poem

Last night I dreamed you were running
away. I chased after you
like a confused dog, followed
you through strange cities and airports.
I climbed the outsides of office towers and hotels,
searched libraries and salons. When I found you
alone in a café, you closed your notebook
(in which every word was goodbye)
and you stood without looking
at me, and walked away in silence.

When I woke, you were lying
beside me, dreaming
you were traveling alone.

 

© Mark Milner
Vancouver, 2019

The one I love

This one goes out to the one I love.

REM

 

Relationships can be hard work. They often require patience, and compromise, consideration of how what we do and say will affect how someone else feels. For a relationship to work, that needs to be at least as important as our own feelings.

I’m good at working hard. (No, really.) I’m less good at patience and compromise, although I do try to be considerate most of the time. And I try to consider how my words and actions will affect the people I care about. I don’t always succeed, and that’s where the work comes in.

Some people like to say you should never be sorry for anything. No compromise and no regret. Look out for number one. Blah blah blah. I can’t imagine any such people having successful, healthy relationships. Of any description.

This is as true in business relationships and friendships as it is of those we like to call “love”. There is, however, much more at stake when it comes to love. Piss off a business contact, and maybe you lose a sale. And you can generally make things up to your friends. They’ll get over it, you’ll get over it. No hard feelings, eventually.

When we hurt someone we love, that tends to linger, for us as well as them. And sometimes more for us. Which is why we work harder, try harder to be patient, compromise more, when it comes to love. And most of the time, the work doesn’t feel like work, and the compromises don’t feel like sacrifice. Or rather, it’s work we’re happy to do, sacrifices we gladly make. The compromises we make in our negotiations with the ones we love feel like we’re winning.

Relationships also require a lot of luck. To paraphrase Somerset-Maugham, it’s a minor miracle when two people, who are each constantly changing, manage not to grow apart. In this respect, I have been exceptionally lucky. My wife and I have been married more than 24 years, and together for nearly 26. We’ve both changed over time. She continues to put up with me, in spite of my many faults. We forgive each other regularly for lapses in patience and compromise. We each endeavour to do better, and we both work hard at it.

I think that, really, is the recipe for success in anything: the serendipitous combination of hard work and good luck.

Here endeth the lesson.

Suite

for Adele

“Nunc scio quid sit amor” – Virgil

1.

strange how my memory
moves my hand moves
my pen on the paper and there
we are, caught in the lens
of a moment

focus:
walking beside the river
talking, trying to curl our tongues
around things we are afraid
to speak
until

(I know your type)
one slip, and the words
come spiralling down
caught in the momentum
of a vortex, and even fear
cannot stop their gradual descent
into the heart
of the matter
where

(I feel that way, too)
we two stand at the centre
of it all, words and the world
whirling around us, hardly
noticing how my hand moves
to hold you, or my memory
this moment

2.

Although it is winter, and the skeletons
in the front yard have dusted themselves
with snow, and the streetlights’ insomnia
is reflected all down the block
in the mostly black ice, and my shadow
has grown longer than the sun is up,

although my feet sink softly, and each
impression I make defiles
the near-perfect amnesia of the landscape,

and although my body, for the most
part, has ceased to feel
exactly how cold the world
has become,

I am peculiarly warm
tonight with the anticipation of your
body, and my every step bursts
with our wild green love.

3.

Wherever, now, I imagine your face
There is music. The “Moonlight” sonata,
“Round Midnight,” follow your image from place
To place like light, surround you like an aura
Or the halo in some renaissance painting
Of a saint.

Like now, as I imagine
You standing at the window and facing
Out into the such blue green afternoon,
Light bending around you, it is Cockburn’s
“Love Song” I hear, and thrushes swift the chords.

(Although it is night, and the full moon turns,
Without a rattle, to the deep reed horns
Of geese landing.)

And just there — Listen … See?
— Wrapped in moonlight is you, imagining me.

4.

my heart leaps awake
as now suddenly dancing
your eyes catch the light

you smile, ask me, “what?”
“nothing,” i say; and then, “now
i know what love is.”

thinking, this is what
poetry was always for:
choreography

of the heart’s dance,
words for translating “nothing,”
a sudden echo, light.

 

© Mark Milner

The Map Of Love

I sat down to chart a map of love, but every place I looked
bore your name. Continents and mountains, streams and oceans,
deserts and forests all spoke only of you. The climate comprised
your moods – the occasional storm or sullen socked in fog
making the sunny days all that much brighter in relief.

I began to trace the coastlines, filled with natural harbours
where I had taken shelter, drawing out a calligraphy
that only you and I would ever read.

Over the years, the map has filled in with detail what was once unknown territory.
But look there – and there – you see? There is still so much left to explore,
to discover, so many places I will be happy to lose myself, as we find our way together.

© Mark Milner

Burnaby, 2015

Who needs love songs?

Once upon a time – longer ago than is comfortable to enumerate – I was a head banger. Long hair, faded jeans, jacket covered in band-logo patches, ghetto blaster annoying old ladies on the Stephen Ave Mall. One of my favourite bands back then – who unfortunately never had much success outside Britain – was a trio called Tank. On their debut album Filth Hounds of Hades there was a song I remember called ‘Who Needs Love Songs?’ And the answer, both in the song, and in life, was and is: ‘Well, I do.’

I mention all this by way of introducing my theme, appropriate to today’s date: viz. love.

It’s fashionable among those who consider themselves ‘intellectuals’ to feign disdain of love, as if it were a bourgeois affectation, and thus beneath them. Poets, from Sappho to Shakespeare to E.E. Cummings have all known better. Singers, actors, playwrights, composers, sculptors and painters. Even you have known it, whether you admit it or not.

So, happy Valentine’s Day – or Tuesday, if you like. I’m going to turn my attention now to the love of my life.