Archive for love

Poem #32: How to Say Goodbye; Prompt #5: The Villanelle

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems, Writing Prompts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2009 by czarnickolas

How to Say Goodbye

To sever love it’s always worse to lie
and leave your lover with a drop of hope,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

We started strong, our ceiling seemed so high,
but honesty rebuffed our toxic scope.
To sever love it’s always worse to lie.

She smothered me with ardor gone awry,
a lather built from arid slabs of soap,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

We sinned apart and failed on the sly.
Mendacious tongues prepared a gentle slope.
(To sever love it’s always worse to lie.)

She slept to dream then woke herself to cry,
and emptied whiskey bottles dry to cope,
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

That night I came too late to ask her why –
she gave her final answer to a rope.
To sever love it’s always worse to lie
but that’s just how she chose to say goodbye.

@NBF 5.19.2009


Boston, 2006



The form I’ve used here is the villanelle. My favorite belongs to Elizabeth Bishop, the famous “One Art” (“The art of losing isn’t hard to master.”). Other popular villanelles include Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (“Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” alluded to here) and Theodore Roethke’sThe Waking” (“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. / I learn by going where I have to go.”).

When writing a villanelle, it’s easiest to start with your refrain lines and work backwards from there. The form adheres to the following rules (from The Making of a Poem – A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms):

  1. It is a poem of nineteen lines.
  2. It has five stanzas, each of three lines, with a final one of four lines.
  3. The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas.
  4. The last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas.
  5. These two refrain lines follow each other to become the second to last and last lines of the poem.
  6. The rhyme scheme is aba. The rhymes are repeated according to the refrains.

A villanelle is a powerful form for writing about loss and is still relevant today, despite our being in an age “when artifice in poetry has been distrusted.” More on this from from Norton:

“Perhaps the single feature of the villanelle that twentieth-century poets most made their own is the absence of narrative possibility. Figural development is possible in a villanelle. But the form refuses to tell a story. It circles around and around, refusing to go forward in any kind of linear development, and so suggesting at the deepest level, powerful recurrences of mood and emotion and memory.

“Unlike most other rhymed poems, where the sound of single syllables is repeated once or twice, the villanelle repeats on sound thirteen times and another six. And two entire lines are each repeated four times. It is this last feature that sets the form aside from other poems. the villanelle cannot really establish a conversational tone. It leans toward song, toward lyric poetry. and while the subject of most lyric poems is loss, the formal properties of the villanelle address the idea of loss directly.

“Its repeated lines, the circularity of its stanzas, become, as the reader listens, a repudiation of forward motion, of temporality and therefore, finally, of dissolution. Each stanza of a villanelle, with its refrains, becomes a series of retrievals.”

“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop


Poem #31: Simply To You

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by czarnickolas

Simply To You

It was simple to meet you.
Meeting often is –
a collision of mistaken eyes
and accidental love.

You made me for her, a bawling
pile on the bathroom floor,
so curled and insistent.

We could have hopped bars down
18th street, or stayed inside and watched
a fire, wasting time waiting for cinders to burn.

It was simple to kiss you,
but I couldn’t close my eyes,
afraid you’d become the person
I really wanted.

You poured sugar on strawberries
and called it a cake. It was all
you could do with the little I gave you.

You let me lie, and so I ran home
in my bare feet, sure you’d
just want to lie back.

It was simple to leave you.
You were never there
to begin with, and neither,
really, was I.

@NBF 5.18.2009


Muir Beach, 2006



This poem takes its first line from Adrienne Rich’s poem “Origins and History of Consciousness.”

Poem #27: Two Lovers in an Hourglass; Prompt #4: The English Sonnet

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems, Writing Prompts with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by czarnickolas

Two Lovers in an Hourglass

What makes us grow to wish these days away,
content to spend our hours combing sand?
The grains between our toes have much to say
to those still clinging grimly to our hands.

Encased in glass, we’re safe from fortune’s touch
as subjects in our own menagerie.
Though trapped inside we cannot hope for much,
the risks we face are minimized this way.

In time the coarse precipitate will fade
and facing us will be a question, too:
do we attempt to flee this cell we’ve made
or flip our fragile hourglass anew?

Well there is one thing history has shown:
The choice is not one I should make alone.

@NBF 5.13.2009


Los Angeles, 2008



This poem is an English Sonnet, the form employed by Shakespeare when he wrote his collection. Like blank verse, the English Sonnet is written in iambic pentameter. In addition, it uses an end-rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, upping the challenge a bit. I invite any serious masochists or poets (or both) out there to give an English Sonnet a try. The balance of narrative, rhythm, rhyme, and originality is very tough to maintain, but the satisfaction level of creating a great sonnet cannot be overstated.

The sonnet, though less popular today, has evolved over time and many twentieth century poets experimented with the form, including Robert Lowell and John Berryman.

