Love Song: I and Thou

Alan Dugan’s off-putting rhythm and his messianic carpentry metaphor makes love a labor of suffering and still finds room for a partner. I enjoy the way he manages to build a love poem out of his self-obsession and his undirected fury… even though I don’t experience love that way, I recognize the power of the poem when it worms its way into my thinking for Valentine’s Day. I found the poem on Slate’s VDAY poetry celebration, which gathers strange and curious poems that go beyond the Neruda and Rumi fare that normally pester us during the season of love.

Nothing is plumb, level or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh, I spat rage’s nails
into the frame-up of my work:
it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it, I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can’t do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

2 thoughts on “Love Song: I and Thou”

  1. T –
    They will think you are the relief, the gift, the savior who brings forth comfort to the tortured soul from his self destructive misery. And, they too will be filled with relief and comfort, knowing yours is the hand he reaches for to support him to new life. Indeed, they will rejoice when they think of you!

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