• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You And I Must Make a Pact

If You Forget Me 

I want you to know
one thing. 

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

–Pablo Neruda

Happy Valentine’s Day. Try not to get too depressed.

44 Responses

  1. Crud. I’m now going to tear up the villanelle I had written for my girlfriend. It suddenly reads like mortared cinder bricks cobbled together by a kuru infected chimp.

  2. Ahhh…gorgeous.

  3. Now that’s a Valentine.

  4. Oh that Pablo. What a dude.

    If you want a corny old fashioned cyber-valentine–one that you can personalize, you should check out cryptogram[dot]com/hearts. There’s a noir section, too, if love stinks this year.

  5. No heartburn after reading that. Neruda’s a loverly choice, Betsy, thank you.

  6. My husband wooed me almost fifteen years ago by quoting Neruda. You can see why I married the man.

  7. Happy Valentine’s Day, from the old lady watching the Grammys only to realize she is a hundred years old and has no idea who any of these people are. Maybe they’re singin’ about love? If only I could understand what they’re saying!

    • Seemed like a night for a lot of people to pat each other on the back. Oh well. There were some good singers, but not a lot of good material. And the bands that backed up Dylan were strumming like four armed aliens on meth. Maybe I’m just too old, too.

  8. Lovely, Betsy, thank you. Sadly I think my husband will appreciate his heart-shaped pizza more than he would beautiful poetry. But he loves me, loves that I write and he does the dishes, so no complaints here. Happy VD

  9. Since I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I scanned the poem first, hoping the it would be one of yours. It really is a wonderful choice, but I’m just a tiny bit disappointed all the same. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, from a train heading northeast to West Bengal.

  10. Thank you. My Nerudas were part of my great book purge and I miss them every day. I still believe in love…


    • You purged books? A great book purge? And you purged your Nerudas? How much time do you have to do in purgatory for all that?

      What you kept must be extraordinary, if you purged as high up the bar as Neruda. Okay, you can get that bright light out of my eyes, I confess–I, too, have purged books from my library: those I was not likely ever to read or to read again. But no Nerudas (I’ve never had any).

      • I kept NOTHING!! Very sad I know but do know what transatlantic shipping costs???


      • How can you ever a) loved words and b) loved another person and not had a Neruda book or two??

      • Bobbi — Extenuating circumstances then, and hooray for libraries and the Internet.

        mary — I read Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (trans. Merwin) and Art of Birds (trans. Schmitt), both in September of 2003, but they didn’t really click with me. I don’t know if it’s a guy thing, or if I’m thick as a brick, or heartless cold and unfeeling, or what. Despite all that, I have loved and do still love words, and I’ve loved more people than I could shake a stick at (and do still love most of them, here or there, near or far, alive or dead).

      • sorry Tetman– didn’t mean to suggest either! I just can’t imagine not having one volume lying around for emergencies.

  11. I am always in awe how some people can be so level headed in matters of love.

    • I see hope and fear. It’s scary to give yourself away and no one wants to be the clod left holding the aftermath if it doesn’t work. I’ll love you with everything I have as long as I know you love me with your all, but at the first smell of dissent I’m out of here and we’ll just say it’s a mutual thing. Maybe I’m injecting a little too much takes-one-to-know-one into it but it captures that feeling so beautifully.

      • Oh, yes, I get this! And I can see your take on it.

        When I read this poem a certain somebody comes to mind. He laid down a proposition, identical to this. He was unwavering in dedication but his point was simple. Take me or free me. I’m not proud to admit this but It was the fear of losing him that did me in.

      • My husband has never made sweeping declarations of undying devotion. And sometimes my hate is as passionate as my insecure love. Every now and then he does something that leaves me astonished and shaking with desire. But, it’s his steadfast belief in us that’s kept me here for twenty years. He once announced ‘haven’t you figured out that I’m not going anywhere no matter how hard you try to chase me off?’ That’s where the acceptance that I was going to grow old with this man began.

      • He once announced ‘haven’t you figured out that I’m not going anywhere no matter how hard you try to chase me off?’

        Deb, that is stunningly beautiful.

  12. Today is the twentieth anniversary of the filing of the decree of divorce officially terminating the marriage between me and the woman who supported me for five years while I wrote badly and drank too much. She went on to better things and so did I. Happy Valentine’s Day, sinners.

  13. Chocolate and cards, dinner and a movie, lovers holding hands and kissing in the sweet scented soft darkness, howling in their hearts at the waxing moon. Love comes and goes and sometimes sticks around long enough to give a reason to celebrate. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.

  14. Really loved first two stanzas. Could they stand alone?

  15. I usually write my love poems on our wedding anniversaries–wrote a villanelle this time. The last time I wrote a Valenine poem it was tongue-in-cheek and went like this:

    Valentine, My Valentine, Won’t you be my Valentine?
    Kiss me quick, or not at all, I want you for my Valentine.
    I’ll be true to only you When you are my Valentine,
    Be happy, then, to bill and coo, When I am your Valentine.
    I love it when you smile at me, Know you are my Valentine.
    Prettiest girl I’ll ever see, I want you for my Valentine.
    Now you say you’ve changed your mind, Will not be my Valentine.
    Another favorite did you find, He will be your Valentine.
    Love is fickle, so they say, Even with a Valentine.
    Another girl just smiled my way, Asking for a Valentine.
    Valentine, My Valentione, Are you now My Valentine?
    Kiss me quick, or not at all, If you are My Valentine.


  16. Gorgeous. I have to brag that I did, in fact, receive the most fabulous Valentine’s Day gift ever. My Valentine (a scientist, not a writer) wrote a guest post for my blog last night.

  17. Love that poem. Thanks.

  18. I’ve been trying to get up the courage to tell someone how I really feel. Maybe I just need some Neruda?

    Sigh. A writer lost for words when she needs them the most is a sorry sight.

  19. In a bookstore on the north side of Oklahoma City one housewife afternoon the early 80’s I pulled Neruda’s Residence on Earth off the self and started to read. after an hour bought the book. Six months later left my marriage left more than I ever imagined I had taken on taken on blindly and happily once.

    You can’t beat his poet ax for depth of purpose.

    Happy heart day Betsy and thank you for the reminder.

  20. Thank you, Betsy.

    Neruda had quite the protection racket going.

  21. Don’t get depressed. There are too many better things to get depressed about.

  22. Beautiful. But the lines I always remember are:

    I want to do to you
    what the spring does to the cherry trees.

  23. I have a friend who’s in love with his best friend.
    Telling me how he feels about her he said,

    “If something ever happened to her, I’d be the first one at the hospital. Before SHE got there.”

    That made me laugh a lot.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to Adagio for Strings and wallow.

  24. …and now that you are gone, the colors seem cruel and the slow movement of the ocean seems a crushing blow and now, I don’t know what to do. Sleep, I guess. Drink a glass of water and wonder why I can’t taste, and wonder what it was in the first place. And then sleep again, I guess.

    (Sorry, tried not to be depressing.) There’s always tomorrow!

  25. My husband dragged me to the hospital yesterday when I would have waited my fever out, sat with me through x-rays and breathing treatments, then took me home, put me to bed, and took care of the kids. This morning, he went out and got my prescriptions filled, and made me rest all day today while he took my doctor’s note to my workplace adn took care of everything else, including the children.

    And he bought small, heart-shaped chocolate samplers for all of “his girls.”

    That, my dears, is all the poetry I need.

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