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Ashes of Roses

Love, that unfortunate biochemical cocktail,
might be tolerable if it were truly blind --
sightless and limited as justice, perhaps --
oh, anything aside from this myopic myth-grandeur
through which ensnared lovers seethe and glide.

Hatred, of course, is cleaner, smaller, clearer:
it reduces, de-fables, smartly sizes what it seizes
leaving only the plucked bones of cold mineral reality
in a steady view as trustworthy as carefully laid plans.

My love, how drunk you’ve become with sensuality,
how unwary, how careless, how lushly sloth
and tonight the roads to lushness are every bit as slippery
as your palms, your fleshy neck, your lying tongue.

But wait, my little weasel -- how you wriggle for your hole
jangling your keys in your hand by the door – just let me
hold you a moment and inhale your clean smell, now it’s free
of that musk you’d be wearing if I let you slink back.

There’s a velvety darkness just outside these four walls
and a whippoorwill wind whistling wild in his needs.
Once you step through that door how quickly you’ll dissolve:
one small, brittle sugar cube slip-sinking into coffee.

Even now your eyes are glazed with the waggle of wanted ravaging,
I can feel your fingers ache in their craving for soft savagery.
Closer still, in your pulsed pupils, I can see where your sight fixates:
you’ll ride a rash, black wind to rake the petals off her sex.

Do I feel like a violation – one you can’t protest? Will you fight me?
Would you dare throw my arms from off your neck? No, you’ll let
as I’ve let, allow as I’m allowing and give me your hard, dry lips
while outside a feral cat is howling -- bend to me, my Judas.

Love is not blind. Love dilates with half-useless gossamer sight,
where hatred brings cold comfort to fevered eyes. My pet, I
assure you I see clearly if my eyes are wet; I feel purely
if my cool hands tremble on your chest, my lovely wreck.

I’ve set a trap, a gaping maw awaits and once it swallows you
there are searing freedoms I can’t express, a luxury near madness…
I may become so weightless I’ll translate into pure light, uncontainable
and wholly innocent as a sky of riven snow, unmarred by imprints yet…

No, love is not blind but death is blissfully ignorant of sight
and I would sell my very soul for ignorance, tonight.

"All the darkness in the world
cannot put out the light
of one candle"

Related Items


The following comments are for "I Hate Him"
by hazelfaern

Hate, death and the maiden
Juxtaposition of this with Andyhavens' 'I hate Her' on today's front page had me chuckling. A diptych, perhaps? But maybe not. It seems that you hate for subtly different reasons :)

Seriously, now, this poem had me both admiring and confused. The initial concept is eloquently set out, albeit I found the first stanza a bit word-heavy compared to the swooping alliterative lilt of the second (perhaps it's just that 'biochemistry' - conceptually perfect - seems clunky in type)... and indeed, the thesis of the whole poem rings clear and is packed with sharp images. (Not sure that ravaging 'waggles', at least in my mind (!), but the wind and the sugar cube and the feral cat of desire are damn good!)

I can't quite get a grip on your philandering protagonist - one moment fleshy with sensuality and the next weasel-slippery... but more importantly, I don't understand the last two lines. The trap of knowing, self-destructive love you're bleakly offering up to fate seems at odds with the sudden crash into a desire for oblivious death. Where did that come from?

Bemused - M/S

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: November 13, 2005 )

Tag team
Did you and Andy plan this? You've both brought your A-game with these poems. Wow!

Love this:

"My love, how drunk you’ve become with sensuality,
how unwary, how careless, how lushly sloth"

Man, that's just gorgeous. The two of you make me want to try harder. You're my new poetry role models!

( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: November 14, 2005 )

"I will live in thy heart, die in..
..thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes." --William Shakespeare

Jennifer- Final lines brought above to mind. Die/"death," referring to orgasm, of course. Although death usually refers to dying.

" 'driven' snow," I believe, was your intent.

