Speak Truth in Love

This will be the third and final poem on a theme with a friend (for the time being). The theme this time is “Seeming opposites brought together”. This poem takes some liberty with that in calling “truth” and “love” opposites, though I base the idea off the fact that so many people do (incorrectly) consider them such. I will post a link to my friend’s poem here when it is published.

How can I explain this to you?
If I only knew a method of teaching
That would cause you no pain
In learning the lesson you hate.

Is there no easy discipline?
But then I see it is like the struggle
Between two foes to submission:
It is rebellion that causes anguish.

And thus put down, the rebellious
Would cry out against the injustice
Of the victors in their strength
And their unmerciful constancy.

The adage owns that truth hurts;
The truer it is, the sharper the sting.
How fit that the highest truth should
Call us to take up our cross and die!

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Unnatural Relation

I make no claim to natural ease with
Those connections that others find innate.
This human grace was never granted to me.
I feel myself detached from my fellow man.

And you, you give love so readily,
At the first glance, with many and most takers.
But you supplement that which is natural
With that which seems right in your own eyes.

In thus doing, you have run afoul
Of an edict you have never recognized,
A Law for which you were not afforded the veto.
Yet here, in the court, you find yourself accused.

And though I be not the judge,
I act the hung jury, trying to make sense
Of a Law I do not understand myself–
One sinner hesitant to condemn another.

What could I say to the defendant who asks me
The meaning of the terms by which she is being tried
When I’ve never defined them for my own life?
Are we judged by alternating standards?

I know the tension between assuring her
Of love and of requirements made upon her–
Requirements eternal and real and full
Of truth and love and grace, at first unseen.

How can one be required to give up
Everything that looks right and good
To receive what only looks to be
Empty promises from an unsure guarantor?

Could we trade places, you and I?
Let me be the one required
To forsake all I want and love
For all I reject and need.

Let it be you to whom true love comes easy.
My friend, my friend…
What I would not give for you to know this grace.
What I would not give to take your place.

Pitied and Fearful

I no longer know what this is;
I have named it too often.
Is this love, hope, delusion?
I submit I do not know.

Ask me to describe this to you;
I will beg for time–and patience.
Do you know more than I?
Instruct me on what I lack.

Show me the things I do not know;
Make me to understand them.
Is there hope for one lost?
Between us, surely you know.

You were recently born into this–
Untainted by lessons I have learned.
Or will your youth be our end?
Naivete, too, begets tragic catharsis.

Some day, this curtain will fall;
Pity and fear will pass away.
Is purgation too hopeful?
Then I will know what this is.

To Love At All

Does he now open himself,
The unbeaten swordsman
Who turned aside all past blades
And pierced opponents’ hearts?

Does he reach too far in the lunge,
Advancing on the empty fade,
Only to find the tip sharper
Than any point he had ever used?

At last, a worthy match was found,
But perhaps the new duelist
Is too familiar with the usual tact
And has perfected her defenses.

But submission here will not serve,
For it is the same defeat and death,
Whereas victory now need not require
The usual sacrifice–hers or mine.

So he stands, pointe à la terre,
Awaiting in impatient vulnerability
Her decision–to be or not to be–
For a newly redeemable heart.

A Valuation

Is it possible to know
The value of a man?
Can I observe my neighbor
And enumerate his worth?

By what shall we judge
One against the next?
Are all relative, one to the next,
With none to hold the objective?

There exists one Objective,
The original Existence:
Infinite and incomprehensible;
Therefore: incomparable.

Such magnitudes do not lend to
Numbers easy or worthwhile.
Such miniscularity obscures
Any effort toward investigation.

But may a worm judge his kind?
Surely, we who see eye to eye,
Hidden behind the same veil,
Can establish terms of our own.

These, by their various names—
Art and culture, history and politic,
Love and lust, want and need—
Hold what power we give them.

Even I may hold that power,
Insignificant mite that I am.
You then hold that same power
Over me, a needful patient.

And you, same-fated subject
Of my very own: beloved mine,
Does what worth I would assign
Give you meaning or raison d’etre?

I can speak only for myself:
To say that though I know it
To hold no such great weight,
Yet I feel it—a deeper knowledge.

To feel a truth beyond my ability—
To know without understanding—
Is this the furthest edge of being?
Is this to love and see the face of God?

This small measure of His power,
Given to those creatures here below,
Formed in the imago idem,
Can give life and blessing or the curse.

It is relative: all to the Objective.
Yet I was made for it—and you—
To give and receive: life and death,
Called to love my fellow man.

But why task this broken cistern?
Can I give life to the deserving?
To one who hardly bears himself,
How much more to love another?

The Fools Who Dream

Falling in love too easily, too quickly,
Is the curse I live under. ‘Tis a pithy
Love of mine that cannot seem to wait
For lover unknown to unlatch the gate.

I walk through, unbidden, unasked for,
Yet unhindered. Perhaps there is more,
So far unfelt; I will allow myself to hope
I have caught some meaning ‘neath the show.

There is time yet for our script to be rewritten
To pair this girl with boy who is far beyond smitten
By she whom all other leading ladies must surpass;
How lucky for us she was so perfectly and lately cast!

What else for me to do but to cast over all lines,
Angling for all my worth for only a little more time
In which we might better learn each other’s part?
Study my role, and I yours, ’til we know them by heart.

Hum with me a familiar, unplayed melody
And cause me to question how can it be
That I have not known you all my life
Who sings with me this music of the night.

If you’ll beat the rhythm with drumming fingertips,
I’ll pluck out the tune with a hand on your hip;
We’ll play ourselves an eternal song to dance through,
And only after it ends will you know how much I love you.

For the Ideal

No great sigh of relief here.
No weight lifted,
Chest uncrushed;
Not unburdened or unladen.

Not tonight, or the last,
And not tomorrow;
So when will come
The next rebuttal?

Not against regret or pain,
But the loss of something
Good, gentle, kind,
Loving and loved.

A loss to later gain
Some little opportunity
With meager chance
Of finding the ideal.

Why else would any of us
Subject selves to grief
Time, time, and time?
And, I ask, to what end?