All You Need Is …
Happy Valentine’s Day
OK, so Paul’s new Valentine’s Day-themed song, the less said about it the better. And the reports that he converted for new wife Nancy Shevell remain unsubstantiated. But ever since the Aronofsky-Weisz split, whose picture were we going to use?
(Surely the most brilliant Jewish use of Valentine’s Day was Billy Wilder’s harnessing of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to kick off Some Like It Hot, a subversion of the comedic archetype not completed until we learn that, even when everyone lives happily every after, “Nobody’s perfect.” End aside.)
Anyway, today is not the official Jewish day of love: That would be Tu B’Av, which falls in late summer (August this year). But we can play along, and so for the sappy among you, after the jump are selections from one of the great love poems by a Jew: Karl Shapiro’s “V-Letter,” originally published, in a 1943 New Yorker (while Shapiro was stationed in the South Pacific) as “Love Letter (By V-Mail from Australia).” Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you first because your face is fair,
Because your eyes Jewish and blue,
Set sweetly with the touch of foreignness
Above the cheekbones, stare rather than dream.
Often your countenance recalls a boy
Blue-eyed and small, whose silent mischief
Tortured his parents and compelled my hate
To wish his ugly death.
Because of this reminder, my soul’s trouble,
And for your face, so often beautiful,
I love you, wish you life.
I love you first because you wait, because
For your own sake, I cannot write
Beyond these words. I love you for these words
That sting and creep like insects and leave filth.
I love you for the poverty you cry
And I bend down with tears of steel
That melt your hand like wax, not for this war
The droplets shattering
Those candle-glowing fingers of my joy,
But for your name of agony, my love,
That cakes my mouth with salt. …
As groceries in a pantry gleam and smile
Because they are important weights
Bought with the metal minutes of your pay,
So do these hours stand in solid rows,
The dowry for a use in common life.
I love you first because your years
Lead to my matter-of-fact and simple death
Or to our open marriage,
And I pray nothing for my safety back,
Not even luck, because our love is whole
Whether I live or fail.
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