“Love Is Not an Emergency”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 31 2012 12:47 PM

“Love Is Not an Emergency”

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Erin Belieu read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

    more like weather, that is
ubiquitous, true

     or false spring: the ambivalence
we have for any picnic—

flies ass-up in the Jell-O;
    the soft bulge of thunderheads.

Right now, the man in the booth
next to me
    at the Nautilus Diner,
        Madison, New Jersey,

is crying, but looks up
    to order the famous disco fries.

So the world’s saddest thing shakes you
    like a Magic 8 Ball;

and before him, the minstrel
    who smeared on love’s blackface, rattling

his damage like a tambourine.

I have been the deadest nag
    limping circles around

the paddock, have flown to beady pieces,

sick as the tongue of mercury
    at the thermometer’s tip.

But let’s admit there’s a pleasure, too,
in living as we do,

    like two-strike felons who smile
for the security cameras,

like love’s first responders,

stuffing our kits with enhancement
    pills, Zig Zags, and Power Ball cards.

I read: to greet is the cognate for

    regret, to weep, but welcome
        our weeping,

because “we grant the name of love
        to something less than love”;

    because we all have to eat.

                        —For A. C.

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