It all starts with poetry.
All of it.
Creation is stirred awake at the single line after line prose of Moses, with the words we all are familiar with: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” It’s poetry, really. But then, the poetry runs out and we revert to storytelling. And then again it is revived, only to run back out again and move into storytelling and so on and so forth until, I predict, the end of time.
Some of our seasons of life are poems, graced with the rhythmic tap of light and sound and color and the unrelenting romantics of feelings. All the feelings. The feeling of the sun diving fast enough toward the ground that if you revert your eyes for a single moment, the whole sky will be entirely new by the time you look back but somehow, simultaneously, lazily drifting slow enough that if you commit your attention to the horizon onto which it will fall, it will seem to float forever just above it, daring you to breathe, daring you to shatter the tension upon which it rests.
Falling in love is poetry at its most rich and true. Falling in love is the emotion between the stanzas, the feeling of your heart gaining so much weight it can no longer stand tall in your chest as you feel it slip slowly down into your stomach. This is the poets mastered craft: to take every phase and feeling of falling in love and capture it and shove it into a page that makes your entire soul ache for lost love, true love, deep love. Falling in love is every sound inside of you that makes up the cumulative orchestra of a sigh, but, like poetry, falling in love is staccato and it fades and it seems to run out.
Some of our seasons are stories. They run together, sentence to sentence, sometimes complex and—more often than not—painfully simple. The days fade into the ever-pounding movement of the story, void, it seems, of any direction until the wave crashes onto the shores of reason. And here, we discover the plots and the purposes and the rich life of the whole thing.
Marriage is story telling in its summation. Amidst the days and the weeks and months, love stretches from end to end and side to side but weaved through it are tasks. Life tasks. The trash must be taken to the curb and the phone must be answered and the exterminator must be called for that nasty spider problem and pills are taken and clothes are washed and fights are had and the bed gets made (sometimes) and some nights, you lay your head down and ask yourself where the poetry has gone.
But does poetry ever leave a poet? And to nudge you yet further along, are all victims of love not poets in their own right? If you can participate in a love story, you are as much a poet as Pablo Neruda for you have strung together hearts with promises and looks and stolen kisses laced with fear and excitement.
“Where has the poetry gone?” asks the sleeping poet. But the secret to poetry is this: within every mundane story is the ingredient that separates men from all else. We are made human by our emotions. Write your poetry and do not allow the mechanics of the story—the where’s and the what’s and the how’s—to distract you from the adjectives of the story—the purples and starlight and breezes. What is a story, after all, without a little poetry to give it life and color?
My marriage is a long story, its beginning not too far back but its ending so far into the future, I’ll be dead by the time I get to it. It is easy to check the list, accomplish the tasks, allow the words to be written and the life to be created and forget the poetry. But standing in the pitch black that only the cold Oregon coastline has to offer and staring out over the vast and unending ocean, the sky far off in the distance too covered in cloud to identify where it meets the ocean but the sky overhead littered carelessly with endless stars and one heaving milky way, the list seems to dissipate and the poetry is rebirthed in one mighty crash. And getting there means getting out of bed. It means staying up late and getting our feet wet. It means running from waves and crabs and it means cold noses and tangled hair. But if falling in love means missing out on some sleep, then count me in for lots of tired days. Because poetry with discomfort is far greater than one mundane story with lots of rest.
But what is poetry that doesn’t tell a story? That is only words, thrown around carelessly hoping to fool someone.
My marriage is poetry. It is a mighty whirlwind of gifts and kisses, promises and dreams, down comforters and red wine. We laugh together late at night at jokes no one else will ever hear, and we hold hands under the tables of family functions because it is good to feel the warmth of love in the palm of your hand. We run away to rainy places where we sit in cafes and drink cappuccinos with chocolate powder on top and we also run away to desert places where we smoke cigars and turn on loud music that reminds us that we are young and alive and in love.
We allow our poetry to tell our story.
We leave a little room in our story for poetry.
If love is a poem and marriage is a story, when we work to bring the two together we create a masterpiece, a work of art to stand the test of time.
Art is hard, but logic is boring and as long as we are here, we may as well have something lovely to gaze upon.