Falling in Love with Love Poems: L.L. Barkat’s Love, Etc.

31Zk6t7QrfLGlynn Young | We traveled south, recently, toward a funeral in New Orleans. We could see the trees and bushes along the highway changing: still stark, bare and gray in Missouri; the beginnings of greenery in Arkansas; the green growing gradually upward in Mississippi; and finally the complete greenery that is southern Louisiana most of the year.

Traveling toward a funeral, and family, and childhood and growing up, and finally leaving, it was a journey combining all of the elements of the subtitle of L.L.Barkat’s new collection of poems – Love Etc.: Poems of Love, Laughter, Longing and Loss

I even found a poem that almost exactly described our journey south:

Winter Road Trip

The road is long as I travel south

and the sun is low in the white sky.

Last night I woke to a great silence,

in a house that is anything but silent

by day. Old pines keep watch

over that dwelling, and the moon

keeps watch, and I wish

for this kind of watching,

but my bedroom in the town where I live

looks out over streetlights and the sounds

of cars and sirens. In my room,

the roads seem short, and I wonder

if tonight I will dream of the long road

home, and how the sun bathed the trees

in gold, and how the sumacs leaned with flowers

the color of some wine whose name

I can’t remember, near the trees whose names

I’ve never known, now strung with long red necklaces.

 

I read these beautiful poems, and I’m struck with how closely connected love, laughter, longing and loss truly are. Even love and loss, and not in an obvious way like love lost, but in a less obvious but perhaps more accurate way – one experiences love and all of what has come before becomes a kind of loss, never to be found or rediscovered in precisely the same way, because love changes everything.

Barkat takes us on a journey with these poems, and not only a winter road trip south. She takes us to the edge of illness, to the borders of erotic love, to the defined realities of sight, sound and smell and the love that stands before the stove in the kitchen, cooking soup. The poems are not only about relationships between people, and lovers, but more than that, and there is something more than that, the love that longs, that laughs, the love that sacrifices, and even the love that becomes represented by loss.

And beyond the journey, Love Etc. contains poems for the standing still, those moments that are eternity. This poem, “Ours,” is the poem our mothers repeat to themselves, including the mother whose funeral I’m attending:

Ours

We call them to the world

before we even know their names,

before we understand

what it will mean

to lean beside their beds

on breath-thin nights.

 

They teach us

how to hold their hands,

shut the lights,

pray for dawn.

 

I have been leaned over on those breath-thin nights, and I’ve been taught by my own children how to hold their hands.

Love Etc. reminds us what eternity is, and what part of it is contained within ourselves.

***

L.L. Barkat lives outside of New York City, near the beautiful Hudson River. Author of six books, including Love, Etc: Poems of Love, Laughter, Longing & Loss; an experimental fiction and poetry title, The Novelist: A Novella; and Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing (twice named a Best Book of 2011). She has appeared at Best American Poetry, VQR, NPR, Every Day Poems, and Scratch Magazine.  Barkat is also a Staff Writer for The Curator and Managing Editor of Tweetspeak Poetry.

Photo by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Reprint of an article by Glynn Young.