Enjoyed read,
Robert William

( Posted by: Bobby7L [Member] On: November 14, 2005 )

Decadent Mortifications and Andy Havens
So this is the backstory:

I haven't been writing a whole lot, lately, so I asked Andy for a writing prompt ('cuz, well, he's brilliant at that sort of thing). Since the last poem I had posted at Lit, at the time, happened to be a poem in defense of love (Love, If I Dare Say), Andy suggested writing it's inverse, a hate poem -- which I thought was interesting since I couldn't recall Andy having ever written anything of the sort himself. The long and the short of it is we decided to tackle the prompt in tandem. I'd write a poem entitled "I Hate Him" and he'd write a poem titled "I Hate Her" and we'd post the two poems here simultaneously one week later.

Beyond it's initial prompt, this poem started with some basic contrasting elements -- the fleshy intoxication of desire versus the bone-cold adrenalization of derision. Then, as I was writing, this dramatic story grew out of it -- the story of a woman with an incredibly inept and philandering lover who she's decided to kill. I wanted the repeating statement "Love is not blind" to initially set up my contrasting elements, then build on the portrait of this rather myopic, lust-addled man (who is not blind, but obviously, cannot see clearly) and finally reveal the real crux of this woman's anguish -- that she cannot bear what she feels forced to see.

The final stanzas most likely feel a little tacked on because, in all honesty, I ran out of time and I had to find a way to end the poem.

*Mobius ~ as ever, your feedback is invaluable. I think I'll toy with 'biochemical', see if I can't unclunk it.

*Viper ~ Stop it. You're making me blush.

Ironically, I read your comment title and thought "No, not tag-team but teamed tags, yes"

*Bobby ~ Actually, I did mean "riven", as in a sky full of shredded bits of white.

I like that the last stanza put you in mind of both Shakespeare and "the little death" :)

*Andy ~ oh, wait, where are you Andy?

I think it's funny that both our poems managed to find the same conclusion, albeit by very different routes -- that hate, in any guise, ultimately wells from an original despair over the finite limitations of the self.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

From "rive"...
Jennifer- Cool word usage.


( Posted by: Bobby7L [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

Love how you Hate Him!
I particularly like the irony of the second stanza, describing hate's view as "trustworthy as carefully laid plans."

As for the backstory, I didn't get that she was planning to kill him - just tricking him into having sex with her. (Same thing?)

Months ago, you expressed dismay when in one of my writings or comments I poked fun at (flip hair, gaze off into space) poets. I must confess, it was a personal experience not unlike the situation described here that put me off poets for some time: A poet/prof I was dating dumped me for another poet. (Well, if you want to get technical about it, she WAS his wife!) This poem perfectly evoked those feelings of anguish and desire I remember. (Happily, I'm getting over my poet "thing," largely thanks to you & other fine poets on this site.)

Enjoyed this immensely!

( Posted by: LinnieRed [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

Hate, death and the murderess
Ah… so it /was/ a double-act! How very satisfactory. Y’know, I’m glad I returned for another look at this one… I like it more every time I read… and what mixed interpretations the same words can offer!
I liked B7L’s clarification of my denseness regarding death: that idea seemed to make perfect sense. (‘To hell with it all - there is only one thing left to gain from a man who provokes such despairing disgust.’) By contrast, the idea of the woman actually doing him in never occurred to me! Instead, I leapt to the interpretation of doing herself in, her ‘trap’ being simply a figurative one, a loving fidelity he didn’t want or need. But this whole story failed to fit the suicide mood. I get it now... but I think a murderess needs to feel... I dunno, more viscerally angry! This seems a little... pensive. But then, you characterize hate as the rational, clear-sighted emotion, while for me, hate is the ultimate irrational one. Curious.

( Posted by: MobiusSoul [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

Hi. I liked both yours and Andy's poetic take on love, hate, betrayal, concern. You are both amazing writers and I am just a little voice wanting to get into your world... Dare I comment?
yeah, cause I am brazen, none-the-less.
Both your poems make me sad. But both also emblazen a path, a choice, and a definitive acceptance of where you have brought yourselves.
Personally, I have "hate" and find it one of the hardest emotions I've ever had to put my mind around.
Funny, it seems only 'real' love can breed real hate, for me. -I'm sorry that I must be aware at all of how it feels here.

