Every Valentine’s Day I brainstorm for places that romantically-inclined or romantically-averse folks might congregate as they prepare for the holiday or prepare to avoid it. In the past I’ve left love poems in a chocolate store, post office, senior citizen’s home, a food court, a lonely-looking motel, the floral department of a grocery store. Now in my fourth year of Valentine’s Day poem-elfing, I think I need a location scout.
Here’s where this year’s crop of love poems landed:
At Victoria’s Secret, nestled in between the pink thongs and the pink brassieres, I left Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII,” a poem which speaks of loving someone “in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
Funny that we used to call ladies’ underwear “intimates.” Victoria’s Secret intimates, however sexy, are no match for Neruda’s brand. The intimacy he’s after can’t be manufactured or marketed or purchased. He writes of a passionate love
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
I left Carl Sandberg’s “At a Window” on a stranger’s window at a transportation center.
Presumably the stranger will return to the car after work, and I hope this universal wish for companionship and love is a balm and not an irritant:
…leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
A Greyhound bus station seemed like a fine place for the decidedly unsentimental “First Love” by one of my favorites, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.
First love, says Szymborska,
does what all the others still can’t manage:
not even seen in dreams,
it introduces me to death.
Valentine’s Day is a great day to celebrate the love of friends. I taped Robert Frost’s “A Time to Talk” to the sign outside a neighborhood bar, always a good place for friends to gather.
In this age of distraction and shortened attention spans, what better way to show affection than setting aside your hoe, whatever your hoe may be (no naughty jokes, please) and taking time “for a friendly visit“?
For anyone sadder but wiser who might need retail therapy on Valentine’s Day, I left “I Have Come to the Conclusion” by Nelle Fertig in the Macy’s purse department:
(Excuse the typos in the poem I left–too late for corrections.)
Fertig’s version of love is more cynical than my own. But I guess I’ve been fortunate not to have “broken a few/ very fine mirrors.”
Finally, I left an excerpt from Roy Croft’s “Love” near my husband’s office outside a restaurant he likes. But he was out of town, so he’ll only see the poem here.
The restaurant is frequented by middle-aged couples and singles looking to be coupled, people old enough to appreciate what’s under the surface, who can understand the beauty of what Fertig expresses here.
And spread love! Everyone has it, everyone needs it.
Happy Valentine’s Day!