Poems About Intimacy And Conflict
Desiree: Reflects Both Love And Need
It has often been said, only the two people involved in any lasting relationship understand its roots and dimensions. Frequently, even the two people themselves do not fully comprehend the give-and-take which allows a connection to endure, despite the vicissitudes of joy and anguish.
The Poem: Desiree
Twirling, tripping in a cabaret,
Where men who cherish pristine wives
Will go to gawk and leer
At Desiree in dance array,
Swirling skirts and tinkling trinkets,
Black and silver in a sad display.
Eddie plods in lumbering boots,
Up and down the darkened streets,
A solid, stolid laborer
Who doggedly piles brick on brick each day,
His evenings waiting for the taunting lights to fade,
Jostled by the raucous strangers
As they stumble, curse and sway.
Now and then a word, much- slurred and blurred
But heard and hurting, makes him wince with shame
For Desiree, their Desiree.
He knows himself to be the only man
Who will not call her Desiree,
But solely by her name, Diane.
Then, as the last defiler slinks away
Eddie walks inside to find his lady
Drooping in her dancing dress,
Weary and sullen.
Softly he wraps her in his coat,
Then lifts her in his builder’s arms;
She taunts him with the feats of finer lovers,
While wordlessly he wipes her rouge away.
Her face, now naked, leaves them free to be Diane and Eddie.
Ballad of a Sunrise: A Horrific Solution to Isolation
This poem is a folk ballad, meant to be read or sung accompanied by soft, water-like harp music, with an undercurrent of drumbeats. While not meant to be taken literally, I hope it expresses the desperation of a young woman doing what she feels must be done in order to live in comparative isolation, after her lover has left her.
The Poem: Ballad of a Sunrise
Reeds on the riverbank clung to the earth,
While the river surged, restive and wild.
She watched her lover sail off through a mist,
As her eyes watched the reeds and the river.
She thought of his lips, ached for his hands;
She knew the strength of his tawny limbs;
She dreamed of his body and of the nights,
Those nights they had known by the river.
She made her bed of a few stray reeds,
Then writhed and wept and rose with a song,
For she bore their child on that sun-scarred bank,
Then, she gave their child to the river.
The Kite String Cutter: Malice on Horseback
I have always been puzzled and disturbed by malicious acts which have no discernable value to their perpetrators. Vandalism of any kind is typical of this kind of wrongdoing. This poem questions whether such people are motivated by an urge to avenge a sense of grievance against the world at large, or by a twisted pleasure in causing anguish to others.
The Poem: The Kite String Cutter
Village lore holds within its history
A lady who rode through the countryside,
Horse reins in one hand, while in the other
She clutched a pair of scissors, poised and ready
To cut the strings of kites sent towards the skies
By boys and girls who crafted them with care,
Then sent them soaring till they seemed to rise
Beyond the sun, as hopes can, at that age
Unmarred by gravity.
Such pointless cruelty forced me to wonder
What depth of venom lurked within this woman
Impelling her to wreck such harmless fun.
Did someone or some circumstance destroy
Whatever hope she’d held of finding joy?
Or on a bleaker level, might there be
Those who are spurred by an unbridled power
To poison happiness?
Zelda Fitzgerald: The Dancing Girl
F. Scott Fitzgerald, known to those close to him as Scot, is immortalized by such novels as Tender Is the Night, The Great Gatsby, and This Side of Paradise. Zelda Fitzgerald, like many spouses of well-known writers, soon found her aspects of their married life becoming fodder for his writing. She once said his work reflected his view that plagiarism begins at home.
From his perspective, the financial cost of maintaining Zelda in a mental hospital during her long-term illness caused him to forfeit creative time by writing nondescript stories for magazines. The sacrifice on both sides proved enormous. This poem is written from what research has suggested to me Zelda might have recounted in terms of their union.
The Poem: Zelda Fitzgerald
Scot viewed our life together as his own,
Absorbing from my diaries and letters,
Whatever he believed might give his fiction
A fresh dimension of reality.
Like him, I felt a passion to create,
So, having loved dancing as a girl,
A bunch of flowers at my waist, the young men bowing.
I hoped I might find joy in the ballet,
But since it was too late at twenty-seven,
For a career, I tried to compensate,
Dancing whole days, then often beyond midnight,
Dancing Swan Lake, the music part of me, my body aching,
Sparked by Scot’s yelling, “Stop, for God’s sake, Zelda!”
Still dancing till they locked me in a room
With kind assurances to make me well.
How could they, when my every nerve felt dead
In endless emptiness?
And then I wasn’t pretty anymore.
They tried to shield me, keep me safe from mirrors,
Still, I knew- could feel eczema inch across my face.
Far more than that, in Scot’s eyes, I could see
Who we once were and what we had become
Through life’s realities.
Helpline: Overcoming Guilt And Sadness
A unique type of intimacy can arise in a setting where someone in need of compassion has only voice-to-voice contact with the person phoned for support. As a long-time helpline worker, I have experienced both the closeness and difficulties involved in these interactions. Ideally, one hopes to be a beacon of light to someone suffering from isolation. Still, despite utmost efforts, this cannot always occur. At times, family members who feel emotional conflict, blame an agency for its perceived failure to offer enough compassion to sustain the life of someone who requires clinical care.
The Poem: Helpline
We sat and shivered through the wintry darkness,
While rain and sleet seeped through the glass
Of windows splintering inside a basement
Listening to the frightened, lost, defeated,
At times, our inner windows shattered, too,
By words awakening thoughts, echoes or shadows,
Which would have been far better left to heal.
Yet, we all stayed, as nearly every call
Voiced the plea, “I’m lonely, help me.”
We hoped it helped them to feel understood.
And then the letter came, anonymous,
Taped outside our door, to startle us,
On Monday morning;
It said in essence,
“My brother’s dead. He left a note to say
The last call he made was to your helpline.
I guess you didn’t think his life was worth
Your care or effort.”
Sadness and guilt came to pervade our center,
Two of our finest staff left, overwrought.
Each of us wondered, had I been the one
To end a call, leaving a man believing,
Suicide might prove his only choice?
Then, slowly, by degrees, we came to see
Shame or recrimination served no purpose.
Hence, we remained, as winter eased towards spring,
Striving to urge courage, where we could.
Plea: A Wish For Reconciliation
It is always a shame when people use holidays as a means of snubbing or hurting others.
The Poem: Plea
You did not send a Christmas card
In hopes of causing pain
Using a season meant for joy
To vent your rage again.
Our tenderness has not been lost,
So, can we not regain
Affection, peace and friendship
Through those years which yet remain?
English Speaking Union
The poems by Colleen Swan were read by renowned actress and poet Margaret McCarthy at the English Speaking Union (ESU) New York Poetry Circle on March 30th 2015. The poetry of Susana H. Case and Rosalie Calabrese was also featured.
© 2015 Colleen Swan