Photo: Cat Diner, fourth hole,Waikoloa Beach Golf Course, Big Island, Hawaii

Love After Love

by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Avoid drafting love poems about your lover. You can write love poems about fruit, or weather–anything but your lover. (Think Neruda’s Odes to Common Things.) Skip the inclination to craft even a single love poem unless you can celebrate your beloved as ecstatically as Rumi (“I Have Five Things to Say:” or as abrasively as Shakespeare (“Sonnet 130,” “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”), unless you can “feast on your life” as Wolcott shows us in the poem above. Eschew attempts to exalt any “love supreme”—unless you’re John Coltrane.

*If you can’t resist the temptation, start with “I Have Five Things to Say.” What are these things you need to say?


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