words that may never fall
on the ears that need them most.

And I–I have this freedom, to write
a love poem,
to admire the sloping yard,
to turn back or move on,
to get on a plane
and to drive my own car,
to vote and speak out,
to contemplate, to nap,
to rage, to create.
If you are reading this love poem,
it’s safe to say
you have it, too.

So tell me now, what is our duty,
those of us
who can love freely
without threat of death?

It is just that.
And to do it out loud,
to do it in public,
to do it in the marketplace
and in the newspapers,
to do it in the malls
and in the drive-throughs,
to do it at the movies
and at the opening
and at the closings
and in the busy intersections,
to stop traffic with this love,
to share it,
to spread it,
to speak it,
to seal it
into the eyes and hands
of passersby, like a flyer
for something too good to deny,
like a prayer for something
too precious to ignore,
like a shout
from a cell
or a call to sanity.

Because you deserve a love poem,
I will write you a love poem.
To love and be loved
is your birthright–
and by you,
I mean, you.

And to those with hearts ravaged
by cynicism
who misuse their power
in the name of one more hour
of privilege,
I say this:
it is your birthright, too.

7 thoughts on “Fourth of July Love Poem

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