On the Topic of Love
by Theodora Goss
I was thinking about the topic of love, as in
what is it exactly? It’s not like the ocean,
or a tree, or a rock — these are things I understand.
Love, on the other hand,
is a cloud made of water vapor
that you can neither capture nor hold,
a butterfly’s flutter as it lands on a blossom,
the gold of a leaf before it falls and fades on the ground,
something ghostly, intangible.
But I think — correct me if I’m wrong —
that the ocean loves the shore, because it returns in waves,
motion after motion. That a tree loves the sky, because it reaches
branches and leaves upward with every movement,
and the sky in turn loves the trees as best it can,
with rain and sometimes lightning.
A butterfly loves the air, because it decorates
the currents and eddies with its purple wings — kings
are not robed more richly.
Autumn loves the leaves so much, it steals their color.
And the rocks, do they love? Is love a quality
one finds even in a pebble?
Is it that fundamental?
Perhaps gravity itself
is how the Earth loves us, holding
us close, like a mother holding the hand of her child.
When I feel that wild
longing — when I feel as though my heart has been struck
by lightning, I hold out my hand —
ghostly, vaporous, because after all we are only partly here,
haunting this world, less permanent than the rocks,
like a leaf falling from the tree, or a butterfly,
or a cloud floating against a backdrop of sky,
here for a moment and then gone.
I hold out my hand
and almost, almost manage
to touch yours.
(The image is Butterflies by Odilon Redon.)