Poets Online Archive
Risk, Love, Revelation

Roger Housden edited the collection Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation from which I discovered "Dust" by Dorianne Laux and William Stafford's "Ask Me."  His other collections (Ten Poems to Change Your Life, and Ten Poems to Open Your Heart are also thematic collections. "Dust" seems immediately to be a revelation poem - if love is there, it's hiding from me - and perhaps, it's about a risk not taken. Now, "Ask Me" seems to be about risk - no love;no revelation. And that's one of the things about anthologies that always bothers me; I want to add and subtract.  I want to re-edit.

I'd include Thomas Lux's poem "I Love You Sweatheart" in a heartbeat. "A man risked his life" is where we begin, and it's all love and revelations - hers when she sees it; his when he realizes his wonderful mistake; ours when we roll into the last five lines.

Let's conclude this year with this triple threat of a prompt. A poem of love, risk and revelation. Of course, one of those is going to take control in your poem, but keep all three ingredients in the mix.

Poem Sources: Dorianne Laux, from What We Carry, BOA Editions, 1994. Thomas Lux, New and Selected Poems of Thomas Lux : 1975-1995,    William Stafford,
The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems.


I tried to scale a mountain last spring.
The mud had not dried out
And last year’s roots were high enough to trip me.
The thrill of danger carried me to the top.

Relaxing, I enjoyed the view.
Is climbing a mountain my metaphor for love?
Going higher with danger at every turn,
Finally enjoying the view.

On the way down I tried the other side of the mountain.
The markers petered out and I was lost.
Down is down I thought.
Follow the stream.

I made it to the bottom as light began to fade.
Reflecting, I started to shake.
What had possessed me to climb this glorious mountain
Not knowing how to come down.

Ellen Kaplan


It begins with a glance at her receding form,
which I judge to be perfection.
Like a pendulum in slower motion,
her movements compliment nature
in synchronized swaying.
From my seat in the train's club car,
I close my book to become hypnotized
as womanly features fade in the distant,
the spell staying strong in my keen memory.
Why is this vision taking over my life?
The swaying coach fuels an imagined return
of a goddess whose frontal view must be seen.
I will find her before the next station,
my heart racing in anticipation.
No results in coach seats suggest
being secluded with a male god-knows-who!
Frustration mounts in delayed fitful sleep,
until I arise, shower and shave before breakfast.
Appetite strong, I eat to search again.
Halfway through a last cup of coffee,
a striking woman enters as center of attention.
She sits across the aisle with a lady friend,
after bestowing a quick glance and smile,
she covers her Cover Girl face with a menu.
I wait for the entrance of my mystery dream girl,
eagerly plotting how I would become her friend.
Breakfast over, the new lady smiles again,
rising to stroll back to her unknown sanctuary.
Graceful fluid body movement confirm -
she is my quarry, she is my future,
as I give chase as a gentleman and courtier,
who would within a year, join her at the altar.

F. William Broome


She's crying into her apron now,
brings it right up to her face, lifts it
almost like a cancan dancer lifts her skirt,
presses it against her eyes and the bridge of her nose,
and sobs,


right into its black and blue paisley print,
soaking it with hot kitchen tears.

it isn't as if she's never cried in the kitchen before.
It isn't as if she's never used her apron as a hanky.
It isn't as if she's never shed an onion-induced tear there, no,
but she's crying,


in her kitchen
into her apron
for the first time
since that last time
that he promised -

but he promised -

and you'll notice (now)
there are no onions




"Suffering is part of how it is on earth."  Roger Housden

The risk?
Sending you the poem.
You who didn't know,
who doesn't read poetry,
friend for so long.

The love?
Maybe it was there
right from the beginning,
or maybe it grew
like in other poems
that I didn't write
but I read (you
didn't read or write any)

The revelation?
Poetry is no longer
the form for love.
Friendship does not change
to love, love starts as love.
If you choose to call it
friendship, you have set
the boat on a course
from which it is hard
to recover.

Pamela Milne


In tears you said you'd fallen in love with me;
Your wept devotion for all to see.

Amazed, I said to you it could not be;
That nothing and none such love felt we.

The love it was true! and hard in your heart, you swore;
Mistaken you are, I insisted; no more.

In time I lied to forget I once knew you;
Apart we were and nine years flew.

Why did you throw up high my wall of defense?
You know we might have become good friends.

