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An Ode to Valentine's Day, Chaucer and Taking out the Trash
For Valentine’s Day, our resident poet, David J. Rothman, has written a poem that’s part commentary, part history lesson, part declaration of love. He calls it “Be My Valentine.” Rothman lives in Boulder. He teaches at Western State Colorado University, Lighthouse Writers Workshop of Denver, and CU Boulder. He speaks with host Ryan Warner about the history of the holiday and the research that goes into making poetry.
Be My Valentine
Those who think that poetry is dead,
Who like to argue that all art has fled
To YouTube or the movies or dull prose,
Will still go out and buy a red, red rose
And scratch their prosy heads for words to say
That might do more than prose on Valentine’s Day.
As well they should, considering that love –
I mean the burning ice-cube kind, full of
Euphoric sorrow, tongue-tied talking, manic
Depression, falling upward, happy panic –
I mean love, the human Superglue –
Knows more than prose, and that prose just won’t do.
And after all, although the legends of
St. Valentine are old, a day of love
Named after him came from a poet’s brain,
Not some chocolate marketing campaign –
Yes, a poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who,
To praise his king in 1382,
Wrote “The Parlement of Foules,” where
The goddess Nature doesn’t offer prayer,
But tells the assembled birds to choose a mate
Each year on this old martyred saint’s feast date.
She says choose love, incited to your pleasure
By Nature’s laws, her statutes and her measure.
Love, Nature…statutes?! Oh, recipe for trouble
That can reduce the hottest love to rubble.
And here in Colorado, as elsewhere,
We’ve had our legislative goose-chase share.
Who can love and who can marry who?
How do we choose who gets to say they’re two?
Where do our morals intersect with law?
Who gets to say they’re happily bourgeois?
Who can adopt? Visit the hospital?
Inherit homes? Sign checks? Tough questions all.
On one side stand defenders of the faith,
Who argue what the Bible saith it saith,
Which is that since our time on earth began
A marriage is one woman and one man.
They argue states should take their side to quarrel
With what they feel has always been immoral.
Overturning thirty centuries
Of doctrine shouldn’t happen with decrees.
Revolutions are all fine and good,
But most don’t turn out as folks hoped they would.
So one can understand why some go slow,
And when some lovers say “I do,” say “No.”
They feel God, law and nature won’t agree
To sanction new forms of matrimony.
And yet it used to be “unnatural”
For white and black to go to city hall,
For Catholic to marry Protestant,
Let alone that either one should want
To marry someone Jewish. God forbid!
No love between a Wasp and Mick, or Yid!
Civilization would go down the sewer
If anyone could be a someone’s wooer!
But we got over that. Are we so feeble
That we can’t deal with change that lets more people
Express their love by getting hitched? And the facts is –
We might earn revenue from marriage taxes.
Remember Juliet and Romeo:
Forbidden marriage brought Verona woe.
We don’t want that. Don’t we want everyone
Instead to learn to fight over which one
Was due to take the garbage out last night?
Neglected to turn off the car dome light?
Who forgot to put away the food?
Whose family’s more stupid or more rude?
Who’s going to clean up puppy diarrhea?
Or make the bed? You get the idea.
So on this feast day let’s all make a deal.
Love is hard and so is change. So real
They sometimes hurt, both make us act
As if we’re blind to every simple fact.
And fact is, change is coming, change is here.
The British House of Commons made it clear
When it approved gay marriage two to one
Last week, as now nine US states have done.
And they’re all doing fine, life’s not in tatters.
Perhaps it’s how you love, not who, that matters.
Still, maybe everyone should make haste slowly.
The goal’s not worth it if it kills the goalie.
Both sides want to build the institution,
Not to make folks fear its diminution.
And that means talk, more talk…let’s talk a bit…
Perhaps over a glass of wine, some chocolate?
O Colorado, I love you. You make me whole.
Here are a dozen roses. Let's go for a stroll.