Happy Valentine's Day, O my readers!
Today, a poem I wrote for Mary Ann some Valentines back to celebrate the holiday and my love for her in a much different fashion from tradition's red roses and frilly paper hearts.
Valentine Day's Poem
As we watched a laparoscopic gall-bladder surgery
on TLC last night, I was amazed how the body
seemed so much like a landscape. The gall bladder
resembling Half-Dome Rock in Yosemite,
abutting the burnt-sienna mountain range
of the liver, and the rich apricot-yellow forests
of fatty tissue. The heart was distant and strange,
the horizon pulsing, the sky of skin in chorus
with crimson land. Is this heart our symbol of love?
Like red-lace hearts and heart-shaped boxes of candy?
No, this is the real thing. That's how I love
you, Mary Ann, as much as any landscape
of flesh can love you: blood, muscle, my hands
washing your hair, bones like trees in a wind.
— Vince Gotera, first appeared in the Asian Pacific American Journal (Spring/Summer 1996).
I trust the poem speaks for itself about love and Valentine hearts.
Since some of you, O gentle readers, follow the blog to focus on poetic technique, let me tell you this is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet, as perhaps you've surmised from the poem's structure and shape: three quatrains and a couplet. In typical Shakespearean-sonnet fashion, the quatrains alternate their rhyme — abab.
Now I sense some scratching of heads at how "body" and "Yosemite" could possibly rhyme. As well as "candy" and "landscape." The key words: slant rhyme. For those who may not know, Yosemite is pronounced yoe-SEH-mitt-ee; the rhyme then is between the two syllables of body and the final two syllables of Yosemite. With the rhyme pair candy and landscape, the rhyme happens with the first syllable of both words; also the consonance repetition of the /k/ sound at the beginning of candy and in the center of landscape contributes to the soundplay. In addition, the first rhyme word in the couplet, "hands," rhymes similarly with "candy and "landscape." And, again, a slant rhyme with "wind."
Okay, enough enough enough. Go out and enjoy Valentine's Day. And do the "red-roses and frilly hearts" thing; it's often practical and judicious not to follow, in everyday life, what poems tell us. Again, Happy Valentine's Day!
Note from 17 Feb 2009: I've just gotten permission from Jessica Wheat to use her wonderful medical illustration of the heart. Hurray! As you can see above, Jessica's heart image is now next to the poem. Click on it to see a larger version. The previous graphic I used is now to the right of this note; it came from www.medical-look.com.
Vanessa Ruiz, creator of Street Anatomy, a website that explores human anatomy in medicine, art, and design, said this about Jessica Wheat's work: "Jessica has a very nice loose painterly style present in all of her work. It makes the anatomy seem more organic and fluid. It’s a nice change from some of the highly stylized and ridged anatomical illustrations we see at times." I couldn't agree more. Her color images are simply lovely, with a gentle application of color and shading that rivals the best fine art. To see more, check out Wheat's online porfolio; look particularly for her "Leather Sea Star" and "Moon
Jelly." — VG