3 Messy Poems About Love
Winning poems from Berlin’s Wicked Poetry Slam: Love, Sweat & Laughter
In preparing for this poetry slam, I realized — at the age of 51 — that I don’t know shit about love. So these poems are about what I’ve experienced, what I’ve learned, and what I know now (spoiler alert: still don’t know shit).
Most of the cards in the Tarot deck are brightly colored: yellow blue green red and the deepest black.
The Tarot cards that contain the most black are The Devil, The Tower, and Death.
But Death is not black. It is not black, for those of us that know Death, that have seen Death, smelled Death, touched Death, tasted Death, rolled Death around on our tongues and said hmmm, Death, not bad I detect a hint of vanilla but you are both too sweet and too bitter like the sound of an orgasm and I suspect a dash of lemon juice would fix that but what do I know I’m no cook.
Black black black black black black black. How to explain the black?
If white is the absence of all color (and white is the color of the purest soul, which is strange if you think about it because wouldn’t you think that in order to know the purity of a soul it must first spin around the color wheel picking up a tint of this and a shade of that until it is smudged and stained and dyed in the wool and sponged up color but still remains a soul? A Christian told me once that we change the shape of our hearts but surely the purest soul retains its shape, only changes color, contains all the colors, and all the colors contained equals black.)
If all colors together make black, then why is black the color of space, if space is empty… ? A black hole must be filled with all the colors to be black, but a filled hole is not a hole at all. The universe is black. The universe contains everything.
Black is the now it is the all, it is the color of the first skin, it is the color of my true love’s hair. It is the color of my favorite pair of shoes.
Black is the zero in the multiples equation.
Black + gold = black.
Black + turquoise = black.
Black + white = grey. Because white is negative space. White is the absence of color.
Black contains the universe.
Black is the universe of my memories living inside my head, inside my body inside the black swirling around and around to be born and born again every time I take a breath every time I take a dump every time I take a lover every time I make love.
Pick apart the colors of the universe until there is only white.
Pick apart the colors of you.
In the Tarot Death does not mean death. Death means change. Change is not black. Change is a swirling violet hour of smoke and tears and small eternities.
The color of eternity is unknowable.
As unknowable as the blackness of space, both inner and outer, as unknowable of the universe inside out. As unknowable as the carefully laid layers of you and all your colors and your black.
Black absorbs black absorbs my black absorbs your black like my fingers absorb your smell and my hair breathes in your breath and my face soaks up your yellow laughter and my body eats your body in the blackness all of night and we wake up in the morning from the black of our dreams and our bodies blushing redder than our memories and I lose myself in the blackness of your soul in the blackness of your Tarot deck of your eternity of your universe, in the blackity black of blackest you.
Black is the color of the universe.
Pick apart the colors of the universe. Pick them apart, one by one and lay them down in a cross a line a curving river of primary colors a curving river of the future so we can finally see.
And then, let’s pick apart the colors of me.
L’amour court dans les carrefours
I met a man who called himself the devil
And here is what the devil said to me
You can burn a church a mosque a synagogue
And you still won’t destroy a god
Or whatever people want to believe
But don’t break hearts
Because god lives in hearts
So don’t break hearts
Because when you break hearts
In that space that broken hearted space that broken space when you are neither chrysalis nor butterfly when you are soft and mealy
and can’t see clearly
That is when you see me,
at the crossroads, in the garden, at midnight, on the mountain
At the gate in grief let the right one in
When you are grieving over something that is over
but you’re not ready for it to be over
When you are growing out of something that is too small and tight
wrong-sized pointy toe 4-inch high heel shoes
You’re barefoot your soft pale feet so tenderly
stepping directly on the ground the dusty earth gently on the hard pebbles trying with all your might to not feel pain and stay upright
At the same time
This is when you see me (he said). Maybe I offer my hand, my arm, a smile or a new pair of shoes and an invitation to dance.
Do you take a lover out of loneliness
Do you become a lover out of fear
Do you punish
Do you prey
On your lovers insecurities
Do you play games?
Are you so kind you give yourself away
are you jealous?
Do you need proof of love? Proof of me?
Which path do you take
There at the crossroads
Do you hurt
Are you hurt
Are you Faust or Magdalena
Or are you the cat?
. . .
Which path do you take there at the crossroads, pale and trembling for shelter
(Love is not shelter and don’t believe anyone who tries to sell you a love shack)
Cold and soft and weak and barely there in one world and barely there in the next and really not sure you’re going to make it, that the wings will grow or dry out and you can ever use them but painfully aware that you can’t crawl back inside a broken cocoon and painfully aware things take their own time and painfully aware that the pebbles you are standing on are actually gravel
(Love is not pain and don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you love hurts)
But maybe this is what you’re supposed to be feeling anyway and
maybe this is where you are supposed to stay
maybe this is really as far as it goes
maybe this is your forever home
maybe this is heaven and maybe this is the place
if can just stop drowning
(Love is not a flotation device, no matter how beautiful the body)
Pay attention to the empty spaces my horoscope said
the negative spaces
the sun will shine
on the negative spaces
in your life
the empty spaces
In the museum empty space between the art is important so we have room to breathe, but sometimes it’s good to fill all the empty spaces like at the Lügenmuseum the museum of lies where nothing is as it seems and you seek it out and you thrill to it and it fills all the empty spaces with the discarded bits of art (also turned into art) but still it’s the stuff the artist doesn’t even want it’s not the stuff he’ll put on display to the world it’s the stuff hidden away
you have to travel by train and by bus
to a tiny little town out of the way
Just to get there
just to find
just to see
just to be a part of
because you think you want an interesting experience
Because you think you want adventure
Because you think you’ll get a chance to dance
but you are mistaking junk for art again and
are too occupied with all the wrong things:
the moving parts the colors the noise the spectacle and
. . .
I had a lover once: he was like water from a faucet — reliable; relatively clean; flouridated; civic.
I had a lover once: she was like a washing machine — spinning and churning contained trapped in her own space. No room for me.
I had a lover once: he was like a flood — heavy and suffocating and breaking everything down with the weight of his own persistence.
I had a lover once: he was like a calm Mediterranean sea. So calm, almost dead.
I had a lover once: she was like the promise of rain.
I had a lover once: he was like a hurricane — a storm born at sea where he really belonged and when he touched land he couldn’t help but destroy everything in his path.
I have no lovers now I have no lovers now
and I always thought love was like water: rocking and rolling or
drifting sometimes drowning sometimes
sometimes swimming sometimes floating but mostly
to the bottom of a kind of sea
d e t e r i o r a t e
and come apart
. . .
I have no lovers now
I have no lovers now
But now I think (I suspect) I hope (I pray) that love is like
a cool breeze
Not the kind that relieves you from a heat wave and
not the kind that stirs up the air, and
Not leaves you pressurized. Not the kind that threatens a storm.
But the kind that the kind that comes for no reason at all
from a stillness of a pleasant day
to brush across your eyelashes to kiss your warm skin
To make you go mmmmmmmm
and remind you
of the deliciousness
of being alive
(A cool breeze made by butterfly wings…
a stillness, a flatness and then that gentle clap
a breeze to take off on a breeze to stir a spider’s web a breeze
to cool you at the
Where you may meet a stranger
Who offers a hand, an invitation, a new pair of shoes
But hopefully just answers the simplest request
to direct us to the nearest goddamn disco
Where dancing is only a question away
Sounds like heaven to me.)
© Susie Kahlich 2019