Poetry without context confuses people. I could, for example, title a poem The Most Tragic Part of All. The first line: This time last year I was falling in love. Someone would respond, “But why tragic?” Besides, isn’t love the most magical phenomenon a person can experience within the boundaries of this finite lifetime? And I’d agree with them, because it is, indisputably and without a doubt. Love is blacking out after a first kiss. At least the love we share, anyway. It’s stupid-smiling all the way home after the first date, and the second, and the fifty-third. Memorizing how our names feel on each other’s lips, lingering even after the lipstick smudges away. Loving you has never been tragic, not even close, yet when I write The Most Tragic Part of All as the opener to a poem I’ve been dying to write, the only logical set of words I can think of following it with is This time last year I was falling in love.
Let me explain.
Context builds the story. In fact, the story itself cannot balance on its own two legs without support. You see, when we fell in love the world was still good. We’d sit beneath the springtime sun, skin warmed by that unmistakable honeymoon-stage glow, and we’d dream of what we’d be like as old people. We’d die just imagining it. Us, old? How alien the idea. In that still-good world, we were immune to time. We didn’t know distance, the peculiar darkening of the sky, being torn apart and stolen from. We were allowed to touch and hold and feel back then. No consequences, just living. For a moment, dear reader, look around. Is it starting to make sense now?
I can’t watch your chest rise and fall from states away. I can’t bring myself to glow the way I used to.I’m forgetting the feel of a world that let me feel it, a world that held out its hand and squeezed it back without fear of what sort of damage the very act of doing so would do.
When we fell in love the world was still good.
And now I pass
Do you understand?
The Most Tragic Part of All
This time last year I was falling in love.