In February, which is coming

eros-e1354571794589When I remember that I am the god of love, I am not surprised by how my body responds to beauty. I am not surprised that the love I feel came to me unaware, something outside the reach of my conscience, beyond the intricate workings of the cerebellum bumping against the medulla bumping against the midbrain. And yet in that jungle, the sensory cortex lives on top, near the crown, the place where I am reworked each moment by the way the world picks up its corner and shakes cobwebs and magic into my path.

A poet who wrote more of death than of love (although loving was always a part of the passing) spoke of birches being bent by ice storms, when really what he wanted to talk about, what he

. . . was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself . . .

Truth with its brain diagram flashing in my mind wants me to know why I love and why I feel and do what I do, why I can’t leave Psyche to her path, why I want to chase after her and why I continually hover on the edge of the picture frame she fills with each task that takes her farther from me.

Or is it closer?

Toward the end of the poem, the poet says,

May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

Yes. Yes, I believe that. I who can fly with abandon know that earth is where Psyche will live with me. Bone to body to bone. Bone of our bodies to bone of the earth. That never changes. Heart and soul and body, the very nature of our breathing, the fire that burns inside us or refuses to rise from ashes: all of these things change with time and growth. Not bone to bone. Psyche, you know that I am here. You know where you will find me when you have found yourself.

Earth is the right place for love.

Can you hear me whispering that to you? Would this help you stay on your path?

My questions fade with the day. Days spin their fabric into new clothes unfamiliar and fitting. Whatever I wear does not change the fact that I feel.

Blood will not relent or back down or fade into apparition. It forever returns me to myself as . . .

In the greeting card aisle every February, strange mutations of me exist in red and pink. I am coupled with roses and endearments and gilt lettering. Gold-lined envelopes compete with the fluorescent lights above. This is the path that others have chosen for me. A fledgling hip hop singer in a Britney Spears perfume ad where she is Psyche. The matchmaker with the physique of a Chippendale’s dancer in porn videos.

Choose your own image, Psyche. Or better yet, choose to know what breathes behind the image.

This evening as I sat on the windowsill gazing at nothing and everything that earth astounds me with, I felt your thoughts turn to me. I have been living with poetry, and so have you. Your words open me more than I thought possible. You have given your life to a promise again.

When I return to you, I will whisper
What I dreamed on the road
Into your ear, smooth down your wings
With the tips of my fingers and lie
In the warm curve of your body
Like a question mark followed
By parenthesis. I do not know
If I will survive, yet if I do,
I intend to retain everything,
To share it with you, to come to
The end of my dreams and to open my eyes.

This time, Psyche, when you open your eyes, I will be there in the glory of whatever light we make. I will be there, and we will know each other for the time that is to come. Stay on your path and know.

–Eros

(Shaun Perkins)

Frost’s Forest in Your Head

On this day, March 7, in 1923, Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was published by the New Republic. This poem is one of the first that I set to memory. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

I carry its emptiness through my busy, busy days. The little horse shaking its harness bells is such a quiet sound in the midst of the teenage voices and car engines and noise of TV and computer that fill my days.

The “easy wind and downy flake” are suspended in my bones while I try to shut the car door against the southern Oklahoma wind and grab for my sunglasses in the stark light of the day.

I pass a slew of abandoned farmhouses on my way to work each morning but none seem as quiet, as lyrical, as lonely as the one that is not even near on that “darkest evening of the year.”

The death wish that some people say Frost’s poetry contains is always present with life. In the midst of life, we are . . . and so it goes (as Vonnegut would say). This poem about wanting to sleep in the dark and deep woods is the network of veins under our skin.

The blood is our desire to go another mile, just one more mile, before we sleep. Thank you, Robert Frost, for the gift of your forest that fills my life.

–Shaun Perkins

Beginning with Death

I wrote an earlier musing on poems ending with the word “life,” so I thought I would also consider poems beginning with the word “death.” The most famous of these is probably John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud,” which John Gunther took for the title of the biography of his son’s illness and death—a book from my childhood that I remember quite clearly (along with Robby Benson, my teenage crush, in the TV movie role). Continue reading