Today I wrote a poem inspired by the love story of Abelard and Heloise. I put it in couplets though free verse and in a slightly archaic tone as befitting a medieval story. Though of course it’s not about them at all. Enjoy.
“I came hither to ruin myself in a perpetual imprisonment
that I might make you live quietly and at ease.”
Heloise to Abelard
At dusk I think of Abelard, the words that flew between us
long before the winter came, before the severance, the pain.
He lives – or so I have been told – upon a fair, green isle,
writing, corresponding – though not of course with me.
And I have settled here within these garden walls, plucking
errant weeds, and tilling cold clay soil to plant my crops.
Wind tangles in the vines, struggles in the tendrils.
To the abbey cat a sea wind lifting last year’s leaves
is but a tempting mouse on which to pounce. Ah, but to me
it is such another thing. It brings the salty sting of memory.
It carries with it whispers, echoes – secrets that divide
yet bind our solitary lives, my Abelard’s and mine.
Our love lives on in prayerful hands, in dappled sun
and deepening shade – becomes a place to rest
and dream, where time circles, drifts. The seasons
take no notice of us in our chaste and separate cells.
Months, years, decades are swift gulls passing overhead,
the strait a black-blood river linking us. This image
comforts me. Yet it is but deception, fiction that I wrap myself
within to keep the chill at bay, a lie that I have told myself
so long it resonates of truth. In truth love never was the truth
between the two of us. I saw what I was schooled to see.
He turned his back as summer turns to fall, my heart discarded
on a rocky shore. He thought of me no more. They say in time
all hurts will fade away. They lie – scars deep enough will ache
while living flesh remains upon the bones. West at the horizon
his peaceful isle becomes a dark and keen-edged blade at dusk.
Oh, would that it were sharp enough to cut him from my soul.