"Love, that unfortunate biochemical cocktail,
might be tolerable if it were truly blind --
sightless and limited as justice"
-seems an excellant summation-

You nail it. The desire for love and the gut-wrentching realization that love is hate is mello-drama, is growth....
Optimist, me, still imagines that somewhere, sometime, love is actually love, and not some lesson learned. I feel, in your poem, the lesson still being learned, despite the true emotion of wanting no lesson, no extra crap, just love, sweet love, for a brief minute or two before the reality must be faced again.
Love is a pretty folly we fall into as we learn who we really are.
Probably not accurate at all, cause I'm in a weird place these days, but regardless, I enjoyed your open heart with this and thank you for sharinig such a deep piece of you.


( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

Chilly Chili

Love the seath and glide; the raking petals. The two stanzas starting with "there's a velvety darkness" and ending with those petals; that was lusciously dark and provocative.

Will this woman write her next poem from prison? A hospital? Will anyone survive? Will it make the evening news?

Glad I'm not there.

~ John

( Posted by: Flonigus [Member] On: November 15, 2005 )

I meant to add that I LOVE the inside title "Ashes to Rose"-
As an eternal optimist, what a lot of stuff is stirred with that thought!


( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: November 16, 2005 )


( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: November 16, 2005 )

could use a better title

I like the one you've included withing the body: "Ashes of Roses".

I really like how well you've depicted the feelings between your partners in lust, it reminds me of that element of hope that love has, and hate despises.

Beautiful imagery throughout. Was a little thrown off by one line:
"you’ll ride a rash, black wind to rake the petals off her sex."

Do you mean "my" sex? That would make more sense in context.

( Posted by: johnlibertus [Member] On: November 16, 2005 )

Sex? Death? Either way, I really love it.
This is one of my favorites of yours, H. Use of language is impecable, timing is great, movement from part-to-part is lovely.

But ya broke a rule... you *told* us what it was *about*. Argh! I do so try not to do that with my own stuff (though, ocassionally, since this is a place for discussion as much or more than posting, alone, I'll do it), since I never want to deprive a reader of an alternate interpretation. One of the most beautiful things about poetry is that the reader can find folds and scents we never (consciously) intended. How cool.

I see the killing, now. I hadn't, before, on earlier readings. I saw death... but not literal death. I saw the death of love, the death of hope. The death of trust and "the little death" that takes the place of love, sometimes. The trap was a metaphor, as were the walls, of some of those things. All sorts of stuff in my head. Now it's a bit different, because he's actually a corpse. And not a "maybe" corpse, alongside a bunch of other folded possibles.

Consider yourself spanked.

And let us not confuse the poet "explaining" the narrative of a poem (which, again, yes, I've done from time to time... "do as I say, not as I do"), the poet describing a process or intention (which are always helpful), and various readers discussing their interpretations of the piece. I love arguing (Greco-Roman wrestling anyone?) with other readers about "what it means." But as soon as the author steps into the ring... the infinitude of silk threads is broken, and only one, sticky strand remains.

Be that as it may... this is still a terrific poem. Truly outstanding. Study it ye aspiring poets for several reasons:

1. There is great rhythm here, but subtle. No marching, ABAB, ta-dum-ta-dum-ta-dump. But it is not "random." It is clearly verse. Read it aloud and you will feel a rhythm, feel "beats." This is not an easy thing to do. Try it. It's fun. Pick a rhythm, a way of "walking a line" and force your words to fit it. But do it for a reason. In the case of this piece, the reason is sensuality. This is a seduction poem about love/sex/death. The spider to the fly, or the cheese to the rat. Whatever metaphor you like. The dance of the veils. She has to lure him in, and that requires subtlty. I like it.

