What is love?

A moving prose poem about love by the ever-erudite Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith, from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers (Polygon, 2013). His paragraphs are not usually this long!

And it did not matter who or what it was that we loved. Auden said that when he was a boy he loved a pumping engine and thought it every bit as beautiful as the ‘you’ whom he later addressed. We loved people because they were beautiful or witty or smiled in a way that made us smile; we loved them because they spoke or walked in a certain way or because they had a dimple in exactly the right place; we loved them because they loved us or, sadly, because they did not love us; we loved them because they had a way of looking at things, or because there was a certain light in their eyes that reminded us of the sunlight you saw caught in a rock pool on a Hebridean Island; or because they wore a kilt or black jeans or a Shetland sweater or could recite Burns or play the guitar or knew how to make bread or were kind to us and tolerated us and our ways and our stubborn refusal to stop loving them. There were so many reasons for loving somebody else; so many; and it made no sense to sit and think about whether it was a good idea or not because love was like a bolt of lightning that came from a great cumulonimbus cloud that was far too great for us to blow it away; and it struck and we just had to accept it and get on with the business of trying to exist while all the time there was this great wave of longing within us like a swell in the sea, one of those great rolling waves that comes in off the Atlantic and hits Ardnamurchan and cannot be fought against, because fighting love like that is hopeless and you should just go under and let it wash over you and hope that when you come out from under the wave you will still be breathing and that you have not drowned, as people could – they could drown in love, just drown.

Although I don’t bother with the retail aspect of Valentine’s Day, it is nice sometimes to reflect on love, this strangest – and strongest – of emotions and today is as good a day as any.

unfinished sampler
the small hearts
not yet crossed

Holli Rainwater, from Another Trip Around the Sun anthology

Newly in love –
so many things I
refrain from mentioning

Phillip Rowland, from Stepping Stones anthology

harvest dance –
the way I still fit
your arms

Sandra Simpson
from Building a time machine (NZ Poetry Society anthology, 2012)

a shooting star –
in love, not knowing
where it will lead

Madoka Mayuzumi, from Haiku Love anthology

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