The Love Poem
My name is Cecil and I have always hated poetry. The problem is my girlfriend's birthday is coming up, and she said, "You don't have to get me anything. Just write me a poem."
Ecch. Can you imagine that? So I went to a Starbuck’s, ready to write. I remembered an assignment in my high school poetry class to write a love poem. Mrs. Helmsley was none to pleased when I turned in the lyrics to the theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She considered it a step down, even from the first poem I handed in, which was chock full of profanities and graphic sexual images and got me sent to Principal Brewster’s office. I was a messed up kid.
Now I was again tackling what I long considered my archenemy, the art of poetry. For I was in love, and, though a part of me wanted to point at myself, laugh and shout names like “Nancy-boy” and “Precious,” I was now leaning toward the notion that this once-sissified craft had some merit. I mean, my grandfather once wrote me a haiku:
ought to have a suicide
note attached to it
This was the history I was dealing with. Writing a love poem was nonetheless a struggle. The occasions on which I had even said the words were few and quite long ago: to my mother when I was a child; the time I yelled “I love you, man!” to Nomar Garciaparra outside of Fenway Park; the prostitute in Amsterdam.
My gal, Jambalaya, had accused me of being emotionless, loving other, “more important” things more than I loved her, such as my car, my collection of bobble-head dolls, and Natalie Portman.
“Why can’t she see how much I love her?” I said out loud, forgetting I was at a public coffee house. “Why can’t she see,” I continued, much quieter, “that I’m not the other clowns she’s dated? Why is this poetry nonsense necessary? And why is there another Starbuck’s just across the street from this one?”
I stood up and, after disposing of the napkin on which I was trying to open my heart, shouted “Damn the love poem! Damn poetry in general! Damn…Nipsey Russell, or whoever writes these things! No wonder they all go insane!”
Finally, the manager approached me. “Excuse me, Sir,” he said. “Calm down, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Are you Starbuck?” I asked him, still hysterical, and now grabbing the man’s shirt and shaking him. “Why are there so many of you bastards?”
Panicking, the manager grabbed a triple venti Toffee Nut Latte and threw it in my face, causing me to scream violently and slowly begin to melt. The place emptied as my words became more and more incoherent, and the floor more and more wet.
The next day, newspapers and television were awash with stories of the “melting lunatic,” as experts debated whether poetry and coffee were perhaps a lethal combination. Many, including my loving girlfriend, said that the moral was that if love is strong in your heart, you won’t go crazy and melt on the floor of a Starbuck’s.
There were eight more human meltings that year. They weren’t all poets, and they weren’t all drinking coffee, but they were all named Cecil.