We start with love’s wounds

I say, we all start with love—or we could not start at all.
And you say, but what can this mean to the stalled and half-starved? 
An abstraction, a bromide, a cipher, a dirge?  You say,
there are a billion failed loves, and each fallen bloom is uniquely flawed.
I say, but surly a common cure awaits the patient many;
for there are already too many remedies for the choosing patient.
And you turn away disheartened if not in disgust from my general reading.

But I run to you, and beg for your time. Tell me, I plead,
what are your beginnings? I will listen, unprimed, I promise.
And you say, you witnessed intimacy as through a split in a plank,
which for you was a shard of light driven through the palm of your heart.
A bright spike you still bear like some botched bequest.

If we start with love, you say, it was a gift rumoured but long deferred.
Long you’ve spent clutching your souvenir waiting for a thrown bouquet.
Too long in abandoned cars and empty lots and strange streets;
waking under bridges, wading in dark waters—their icy murk part penance—
into a mythical unplumbed lake that keeps you fishing and daily catching,
only the double-bound beast of proffered affection with its hidden clause.

Tossed by troubles that toy their discovery, you now distrust a kindness.
You say, if you could name the scavenging gulls of affliction,
then you could kneel at the altar and wait for something to rise,
visible and tastable and touchable, out of the elements of ash and wine.
And upon the uncertainty of bleeding knees, a portrait of your worth may form.

And I say, we have this in common, my beautiful son,
we start with love’s wounds and spend our days seeking a fitting suture.


  1. Need some clarity on this… “love’s wounds…”

    Another has written “If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love.”

    I am not getting the context clearly as I look at “love” defined by 1 Cor 13 and do not see a wounding love or heart breaking love, but a healing love.

    Our English word “love” is too limited.

  2. You must not look to me for clarity Joyce. I only know that human love, can wound as well as heal…try as we might to emulate the 1 Corinthian 13 love. If you have a better word for that, I’m open.

  3. Joyce, let me just add that should you look at this poem from the perspective of a parent it may help. Even in our deepest, most innocent and aultruistic desire to love our children well and truly, we just as easily wound them, if nothing else, by proximity, by our misguided beliefs, by unconsciously instilling fear and bias, and by a myriad of other ways. Love will, of course, continue to seek to heal even these things, but we fool ourselves if we think that even a reawakened love is pure. And another way of looking at this poem is wondering about what we have inherited through our own parents’ love. We start with love’s wounds.

  4. Yes. Thank you. I read it once in context of marriage, and again in context of dialogue w/a homeless person but the parent context is exceptionally poignant. Some stunning imagery. Links well with the TED talk I viewed today on connection and vulnerability: http://on.ted.com/8oVr

  5. My first take – after a second reading – was that this waas an internal dialogue, the first (I say) person optimistic about the possibilities, the second (you say) the more cynical. I was glad that the first person had the last word. But I’ll keep thinking about “loves’s wounds” – an ambiguity there, it seems: are the wounds caused by the lover, or are they endured by the lover?

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