About two minutes after finishing my last poem I got a message from a reader, upset with me for a choice of words in my poem: “love, appropriate and otherwise,”
“You’re a preacher for God’s sake! How could you advocate for inappropriate love?”
Now, normally I don’t respond publicly to things like that. At times, depending on the vitriol, I don’t respond at all. At times, I simply respond to the person directly and let it be. But for some reason, I feel moved to comment on this one.
We paint love in a certain light. As an ideal. A perfection. For some, love is tied to sexuality. At times it is tied to family. One of the curses of the English language is that we only have one word for love. But there are a zillion kinds of love, as many as there are people.
Some of that love is storybook. Most is not. As a preacher and as a person, I see inappropriate love all the time. Things labeled as love that are not. Things called love that border on abuse. Love that one political section of the world or another will find inappropriate even when it fulfills every bit of love in God’s own love chapter, 1st Corinthians 13. Love may be the most mangled word in the English language,
And the most important.
I write of love often. I’ve had good love and bad love in my life. The bad love left scars and the good love healed them. That’s how love works. I don’t advocate bad love, but it is part of life. Few of us get very old before we’ve experienced both.
As a preacher, I advocate for good love. Constantly. Passionately. As I said, bad love leaves scars and good love heals them. Hate leaves scars and love heals them. This is a constant. It’s God’s way. Pretty much whatever God you worship or at least pretend to worship, that is a constant. It is true.
As a poet and a person, I see, and I write about, both kinds. I observe. I feel, While I tinker with details in my poems to make them more readable, more interesting, I strive for truth, big truths, Truths we all can relate to, because we are more alike than we realize.
And love, appropriate and inappropriate is part of that equation.
Poetry is not history. It is not preaching. It is, for me, a working through emotions to figure things out. My story. Maybe yours. Maybe not.
Do I get upset when accosted? (I won’t tell the rest of what the reader, who knows me not, said. It was ugly and I am sure most of the time they are a nice person.). No. I don’t. I used to. I used to take it personally. But I have come to know once I release a poem, it is no longer mine. It is yours.
Yours to find your own meaning. Yours to feel what you feel, not what I felt when writing it. Yours to find your own truths in. If I have stimulated that in a reader, made them feel, then my work is done.
And I am satisfied, even if readers, sometimes, are not.
That’s not callousness, just a recognition that we all come to. Some people we will make happy. Some we will not , But even those I don’t make happy, or stimulate a good thought or feeling in, if I made them feel, then I am the happy one.
Tap dancing off to my studio,