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Poet’s corner: Of love and a teapot

The little things
I am in love with my teapot
I love it for the song it sings
Fluted gently between the cracks
That smile that jagged grin
Breathing steam in soft green notes
 
I am in love with my doorknob
I love the way it fills my hand
So firm with its feminine curve
Pressing into my palm, guiding me
Through the wall on a lingering farewell
 
I am in love with my car
I love that I must feed and change it
My queen and good company
Taking me inside and wherever I desire
Taking every journey in equanimity
 
I am in love with a girl
And that’s where love gets tricky
Because a girl is a shape that changes
And because I don’t know her
At least, as well as I think I do.
 
A girl will not sing for me every time I ask
She will not press into me every time I reach out
Nor will she take me everywhere I desire
A girl is moved by an unseen world
Herself, a self-evident enigma
 
And yet, I am in love with a girl
I love that she will not do what I expect
Every time that I ask, desire, or reach out;
 
I am in love with a girl
Because she also has a teapot
And turns doorknobs and drives a car
And when she tells me no
She reminds me that I am not needed
Always, to make all things beautiful
And that is such a relief.
 
— Alexandre Apfel
 
 
(A recent transplant to the Champlain Valley, Alexandre Apfel brews for Fiddlehead Brewing Co. and for pleasure at home. Writing began as a therapeutic exercise and while it has transformed into a more intentional practice, the line remains reassuringly vague.)
 
___________________________________
 
This poem by Alexandre Apfel is a gem of surprise and insight. We feel from the start the pleasure the speaker receives from particular objects in his life and the qualities and experiences that come from them. There is the pleasure that comes from his teapot, not only for its functionality, but because it sings and flutes through its jagged cracks. And there is the pleasure of the steam, a soothing balm for the senses.
And there does seem to be something, too, about a door knob, an object the poet shows us how to feel in a both a tactile and emotional way: the firm sureness of it so easy to hold, and the offer of possibility in its turning. And there is the car, the beloved car, offering freedom, adventure, and reliability, especially when well cared for.
But a girl, or any human being, is not so definable or consistent, as the speaker implies, and is not an object. “A girl is moved by the unseen world,” writes our poet. And that is the whole beauty of it. He reminds us in simple eloquent words, what he himself is being reminded of: that love, and I would add close friendship, is not about having expectations and demands. It is about accepting and honoring, cherishing and supporting another toward who they are meant to be. It might mean lots of togetherness for some; lots of space for others. By letting go of preconceived ideas and expectations, an ease and flow can enter. There might be discomfort and resistance, but that is all part of the territory when it comes to meaningful growth.
Mr. Apfel writes “I love that she will not do what I expect/Every time I ask, desire, or reach out.” We get the sense that the speaker truly means this. And not only does he mean it, he loves and values it, as he knows it is central to the quality of their relationship. There is a feeling here of true honoring and respect.
When there is a demanding or rigid approach to relationship, or anything for that matter, there is little room for love, for joy, for a true unfolding. It occurs to me this is how it is in writing poetry. As soon as we think we know what a poem is going to be about and how it should be, we lose its pulse. We are listening instead to our limited intellect and ego. Decent writing might result, but it will likely be just an intellectual exercise. If we can listen at a deeper level, though, and let the words, rhythm, and imagery fall in place, we might find a true poem before us.
This poem has that feel of having been listened to and followed from beginning to end. The poet got out of the way, probably not knowing just what was coming. How lucky for us he did.
—————
Susan Jefts is a poet and educator living in Cornwall, whose work has been published throughout the country. She is currently working on a book of poetry and will be offering workshops this spring using the poetry of Rumi and other ancient poets to explore our lives and what we feel called to. For more info, contact her at sjefts7@gmail.com. Her website is www.manyriverslifeguidance.com.

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