Friday, September 27, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

A Meeting of Straying Minds  (Valentine) 

By Karin Gustafson

Love is knowing (sort of)
that when I, the vegetarian for many years,
grow even more decrepit, forgetful, blind,
you, who have never truly understood beans,
will not feed me meat.

It’s a pact that I’ve repeatedly extracted—
”you promise,” I say, nearly tearful, and you reply,
blushingly, yes, no, of course not, so I’m pretty clear
that even as you too grow old, you will not
slop me into a chair with your extra chop
at my chin—

But what worries suddenly
is me:
that, after decades of non-carnivorous cravings,
I will slaver, in my senility, for
your sirloin.

At first, you will saw the cuts with resistance,
your elbow blocking my claw, but,
as I whimper, you just might,
in some trumped-up trompe mind’s l’oeil,
excuse the bloody bits as for my good,
a poor woman’s Procrit,
and, careful to whittle away all gristle,
spoon some down my craw.

On the one hand, this a problem in our love—that you give in to me—
and on the other hand, this is a problem in our love—
that you never do as I ask—
and on the third and fourth hands—because thankfully
we have them (clasped), this is also our great wonder—
that you, who try always for the meet and
right, no matter, will be there with me, even
promoting your sometimes skewed
but always sweetened sense
of my true needs, even if they involve
my grazing from your plate
(something you absolutely hate
in anyone else.)

Though I wonder now whether I shouldn’t get the words
“do not feed meat” tattooed—
only they would have to letter my forehead—(I can’t imagine,
as we recede, you reading below my sleeve)—
and I worry that, with such a phrase emblazoned, people
might feel that they also should keep me from knives—

And there can be so very many lives
in a single life—take the one you lent me when
my old had emptied—
that it is perhaps better to keep vows off
of one’s brow, even those about meeting someone more
than half-way, the way you meet 
me, though that line admittedly shifts sometimes,
while somehow our hearts stay always
in the exact right place.

What a love poem! How wonderfully it conveys long-term, married love.

The formatting didn't come through quite right in the version Karin sent me. It was fine until I tried to reproduce it here; then it went a bit haywire and I had to go through and make sure all the lines ended where she meant them to. In the process I became even more impressed with this poem — with the crafting of it. I couldn't tell by myself where to break the lines, but the minute I did it as Karin intended, the emphasis fell naturally onto the right words and the piece turned into poetry (not chopped-up prose).

Perhaps you've seen it before. I know a number of Poets United participants, like me, are also involved in dVerse Poets Pub, where Karin, who blogs at ManicDDaily, is a frequent presenter. And this poem was included in the recent dVerse anthology, Voices of Contemporary World Poetry (also available as an eBook). Of course, some of you are in it too!

If you have seen the piece before, I trust you don't mind revisiting it. I just fell in love with it straight away and wanted to share it with all those who might not have come across it yet. It deals with the dailiness, the little things, with humour and candour. I find it actually incredibly intimate: a very bravely revealing poem.

Karin, a practising attorney who lives in New York city, is both a writer and an illustrator. She has published a collection of poetry, Going on Somewhere, a children's counting book 1 Mississippi, and most recently Nose Dive, described as 'a light-hearted mystery novel about teenagers, Broadway musicals, love, noses, New York'. You can check out her books at BackStrokeBooks and Amazon. And, if you haven't yet had the pleasure, do follow the link to her blog!

Note: In fact she has recently moved to upstate New York. See details in her comment below.

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Thank you so much, Rosemary, for posting my poem and for being so patient with my horrible schedule at the moment. I have actually moved from New York City recently though I am still there every week, but I am now truly (or at least in my mind) based in upstate New York. Which means I am on the train a lot and staying in an assortment of impermenent digs when I am down in the City. It has been all very interesting! At any rate, thanks again for posting my poem. K. (People may also know me by the elephants!) k.

    1. Oh, thanks - I'll put a little note to that effect in my article.

  2. woot woot...karin is good people...i had dinner with her a couple years back when i was in NY with claudia...and def a great poem by her as well....ha, yes we do know you by your elephants...

    1. Yes, I love the elephants and I wish I had found a way to work them into my article.

  3. Rosemary, and Karin, this is one of the best poems about love and aging I have ever read. It is so tender and revealing of the back and forthing of an active adapting love that it just blows me away. Oh to have a love like that! Reading this was pure joy. Wow. Thank you so much for posting this, Rosemary. I would not have wanted to miss it.

    1. Sherry--you are very kind. Thank you. k.

  4. Rosemary, what a wonderful choice of poem for this week. Definitely a wonderful love poem, and one written from a very unique perspective. I am very familiar with Karin's work and always look forward to reading it. Karin, nice seeing you featured here!!

  5. I'm happy to revisit this love poem which thrills me and i happily own the book it's in. It leaves me speechless every time--there are so few words to talk about this deep love and K has found them. Thank you Karin and Rosemary.

  6. excellent and a poem you need to reread.. there is a lot in this...

  7. Dear Rosemary, I was at work when I first read your article so could not absorb it very well. Thanks so much for your very kind words and those of the cornmemters; you know that working and writing can be a lonely combination-- to have people read one' sworn and to be able to share in theirs is such a wonderful blessing. I really do appreciate it. Thanks. K.

    1. My pleasure! There is also the joy of sharing pieces one loves oneself — which I get to do here every week. :)

  8. I am a great fan of Karin's poetry. It is wonderful to see her featured at Poets United.

  9. Clever and insightful-- I love reading Karin's work. This is one of my favorites!


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