Poem #26: people: good and evil

Posted in Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2009 by czarnickolas

people: good and evil

in love,
a perfect time becomes forever,
happiness is people,
good thoughts, sweet hearts
perfect people

to hate love, forever,
is bad for time,
for time,
two times make a nice, three times make
define people

bad feelings hate sweet, sugar-
salts and sorrow

in love, in evil, there is time,
feelings of forever, happiness
perfects thought, perfect thoughts then

time becomes a sweet smile
bad happiness spoils, sent
back forever, to evil, to people

don’t time love, time feelings,
forever is a time, perfect,
sweet hate takes life, takes time

fact feelings find evil, people
love, perfect facts, feelings hate
good people,
love forever, forever

time is sweet, sweet heart a word,
perfect for good life,
bad people, hate, sweet
thoughts, perfect time,
good heart, bad love, forever,

@NBF 5.8.2001 [rev. 5.12.2009]


New Jersey, 2005



I wrote the original version of this poem in response to Gertrude Stein’s How to Write. I have always found something very naughty about the matter-of-factness behind Stein’s language experiments. I hope to do more of this subversive language poetry in the future.

Poem #25: The Lizard in the Bedroom

Posted in Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , , , on May 11, 2009 by czarnickolas

The Lizard in the Bedroom

The lizard in the bedroom spends its time
between my oaken desks. It breathes through skin
of hunter green and greets me with its tongue.

The lizard in the bedroom sheds its tail
when I have come undone. But in its place
a new one grows, cohering me again.

The lizard in the bedroom hides the names
of others I have loved. Unburdened by
these vestiges, I’m free to love anew.

The lizard in the bedroom looks like you
but only from behind. Your face up close
is more defined and what I had in mind.

The lizard in the bedroom slips away
when I have had enough. A life alone
would suit it well, but still more need its touch.

@NBF 5.11.2009


Washington, DC, 2005



I had a dream about a lizard in my bedroom. Naturally, there was also some romance, but the lizard was more a catalyst than it was a participant. I’m not sure what sex the lizard was, so it remains gender-neutral in this poem.

The exact phrase “the lizard in the bedroom” has 2 hits on Google. That seemed disproportionately low to me, but was not the motivation behind the poem.

Blank verse again with some assonant phrases woven together. I cannot endorse blank verse enough.

Poem #22: Love Rules of the Ibis; Prompt #3: Three-Part Blank Verse

Posted in Love Poems, Poems, Writing Prompts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by czarnickolas

Love Rules of the Ibis

Alone, I lie upon a wooden bench.
The trees above enshroud me in a la-
zy shade, the sun obscured, my eyes at rest.
A timid ibis bowing from his branch
attracts a mate with fragile twigs and class.
What birds can teach of romance I’ve no clue;
My time alone away from you is proof.
Perhaps it is the partners’ preening dance,
or gifts of wood that prove their faithful hearts.
If only we could love like them, I think.
Then maybe you’d be on this bench with me.
But we aren’t birds, or anything so kind.
And so you sleep in his arms, not in mine.
Some moments later, he moves in – they kiss.
The sacred birds achieve a bond at last,
and glide away for nests as yet unbuilt.
The February summer’s eve remains,
and with it drift my wistful reveries.
So lost, I can’t remember my last meal.
In Oz we only eat on breaks from dreams.

@NBF 5.7.2009


Sydney, 2004



The ibis is a most unusual-looking bird found throughout Australia. They can teach us a lot about love, as can most animals.

I wrote this poem in blank verse (not to be confused with free verse), a form popularized in the 16th century. I did so after reading the introduction to Mary Kinzie’s book A Poet’s Guide to Poetry this morning. (The book is part of Professor Michael S. Harper’s recommended reading). The first assignment in the book is a 20-line blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter with occasional – and necessary – enjambment) “using the three-part organization of the poems by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Larkin, Nemerov, and Gunn: that is, first the description of a scene, which then triggers a meditation on something in the speaker’s experience, which enables the speaker to return to the initial scene with a sense of resolution or understanding.”

Try writing your own blank verse poem with the above three-part organization.

Poem #20: An Apology

Posted in Best of TPP, Love Poems, Poems with tags , , , , on May 5, 2009 by czarnickolas

An Apology

I’m sorry I took you
for granted, but I
thought that was our
plan all along

You thought I’d be
at the party, too,
but I wasn’t, and you
spent the night in
a bathtub filled with rum

Then I forgot your

(and your name)

I stole your friend
and gave her back
when I was done

Those things –
Those things I said
in your dreams,
those things that
hurt, I’m sorry, too

I turned off my phone
because I was done
with you, but you could
have tried other numbers

Forever was just too
long for me, and
just enough for you

@NBF 5.5.2009


Fort Smith, Arkansas, 2007



Sometimes “I’m sorry,” is not enough.