“Ours is not a love song sprouted from redemption, hope, or even longing… but it is a love song. Sing it under your breath. Sharpen it, every morning.”
Update: lots of new eyes on this piece because it’s the source of the sample in Fred Again’s beautiful “Kyle (I Found You)” …yes, I’m Kyle. Welcome.
This is an older poem of mine (it’s available along with many others in my book); those of you who know my work may know: it’s gone through three different titles. I like this one the best; I also like this footage/performance better than older ones.
It’s a love poem, and yeah it’s kind of a weird love poem, but it’s a poem that’s always meant a lot to me. I think love poems are great opportunities to dig into some of the nuances of our emotions; there’s longing and romance in this poem, but there’s also fatalism and cynicism; those impulses exist at the same time.
Not to get too word-nerdy, but I also love the word “undeath.” I think it communicates something powerful not just about vampires and zombies, but about in-between spaces, about states of being that move over borders and transcend easy, black-and-white dichotomies.
I hope you like it; please feel free to share. Here’s the transcript; I share it here for accessibility’s sake, but of course, if you like, please consider getting my book.
The Spill (Love in the Time of Undeath)
They fell upon us softly: leaves rustling around land mines, a blade buried in wet soil. Starving for the essence of our love, they enveloped us—first a few haunted homes on the outskirts of town, then into the proud city itself, then spreading like a spilled can of burgundy paint across the map, swallowing.
Appetites attached to talons, blue-white fangs in children’s mouths. Wine, always escapes its cup, one way or another. We should have seen it coming, but when they appeared, pale and shrieking on the horizon, the might of ten thousand years of cups and dishes and goblets shattered, and the spill drowned every dream ever dreamt.
But you. I found you treading water regardless—as invincible as canned food and two by fours. I found you exploding, brimstone on yours lips, tattooed with a fury as warm as the sun used to be. I found you beautiful: shaved head, Kevlar, bare hands. You cut them down. You broke them. You found knives between your knuckles and war clubs inside your leg bones.
I still remember how the ghost of a smile flickered across your eyes when you leaned in close and whispered to me:
Take the shotgun. I want the fireman’s axe. I want to feel it. I want to feel them beneath it.
I knew then that I wanted to be with you for whatever forever we had left. Knew that we were to share an ancient love, a love bonded with flint and bone, that our skulls now carried within them a shining new darkness. Our first date: fireballing through hordes of the undead, dull silver eyes and ragged hands reaching, screams bisected. Every gunshot a kiss, every swing of that axe a bedroom’s liquid whisper.
In the blackness, I smelled your humanity, and aimed in the opposite direction. Love, warm and grasping, splashed against the walls; love splashed onto our bodies; love splashing inside of us defiantly.
And I found you in this smoking chaos; our shoulder blades kissed.
There may come a day when the sun bursts from the spider’s belly to smile upon this world again. There may come a day when love can be represented by poetry, and romantic comedies, and candlelight dinners again; when it can be held, soft and round, in the palm of a child’s hand.
But it is not on us to build that world. It is not on us to survive this one. Ours is not a love song sprouted from redemption, hope or even longing… But it is a love song.
Sing it under your breath. Sharpen it every morning.
If you should fall, I swear I’ll come for you: two barrels erupting as one, an aluminum baseball bat strapped to my back, a pocketful of hand grenades, singing, pins already pulled.
This entire work gives me chills, but the last paragraph brings tears that spill down my cheeks and splash onto the countertop. That is love… 'a pocketful of hand grenades singing, pins already pulled'… beautiful!!!