Bruce’s Love Poem for Louise
A love poem is written for the lover, and yet poets have shared their love poems since time immemorial. Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (Sonnet 18), or the lines “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, / or bends with the remover to remove” (Sonnet 116), spring to mind (although I feel the sentiments of that second one, beautiful as they sound, raise many questions I wish to discuss). Donne’s image in his love poem Valediction of the compass is another that presents itself without much thought, although he, too, writes words which challenge me: “Dull sublunary lovers’ love / (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit / Absence, because it doth remove / Those things which elemented it.” I agree more with CS Lewis who sees love as an equal and mutual exchange between two people, and which thus requires the presence of both for its full continuance and active renewal.
Possibly my favourite love poem, however, is that by ee cummins “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in. my heart)i am never without it(anywhere. i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done. by only me is your doing,my darling). This was chosen by Gracey to read at Bruce’s memorial service.
Some at that service did know about Bruce’s poem to me, as it had been read by Bruce at Kirsten (our firstborn daughter)’s wedding. Yelena (our second-born daughter) chose to have it read at her recent wedding, where it made more than a few people cry. I share it publicly here, because it is a beautiful poem, because people have been asking me to have access to it again, and it seems fitting to have it shared, to honour Bruce the writer, and to commemorate a love that has not died just because he has. I do agree with Donne that love transcends physicality.
In this poem, you can sense Bruce pondering not just his love for me, but the nature of love itself. Like the bard he loved, he furnishes his reader with no simplistic answers.
Bruce’s Love Poem to Louise.
Somehow there’s a sureness about it,
A certainly which defies logic.
When something of me responds to something in you,
And it’s not exactly clear what, but what is clear
Is that we belong together
And somehow the two of us together make a whole
Which is greater than the sum of its parts
And richer than the rest of the world
Or whatever part of the world we might ever come across.
When I recognise that the part of me which is tied up in you
Is the most important part
And nothing else really matters very much.
When I know that nothing is more important than pleasing you
And nothing hurts more than when I know I let you down,
Because in that I failed myself.
And it isn’t very comfortable
Because I know my most important audience is my
And since you are the only judge whose judgement counts
And since you are the only one who really knows me
And since you are the only one I want to please (save God)
I know there will never be an end
Only, please God, more and more wonderful beginnings
For the new beginnings are implied in the old
And we start again and again in the work of loving
As though a lit candle constantly renews itself
And the wax wrinkles mean nothing
And the flame never burns out.
And there it is.
In the end, love is a flame that never burns out
That sometimes grows dim and diminished,
Dwindles to a whisper for a moment,
But casts off its flicker
And flames out in the darkness that encroaches.
Love is something true, and lovely,
And I find myself
I am not a poet to respond to him. My art forms are prose and photography. I cannot give back in kind to this great man who seemed to have enough love left over for the whole wide world, but I hope that the gift of our shared life for so many years was poetry enough.
The magnolia pictured in this selection is one that was bought and planted on the day that Abigail Grace, Kirsten’s daughter, was born. The white rose was bought in honour of Yelena and Jonnie’s wedding.