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Valentine '96

Gray-headed Sentiment, heeled with decorous presence
As befits a well-distinguished Cynic
Though filled, once, with high speech in adolescence --
The most intractable idealist on earth! --
Now jacketed and jowled with few pretensions
Toward the fashionable and photogenic,
Enjoys a tired chuckle at my passing mention
Of love's spring blossoming and heart's rebirth.

"It has been," he allows, "quite some while,
Since I imagined that a lady's smile
Could quicken gnarled roots, or yet make thicker
The rusty humours of the heart,
Transmuting brine to ichor.
And I have frowned for hours over lines on pages
Composing verses which begin, 'Thou art . . .'
And locate heaven in a face, a name --
But courtliness is out of fashion since the Middle Ages;
The media, I think, can take the blame.

"Old Sentiments like me were once reborn
With relative frequency
In times when men were far too innocent to scorn
Life's offerings, and still too wise to leave
Real hearts for broadcast images and Technicolor dreams
But such today is our delinquency
And such men as I become cynics when it seems
The only protest left against ungrateful and naive
Demands for ecstasy: before the great onslaught of lust
We will raise a dour and skeptical defense
For our outdated faith and innocence
And don grey jackets and forbidding Homburgs, if we must."

He pauses, smiling faintly, and adjusts his tie,
But instantly returns from reverie
To fix me with an earnest and a penetrating eye.
"Learn this," he urges, "if you would now truly be a lover:
Your wisdom and your innocent ideals must never be
At odds, each seeking to supplant the other
But guard them both from advertisement -- the modern world's dissembling,
And with gratitude and wonder -- yes, and also fear and trembling,
Take all that you are offered in its own due season
And do not worry overmuch about its rhyme or reason."

David DeBoe


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