Friday, February 09, 2018

Poetry Friday: Two Love Poems

We have all of next week off of school for Carnival (Valentine's Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year), so Poetry Friday is our designated Valentine Substitute Day.  (That's just my name for it, not the official term.)  I am writing this on Thursday evening, but I have experienced enough Valentine's Days in middle school to know exactly how it will go.  It's a dress-down day, with everyone wearing red and pink (our kids normally wear uniforms).  Seniors will be delivering roses.  Candy will be in evidence.  Each of those sentences represents an additional layer of wild, added on to kids who haven't really calmed down from Christmas break yet.  There will be twitterpation, and the Festival of Sugar and Hormones will take place in all its glory.  There will be giggling, and probably some tears.  I will take my annual photos of discarded rose petals on the stairs.  (The photos in this post are the ones I took on February 14th, 2014.)

But it will be OK.  It's the last day before a week off, after all, and we will survive.  And I like celebrating love, so I will work on being patient.

Are you familiar with the concept of Love Languages?  You can learn more about it here, but basically the idea is that everyone experiences love differently, and if you know someone's love language, you can know the best way to help that person know that he or she is loved.  The languages are gifts, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch.

I tend to mock this idea a little bit because what I have noticed is that usually when I hear women (and it's usually women) talking about love languages, it is because they are complaining that their significant others are messing up.  "My love language is acts of service, but he keeps giving me flowers!" these women will say.  I always feel that if someone's trying to love you, you should notice that part and give credit, even for an imperfect attempt.


It's obvious to anyone who knows me even slightly that my love language is words of affirmation, even though I like all of them, and my husband is very welcome to show me love in all those ways.  But my love language is language.  In any relationship, romantic or otherwise, I like to talk and talk and talk, or write and write and write.  I like feelings to be expressed in words. 

On Wednesday this week, a poem popped into my chat window from my husband.  Not just any poem, but a love poem he had written himself.  I amused myself mightily by how I responded.  My heart raced.  Tears came to my eyes.  People, I've been married almost 29 years.

So here's the poem, posted with his permission.

The Games You Play

My love. I like the games you play.
Washing the Mah Jong tiles,
Building the wall, insisting
On proper protocol.

The mid-game break to brew some tea.
The thoughtful look, deciding whether to
Discard a West Wind, a Dragon, or a lowly bamboo.

And that thoughtful look takes me back
To many of your other looks,
Of wonder, anger, pleasure, pain and joy,
Looks that have, variously,
Thrilled me, frustrated me, confused me, annoyed me
And captured my heart.

Looks that make me want to hold you
And make you smile.

Steve, husband of Ruth, from

I wrote a poem recently about another kind of love, my love for my children.  I had been texting with a new friend (recently married to an old friend), and my poem was partly about our conversation, so after I finished it, I sent it to her, and she reacted in the perfect way that she does, being both an English teacher herself and a very nice person.  She wrote and told me that my poem had brought tears to her eyes.

I shared the poem with my writing group this week, and after I had read it aloud, I sighed and told them that I had shared it with my friend, and that it made me so happy to communicate with someone who is dear to me, expressing what I meant to say.  I said, "I really like this poem," and one of the other members of the group replied, "Yes, I can see why you would.  It's a very Ruth poem."  I laughed later on as I realized she didn't say she liked it; you could take her words in several ways.  But anyway.  I like it, and here it is:

Flying Away

A friend and I text about our children who are traveling.
Her son is delayed somewhere between home and Paris,
and my daughter missed her train in Chicago
between the airport and her dorm room.
We are thousands of miles from our children,
and fifteen hundred miles from each other,
but our love and concern fly through the atmosphere
faster than airplanes.

My son who still lives at home
wakes up taller than when he went to bed
and when I smile at him now I have to look up just a little.
I heard that astronauts grow while they’re in space,
because when there’s no gravity,
their vertebrae expand and relax.
Maybe as he sleeps, the same thing happens to him;
but whatever the explanation,
soon he will fly away too;
oh, not to the moon, but far,
far beyond my reach.

