I read once that you spend your whole life trying to rewrite the first poem you ever loved. For me, that first poem was Sonnet 17 by Pablo Neruda. Before that, I abhorred poetry. I thought it was too tricky and too filled up with stupid symbolism. But then I read Sonnet 17 and it was all I could think about. I thought about how it made me feel and about how I wanted to know what those words tasted like. About how I wanted, so badly, to be in love. And I thought about how, more than anything, I wanted to write like that.
Ever since I first read that Pablo Neruda poem (and subsequently everything else he wrote), I have fallen in love with poetry and with a boy. When we started, I wrote him poem after poem, even keeping a separate notebook just for the words he made me feel. I would find my pen racing along the page, trying to keep up with my smudged thoughts. I spilled out inky love notes in the middle of the night by the glow of my iPhone. I jotted stanzas into notebooks during class.
When we started, it was all I could do. But now, two and a half years later, I have stopped writing poems about my boyfriend.
These days, I’ve got nothing.
But it’s not because I love him less. I love him more, really.
At first, love is poems. It is inky notes and sweet stanzas, but later, love is how he kept all of those poems, even the bad ones, safe in a desk drawer.
At first, love is celebrating your three month anniversary and your seventh and your eighth with cards and flowers and candy and extravagance. Later, love is celebrating two years together with a Wii and a quiet night in, testing it out.
You buy a dog together, because you think that’s what people who are in love do. He hugs it close to his chest on the way home from the shelter. Later, you learn that actually, love is when he takes the dog out in the middle of the night because you’re already asleep, open-mouthed, on the couch.
You watch him as the dog chews on a sock for the fifth time that day. You listen when he says goodbye to her as he puts her in the crate before work. “I love you, girl. I’ll be back soon.” You realize you could never write a poem that good. So you stop.
These days, it seems I am out of rhymes and clever phrases to describe his smile and the way it feels to know he’ll always save me a seat on the couch. But now more than ever I know exactly what Pablo Neruda was talking about–I love him because I know no other way than this. And that’s worth all of the poems in the world.
So be in the kind of love that is sleeping slumped on shoulders on the bus ride home from skiing. Start with the love that is poems and puppies, but wait for the kind of love that leaves your bones heavy with contentment. The kind that rolls over in the middle of the night and kisses you in between snores. For Pablo Neruda and promises of forever. For “I love you” everyday and a warm bowl of mac and cheese after a long shift at work. For a love so big and flowing over that a poem could never do it justice.
They say you spend your whole life trying to rewrite the first poem you ever loved. I’m spending mine trying to live it.