Love Poem with Skull and Candy Valentines

This entry is part 62 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


“…And everich of hem did his besy cure
Benygnely to chese or for to take,
By hir acord, his formel or his make.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer, “Parlement of Foules” (369-371)

In Cosmedin, Rome— in the Chiesa di Santa Maria,
a flower-wreathed skull sits preserved in a shrine
more ornate than any foil-covered box of candy—
that’s Saint Valentine himself, as the hand-lettered
strip of bandage across his brow proclaims.
“Protector of love,” martyr of Terni, he got
couples hitched at a time when (would you believe)
it was illegal to marry. The stories say he was “beaten
with clubs and stoned; and when that failed to kill him,
he was beheaded” outside the Porta del Popolo.
Poor Val, his aquiline nose may even have been broken.
But he seems to have kept most of his teeth, which rest
(some gaps between, though they say that can be sexy)
just inside the edge of the reliquary frame. His gold box
resembles a 1930’s RCA TV, or the consoles in the Dr. Who
episode where an alien disguised as a woman is trying
to take over the world. Even here, the theme is love
and monsters; or love and sex, lust, appetite, desire–
everything you want but can’t actually have, so naturally
you want it even more. On the eve of the festival
of Lupercalia, young Roman boys and girls wrote
their names on slips of paper and put them into jars;
then they held a grand old raffle to find out who
they’d walk hand in hand with the next day, share
a honeyed sweetmeat with, maybe spoon a little,
golden in the olive grove. Did the trees make noise
under the cloudless sky, touching in ways we
rarely do? Everyone loves a little sugar every
now and then; why not them too? Cushioned
in red and gold, the saint would understand
the meanings of excess: candygrams and chalky
conversation hearts (“Sweet Dreams”, “URDGR8ST”,
“Be Mine”, “Big Hugs”), little mounds of milk
chocolate goopy in their maraschino centers,
cardboard boxes lettered with their swirly
tic-tac-toe of X’s and O’s; lacy thong, slinky
sarong, velvet codpiece. Welt of pepper and spice,
ascetic stripe of sea-salt on the hungry tongue.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 14 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Series Navigation← Letter to ArrythmiaTo Flower →

3 Comments


  1. Dave, the more I go over this now, the more I think the title should really be “Love Poem with Skull and Candy Valentines” …

    Reply

    1. O.K., your wish is my command. (I’ll change anything in a published post except the URL, because doing that makes a second post appear in the feed, and doesn’t over-write the original post.)

      Reply

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