We end our text conversation,
confessing that we are likely to be asleep before
our children reach their destinations.
“We can pray for our kids before we go to sleep,”
she types with her thumbs,
and we both do,
we both send our prayers
flying after them,
through the atmosphere,
through space,
through eternity,
through the night;

letting our vertebrae relax,
and our spines grow,
as these children who grew inside us
fly away.


I'm thankful for love, and for words to express it in, and for people who send me words of love and receive my words in return, with grace and kindness.  I'm thankful for the chance to share beautiful words with middle schoolers who are learning how to express the big feelings they have.  I'm thankful for my writing group and for Poetry Friday, giving me opportunities to share my words with people who appreciate them.  I'm even thankful for the chaos that today will bring as we celebrate Valentine's Day.

Today's roundup is here. (Poetry Friday friends, somehow the combination of Australia and Haiti isn't working so well, and I can't get to the roundup site either to put my link there or to come visit your links.  I'll keep trying!  Meanwhile, I've asked someone to put my link up on the roundup.)


Tabatha said...

I'm thankful for you and your poems and your students and for the fact that your husband writes you poems AND lets you share them. I had to laugh about the "it's a very Ruth poem" comment.

Jane @ said...

I absolutely agree with your comment on recognising the emotion and the spirit and the intent behind an act of love. My partner of 16 years and I are very different, and bless him his romantic intentions don't always work out, but the spirit is there, and that's what matters! <3

Unknown said...

Your words moved my heart. Maybe it stretched and grew, too. I love those fallen petals, gracing the concrete stairs. I love how much attention you pay, thinking, looking, accepting and embracing. You're a good person. I'm glad to read your poetry.

jama said...

I was so touched by both your poem and your husband's. It's wonderful and inspiring to see how you nurture your important relationships by exchanging meaningful words, written or spoken. Happy Valentine's Day!

Kay said...

If that is a Ruth poem, I like Ruth poems. It touched me -- especially as my daughter is studying abroad this semester. And this weekend is her first independent travel (with one other friend) to Germany and Austria. so far so good. And that poem by your husband is beautiful and heartfelt.

Linda B said...

Ruth, at the end of my day, I sometimes end with your posts. After a busy Friday and squeezing in reading as many as I can, I know that your posts will make me smile or be a little teary or just teach me something, a blessing for the day. I always wrote love poems in some way with my middle school students and they sometimes groaned at first yet when I read what they wrote about love, there was a kinship among them, they showed that love indeed was in the air and they wanted to share. Thank you, and your husband, for that love poem. A love between you seems to settle to tea and mahjong and all manner of good small things. It seems like a sweet life to me. As for the second poem, my kids have long flown and now the grandchildren grow in their sleep like your son. But don't worry, they also often return to the nest, and in nice ways, too. Happy Valentine's Day!

Mary Lee said...

Happy (early) Valentine's Day! Hope you survived the Festival of sugar and hormones (that made me snort)!

Joyce Ray said...

What a beautiful and touching poem gift from your husband! You are one lucky lady, Ruth. Thank you for sharing with us. Like Linda, I am watching grandchildren grow in their sleep! But I know that the bonds created through those young years are very strong and even elastic. The children will fly away just as you have prepared them to, but they will just as surely keep returning and it's because of the LOVE! Happy Valentine's Day to you and your supremely fortunate students.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Ruth, I too am a fan: of your observations of middle school, of your family, of your honesty about your feelings, and of your humility when you could by all rights be bigheaded. I have one daughter 25 minutes away at college and one son in the next bedroom, and they are flying flying away. Both today's poems of love laid their prints on my heart.

Robyn Hood Black said...

I am thankful for you too, Ruth - and for your generosity in sharing so MUCH love in this week's post! What a dear of a husband, and kind to let us read his words. Your poem certainly strikes a chord in my empty-nester heart; looking forward to having our son home for a wee bit this summer before grad school. And: "Each of those sentences represents an additional layer of wild" - Ha! Every teacher nods reading that line, I know. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! XO

Sally Murphy said...

Beautiful poems, Ruth. thanks for sharing and happy valentine's day. Sorry you had trouble with the roundup :(

Sarah Grace Tuttle said...

Both of these poems are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.