No force of earth or mind should doubt me now;
I know I was right, but you've won, somehow.

By the wrangling sobs I hear, and because you I still see
Who'd cried and said you'd fallen for me.

My second mind steals up and lets this through,
and now I ponder if I had loved you too.

Paige Chia


When did HE know?
Why didn’t SHE?
Why did they hang-in-there
for over 70 years?
Now that he’s gone
she knows (too late?)
that it was real.

separation (Business and War)
complicated while it amplified
the Discovery of Self.
What did they risk
when she left a fine position
to run away with him
to a strange land?

They’d spent much time
defining their terms.
Booze often helped -
even as it sometimes hindered.
Infrequently holding hands,
they named their emotion
"flow through."

Children held them
together with rubber-like glue.
Sometimes the relationship
shone like burnished gold
whose occasional tarnish
was frequently polished away
(each taking turns).

What did each learn
about one another
in the process?
He finally called her
"The only true Christian;"
she now lives by the aphorisms
her lover voiced daily.

Catherine M. LeGault


Our love is like a red, red carpet
Perfectly seamless
With botox smoothness
No crease or wrinkle
Nor hidden rip
Nothing upon which our love could trip

So I was rather surprised to discover
When it was pulled from under me
This carpet was not to be
The burn-free
Fitted wall-to-wall kind
Corner-to-corner in my mind

Hidden beneath it suddenly seems
Were creaky planks that splintered dreams
I fell upon broken terra cotta tiles
And shattered my future

And now my jagged heart is frayed
Was I just some shag pile you laid?
Just a threadbare, old shabby mat
Upon which you happily s(h)at?

Jane Crossen


Perhaps if I have this cup of tea,
and taste a petite madeleine,
I may call forward a memory,
the scent of your smile,
the color of your words that day we met.

Miracles happen,
not in opposition to Nature,
but in opposition to what we know of Nature,
said Saint Augustine
and he knows more about it than I do.

Your blouse was larkspur,
your eyes new pine growth,
the time was lazy three in the afternoon,
and I wanted to fall asleep beside you
and awaken in darkness and take you
out onto the night beach.

I took a chance and so did you.
The planets aligned,
the alchemy of risk worked again.
So, now, I hold this cup
like the conjurer's planchette
on the Ouija board trying to bring
you back again.

Oui ja, yes, and yes again,
it's all we want the answer to be
yes and yes again.

Charles Michaels


Promise me that though were only just starting, you'll be this way forever.
Let me know what it is that you feel behind those brown eyes, but do it remembering how easily I blush.
Promise you'll only smile when I admit my heart jumps like I'm sixteen.
My stomach is digesting butterflies and I giggle whenever you call.
Promise to keep bringing me roses, though I also like lilies and daffodils.
Such affirmations of which a girl can never get too much.
Promise to be my Valentine.
I haven't had one yet.
Promise me you'll let me wear my sweat pants.
And if you never criticize my driving, I won't say a word about your haircut.
Promise to be a gentleman.
Even though sometimes I may want more, I like it that you still only kiss me good night.
Promise to never hold my parents against me.
They're really all I got.
Promise me Paris, Rome, and Chicago, maybe sharing a deep dish on Lake Shore Dr.
I like it where it's cold so you can warm my hands inside of yours.
Promise you'll never hurt me, even if your fingers are crossed behind your back.
I hope you haven't noticed, but I'm afraid to fall in love.
Promise you'll be good for me.
Use your long-winded speeches to remind me how capable I am.
Promise me you won't hurt too badly if this doesn't work out.
I know you say men don't cry, but already I frown at the thought.
And lastly, promise me nothing at all, and I'll trust you just the same.

Mary Hippler


3:00 a.m. –
instantly awake.
Sliver of welcome-home light
still shines under my door
a silent revelation:
he is not yet home.

All sleep securely bound and trussed
by the everlasting umbilical cord,
I go downstairs with sedatives –
pillow, journal, pen –
assume my post on the couch
and wait.

Every cell tingles
with questions, apprehension,
self-talk, prayer:
What on earth does an 18-year-old
do with his girlfriend at this forsaken hour?
There are people and cars around here
drowned in roadside sloughs
and not found for days.
(Girl, cut the melodrama.)
Dear God, please help him be okay.

Take up my pen
vent rage, fear
and live again a time
when the biggest risk he took
was a leap
from the fourth step
into my arms.

Violet Nesdoly




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