A poem on grammar, semantics, and love
In English class, the teacher explains that everything
you need to know about grammar
can be learned with the word love—
Love, actually, is a feeling
and can describe action and show action and act and be acted upon
and thus can take the form
of just about any part of speech
at once, colliding in endless syntactic possibility,
a semantic wonder of the English language.
In lesson one, you learn that love is a noun
it can be both the subject and object of a sentence—
you can send love and take love and
let love take you;
you can grow it in gardens and package it
in heart–shaped boxes to be sold in grocery store aisles.
Lesson two covers the verb to love, which can be conjugated
based on the subject of the sentence—
you love and they love and he loves and she loves and we love and I love and
later, the analogy lesson will explain
that love can really be any verb, a definition of referents—
to love is to collide is to grasp is to
to love is to hope is to worry is
to love is to dance is to struggle is to
to love is to carry is to open is to
to love is to exist.
In the lesson on adjectives, the teacher explains that
love can describe anything—
love songs and love letters and love poems, too,
but also that the empty street is love and your warm bed is love
and that sensation of being surrounded by people and laughter is
love is love is love is love, love, loving love.
Your favorite lesson covers figurative language—
you learn to grow love on vines and call it a metaphor,
and are instructed in the similes of loving
like glue like sugar like rain like gardens
like guitar strings like lampshades like anything.
Next is the lesson on imperatives—
you’re taught to love well
and love often and love carefully and love unapologetically
and love with every part of yourself.
You learn that love can be
a prepositional phrase and a portmanteau and an interjection—
with love and lovesick and I love you! shouted into the void
in one hundred different tones to convey
a hundred different things.
And the final lesson is that run–on sentences are okay
as long as they convey stylistic meaning,
and, in fact, these lessons on love, actually,
have just been run–on sentences themselves,
and when all of the lessons are over,
when you think you’ve learned love
in its every turn of phrase
and grasp every facet of its definition,
the teacher stops writing on the chalkboard
and the whole class holds its breath
and you wonder if any of this has had any meaning at all
and you wonder if you’ve just been obscuring love in grammar
and semantics to hide that
has no definition at all
and our hearts beat
and our muscles tense
and we realize that this discomfort, this tension, this constant questioning,
might just be love, actually,
and we exhale.
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