the animal eats
the animal eats
If love, then love

If love, then love

“Undressing a Wound” by Aja Monet

I think about love all the time.

I think I’ve always thought a lot about love.
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about anything else.

Is my love any good? Do I deserve it? How many languages does love speak? What can love do? What won’t love allow? What does love look like when love loses its way? What is the strange, marvelous science happening in the brain and the body that we’ve all agreed, I guess, to call love? Does love feel the same to you as it does to me? When I hold my friend’s face in my hands just like this, do they know I am saying I love you? Is thinking about love an act of love? What greater love could we show to the world than trying to do better than we have? Will I ever stop writing love poems? Is ‘love poem’ redundant? What is love without longing? When did love crawl from the sea of creation and sit its thick thighs on the face of the human heart that very first time? Was anyone—has anyone ever been—ready for love to come in?

Anyway, here’s two magnificent love poems.

To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall
Kim Addonizio

If you ever woke in your dress at 4 A.M. ever
closed your legs to a man you loved opened
them for one you didn’t moved against
a pillow in the dark stood miserably on a beach
seaweed clinging to your ankles paid
good money for a bad haircut backed away
from a mirror that wanted to kill you bled
into the back seat for lack of a tampon
if you swam across a river under rain sang
using a dildo for a microphone stayed up
to watch the moon eat the sun entire
ripped out the stitches in your heart
because why not if you think nothing &
no one can / listen I love you joy is coming

The Thing Is
Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

What I forgot to mention before is that by magnificent love poems I mean poems that show us love’s less-revered faces. You don’t need me to show you the regular love poems. (But if you do, follow this trail.) I want us to let all of love in.

I’ve been practicing, these past two or so years, to liberate my love from the limiting story that there’s only so much to give. That love is fragile, private, best kept small, contained between lines we inherited.

I’ve been practicing loving myself, yes, but also the world as it is—imperfect and wounded, and also dear friends, for whom my love is no less massive and gorgeous and necessary as the love that shapes and reshapes my marriage, over and over again.

from “Celebration,” which serves as epigraph to The Tradition by Jericho Brown

I’ve been practicing loving the sadness I’ve lived with so long, and even my anger, and even anxiety—my constant companion these many years.

(My anxiety speaks to me through my stomach, seizes up on me, doubles me over, knocks me down and takes me out. I’ve recently learned to converse with it—when the knots first twist into that familiar ache, I place one hand gently on my tender tum, assure her we’re safe and focus on breathing, closing my eyes, inhaling big and deep and patiently—one more sip at the top before letting it out, slowly, softly, so as to just barely flicker the flame of the candle I conjure in my sometimes-noisy mind’s eye. I do this until the pain quiets. It helps. I’ve come to recognize my body’s anxiety response as a plea to slow down and ride the wave. What can I be but grateful for my body’s native intelligence?)

I’m interested in the love we bear for strangers, the care we extend to those outside of what we might typically consider our loving circle. I’m interested in revolutionary love. Resistance, friction, abolition as love. Generous love. More love bringing love. The love you lay out like a blanket, knowing that someone soon will need warmth. Love that transcends the boundaries of our present conditions and sees a radically loving future. Fourth-dimensional love, post-colonial love. Love that reads the books you recommend and tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want. Love that makes grief bearable and love that makes grief linger. The love that comes when grief transforms, that changes shape and also you.

I love a love that loves to grow and sees the world beyond itself, that makes space when it takes space, love making room for only more love, which is, I think what love does.

Art by Stefyloret on Instagram

Love isn’t a zero sum game. It isn’t finite, it’s never scarce. We have a bottomless capacity to create more, always. It’s not a boat with only two life preservers. Love is the goddamn ocean, whose depths we may never know.

My guess is there’s maybe 14, 15 thousand types of love, maybe more. More love than kinds of snow, for sure. I hope by the time the sun sets on my last and final day on this difficult, gorgeous world, I will have seen and felt and offered every one.

Anyway. Here’s the shortest love poem I’ve ever written.1

Poem with Connection and Fervor

Here I show you a human heart.

**Chill Sunday Homework**

Tell someone you’ve never told before 5-500 reasons why you love them. Trees count.



the animal eats
the animal eats
a bi-weekly reading of a beloved poem or excerpt from my bedside table, accompanied by a few stray thoughts and, on occasion, work in progress.
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