To Emily Hale

“Regnum caelorum will submit to force
Assailed by warmth of love or living hope,
Which overcome the claims of God’s own will,
Not in the manner that men beat down men
But win because will wishes to be won
And won, wills all with all its own good will.”
Paradiso, 20.94-99

Bitter sweet names,
pickle couplets,
curdle portraits,
lovingly crafted from
words counted, parsed,
not one given freely.

Projected portraits
unwound into—
unsprung egos bruised
in brawls for petty scraps of land,
unwillingly prospected,
never to be conquered.

Love demands grace,
demands, not in the manner that men
beat down
men
their wives
the inner voice that prods apologies.

Overcoming, not
bitter with bitter,
or sneer with sneer,
victimhood established
beyond reasonable doubt,
love curdled into pride.

Wait through two wives more,
Emily.
Maybe then, he’ll love you,
and you will need it less.

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