variations on the word love

This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It's the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn't what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.
Then there's the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It's not love we don't wish
to fall into, but that fear.
This word is not enough but it will
have to do. It's a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.

-Margaret Atwood



J Cosmo Newbery said...

All so true.

Love has dozens of meanings and no definitions.

Frankie Jay said...

The most overused word in the english language, but still so powerful.
Interesting writing, I haven't read any Margaret Attwood, but I will do now.

red dirt girl said...

there it is in the final lines: a mouth that says O again and again in pain, a breath, a finger grip on a cliffside

love is no tame pet to stroke and cuddle on your lap.
it's pain and life and precarious.

hold on or let go.
either way you fall ~

in love,

goatman said...

I love "add lace and you can sell it" -- she is a keeper.

red dirt girl said...

I love Margaret's poetry. It has such 'bite' ...!!