Is there anything left to speak of love? Surely the minstrels and the troubadours serenaded it all to their damsels, centuries ago; lingered beneath their balconies, stroking their lutes and singing of the myriad delights and horrible miseries of love.
And Shakespeare went on and on about it, didn’t he? More than a hundred sonnets carefully crafted in praise of some bloke and a shady woman with brownish bosoms and wiry hair. I can hardly start to compete with that kind of bizarre commitment.
Then the Romantics with their overflowing feelings and buttoned-up syllables – though just as likely to be gushing over a bunch of flowers as Fair Flora. My commitment to metre is feeble; they would throw my sloppy verse on that big smouldering pile of Shelley.
So the centuries have passed and the words have been chopped and lined and measured and rhymed and so, why is it, that none of it says anything about real live love?
Most love poetry reads as blatant pleading – yield, lady! Give it up! All this yearning and burning, this panting and churning – I need you, I want you, you’re mine!
That’s not love – that’s rhetoric. That’s a declaration of invasive intent. Stick as many hearts and flowers on it as you like, it’s still not love. That’s lust.
And then the rest is so wildly flattering as to be laughable or at least nerve-wracking – what woman wants to be compared to a summer’s day? It’s a pretty high bar to reach. It’s insulting really, that they think we’ll be swayed by the hyperbole. And also you start to suspect the poet isn’t really looking at you at all, except maybe to catch his reflection on the shiny underside of that vertiginous pedestal.
But then that’s better, I guess, than the ones who start by saying your eyes are like muddy puddles to show how they see you oh-so-clearly. They are keeping it real. Which presumes that you want your physical faults laid bare and recorded for all eternity. Which, to be fair, you don’t. On the whole. And anyway, what about something about my sparkling wits rather than my pallid tits – that really would be novel. And indeed poetic.
No verse I ever read told the real tale of love. The love that feels the pain, and takes it, right here on the wiry chin. The love that makes excuses for the lover’s faults, then accepts them, then loves them, then loves them again tomorrow and tomorrow and the next day and for ever.
The love that makes the shutters shudder, and edge downwards and open again, again, for countless times. The love that makes you forget, forgive, give, without regret.
The love that connects you to your lover, a lustrous, pulsing thread of titanium. The love that speaks inside your head, that brings harmonious peace and jangling clamour. The love that drifts you to tranquil sleep, then wakes you sweating with nameless shapeless anxiety.
Is this love not poetic? Is this love or is this war?
I’m a casualty, and I wear my scars with pride.