My 30th birthday approaches, and with it (inevitably) Valentine’s Day will follow close on its heels. I have no plans for either at present, but I found this poem today, and decided it might be worth some memorization, it tickled me so:
To My Valentine
by Ogden Nash
More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.
I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.
As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.
I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than the subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.
I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
That’s how you’re loved by me.
I was invited to a dinner tonight where the guests have to bring one thing: a good ghost story. What a fantastic idea! Apparently the hosts (a couple) cook a four-course meal for the guests, who, in exchange, provide the entertainment (and spirits).
I had a lot of trouble finding a good ghost story. It had to have a sense of melancholy and mystery, full of unwitting victims of dark coincidence. A story about a slasher would simply not suffice. A jump out of your seat thriller was out of the question. At the end of the day I realized it would take me hours, days, maybe weeks of searching to find a chilling tale that was up to snuff.
So I wrote my own, and it turned out… wonderfully. It’s an epic rhyming poem that takes about ten minutes to read when read at the proper pace. Friends and coworkers who have read it get chills at all the right places in the story. My favorite part of the poem is that there are no bad guys, only victims to unfortunate circumstance; it’s a sad story, but that’s part of what makes it so good! It’s not good versus evil, it’s just… spooky.
And tonight I’m going to read it. In front of a room full of strangers. Yikes. I’m so nervous! hahaha 🙂 I’m proud of the piece, but it’s fucking nerve-wracking to put my creativity on display. Scary!
Still, I’m pretty excited. It’s been really nice to write again. I used to write poetry all the time (rhyming and non-rhyming). In particular, I did sonnets. So much fun! And it was so easy! The first seven or so verses for this poem were easy because I knew what I wanted to say, but after that I had no idea where the story was going, so I got stuck and it was a bit of a battle. But it turned out so well! I’m the greatest!
UPDATE: November 7, 10:40am
I’ve decided to post my poem (yikes!). It makes me nervous! Enjoy!
Once, long ago, when I lived by the sea,
when Daniel was young and precious to me,
I told him that we two would soon become three
in our house by the ocean, down by the sea.
We named her Selene for her raven-black hair,
and her dark, shining eyes, and her warm, watchful stare.
She grew and she laughed and knew not a care
as she played by the ocean in the salty sea air.
She was wont to wander, as young children do,
returning just past the hour she was due,
smiling and filthy, her dress all askew,
excitedly babbling of things she now knew.
On a gray, windy evening, the shadows seemed wrong.
From the docks, hunched and starved, a boy came along.
Selene was afraid, but stayed quiet and strong
though she knew by his scent that he did not belong.
It was as though shadows had followed this child
from the dark, from the creep, from the womb, from the wild.
Inside him it hid and it gnashed and it riled,
silent yet noisome, pure yet defiled.
The boy played with Selene as much as she’d let,
and stayed by her side while she whimpered and wept.
The doctor was gentle, the bone quickly set.
He said, “Children are clumsy when smooth stones are wet.”
My mother came down from the Highlands to stay.
Though journeying long, she departed next day.
No gentle prying could coax her to say
why she fled our small house on the sea, by the bay.
Once while out hunting, my Daniel was shot.
The boy returned home, alone and distraught.
Angry and shaken, the village knew not
that the boy in my home was the culprit they sought.
My eyes never left him, once Daniel was healed,
and from what I saw, it was quickly revealed
that there was no defense, no weapon to wield
against this dark beast, clever and concealed.
I watched as the grass seemed to wilt at his feet.
Seldom did he speak, never did he eat,
nor did he smile, for his heart was replete
with solitude; he seemed to be incomplete.
Soon I found he was never far from me;
kitchen or dockside or wood, there he’d be.
But helpful and busy and quiet was he
as we worked at my cottage, down by the sea.
I oft’ mended nets for our men by the shore.
His small hands gripped tight to the wool skirts I wore.
He cried out, and then, with a great rushing roar,
the sea swallowed me; I remember no more.
My sleep was then fitful; of dreams I had one:
Sweet Daniel, though wary, demanded a son.
He whispered that we three would soon fall to none.
That with his arrival, our deaths had begun.
I awoke in our home and sought out this youth,
endless and wakeful, his eyes filled with ruth.
The words came unbidden, unkind and uncouth,
“Speak quickly now, boy, and speak only the truth.”
“I am an ill omen,” he said to me then.
“Sinking stone, aching bone, brackish wind, fallen wren,
hidden blade; all these years no augur could portend
this thing that I carry: your ruinous end.”
I pondered a moment, then whispered, “You lie.”
“You are not so evil,” I said with a sigh.
“But your loneliness sailed you to us, by and by,
though you know that what mortals fear most is to die.
You do not share that fear, do you, young shade?
By water, by fire, by bad luck or blade
your fate was decided, your destiny made
long ago, as a child, and a child you have stayed.
But a child craves a mother, so a mother you sought,
and you’d stay with her family, knowing you should not
for the sense of warmth and belonging it brought,
though false, were never worth the suff’ring you wrought.
With simply your presence, all good will was spent
until, from each home, you were turned out and rent.
But no blood thirsty thought, no malicious intent
motivated this quest to relieve your torment.
Your burden has left you broken and bound.
Though your sorrows ensnare and your ship run aground,
though constantly lost and hunted tooth and hound,
rest now, young spirit, for I declare you found.
We’ll wander together ’til we fade into none,
and leave here tonight, all the living to shun.
My life here is over; my death is begun.
For Selene, for sweet Daniel, I will call you my son.”
As I spoke these words, the night darkened anew,
and whispered its welcome while day said, “Adieu.”
Now silent my steps and my heart’s warm tattoo,
and he smiled as he saw his one then become two.
We drift through the mountains, and pass through the wood
and visit the place where my cottage once stood.
I linger there, dreaming, longer than I should
of a life by the ocean, and a death that was good.