2. Internal rhyme, sibbilance, rolling alliteration/assonance:

"a whippoorwill wind whistling wild in his needs"

Beautiful. But it doesn't "bug" you, does it? It doesn't sound like "six sick swans swam silenlty seaward." Yuck. And the sound of "needs" is picked up two lines later in "coffee." Again... subtle, yet H. does it often enough that you know it's not random.

Harder than end-rhyme, and, I find, much more satisfying. There's something very 21st century (to me) about working the words in ways that make them slaves to you and not to some lost tune of a former goon.

3. Power words. "Biochemical cocktail." "Myopic." "Plucked bones." "Lushly sloth." "Weasel." "Slink." "Rake." "Feral." "Wreck." "Ignorance." These are good words. Powerful words. They aren't standard *poetic words.* They aren't what you'll get on the inside of a Hallmark card for Valentine's day, or in a hymnal. Good, modern poetry should (I think) use strong words. Wake up your readers to your life, and the lives of our day, our odds-and-ends, our words. The words we associate with poetry from junior-high are from another time and place. Choose powerful words that have to do with your topic and your feelings and your cause and your chi. Not with some *idea* or *ideal* of poetry that Mrs. McGuiltycutty put in your head back int he 8th grade.

4. Startling imagery: "Cold mineral reality." "Roads to lushness." "My little weasel." "Wriggle for your hole." "Dissolve...slip-sinking into coffee." "Rake the petals off her sex." "I may become so weightless I�ll translate into pure light."

And there are more. You could have a short poem with just ONE of these images and it could be pretty good. Stick three of them in, and it would be a really good quickie. To find so many of them in one densely packed piece is a rare treat. Savor it. I do.

Thanks, H. This is, truly, a fabulous poem.

And don't take me too seriously about the "jeez, you spilled the beans" stuff at the top. I'm still coming off 6-weeks of "big project stress" at work and am just being bztchy whenever I get the chance.

Write more like this. I'll read it.

PS: Even when I was first irritated by what I thought was a commonplace, somewhat over-used image... I went back and re-read it and was delighted.

I read:

I may become so weightless I�ll translate into pure light, uncontainable
and wholly innocent as a sky of riven snow, unmarred by imprints yet�

And thought, "Ok. Yes... innocent as snow... seen that before..."

But wait! It's an old image turned (literally, and literarily, if that's a word) upside-down. The snow that's usually unmarred by imprints is usually in a field. How can a sky be unmarred by imprints? What could march across a sky and leave a trail? I'm not sure... (don't tell me, H., if you know...) But I'm intrigued, where I was, on my first (sloppy) reading, bored.

And when that happens, I read it a third time.

Which is, of course, what you want. A poem so good that they read it three times. Once? Well, duh. Twice... that's nice. But three? Oh, three is the sweet spot. If someone will only read a poem of mine to themselves three times... I die a happy boy.

I'm on read eight or nine with this puppy.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: November 17, 2005 )

Like Catnip from Heaven
Thank you, thank you, everyone, for your wonderfully indepth and insightful thoughts -- Linnie, Caitlin, Elizabeth, John Flonigus... you've spoiled me.

John Libertus -- as ever, your aptness surprises me. *Yes*, I think it is hope that hate wants to destroy -- a mixture of vulnerability found in wanting things to improve and weariness in finding dismay in unchanged tomorrows, I think.

Andy ~ You very well may have given me the lightest spanking ever. Actually, I'd thought you were going to take me to task over my impetuous inclusion of a second working title.

"Rake the petals off her sex" is one of the lines that bothered me most in this -- there's something almost too coy in the euphemism "sex", I've felt. I'm glad it worked for you, at least a little.

It's funny, because without thinking about it deeply, I've tended to feel that real criticism is built up of a lot of tough-love over what could be improved in a given work. Yet by clarifying what you see as workable and valuable here I think you've given me just as much insight by opening my eyes to imagery and elements I've only winced at before.

Purrrrr, Andiest, you rock.

Still, I think I will have to insist on harsher spankings in the future :)

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: November 20, 2005 )

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