An excellent exercise for an aspiring poet is to imitate a successful, established structure. Often this takes the form of parody – but it doesn’t have to. The following poem, in a hand-wringing “pseudo-confessional” style (written in the first person, as if the poet were actually talking about himself), is based on the difficult rhyme and rhythm found in Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time.”
The End of Love
Neil Harding McAlister
Our passion once lit up the nights
As brilliant as the Northern Lights;
But just as evanescent, it would seem.
Cold reason told us, run in fear;
But love’s strange brightness drew us near,
Like moths into its hypnotizing beam.
Now cheerless luminescence creeps;
The light is there without the heat;
And what remains is just a frigid gleam.
Do you know where the feeling goes
As over us life’s seasons flow?
The love we shared and used to know
Has vanished like the melting snow --
A winter’s dream.
A sweet and fragile fantasy,
A sand castle beside the sea,
How can love stand against a rising tide?
The lover who was part of you,
Who bared his bleeding heart to you,
Is by the rushing waters washed aside.
The flood has doused affection’s fires,
Extinguishing our hearts’ desires,
And snuffing out our hopes and dreams besides.
With changing fortune’s ebb and flow
We watch love’s seasons come and go;
Bright promises we treasured so
Drowned in emotion’s undertow;
Our vows belied.
I know that when the passion dies
A mouthful of well-meaning lies
Is kinder, when the truth gets in the way.
A mournful chorus gathers ‘round
To serenade us with the sound
Of silence, when there’s nothing left to say.
You kill me with an empty kiss
To tell me I’ll get over this
And learn to love again another day.
But hearts are not like weathervanes
That veer with changing joy and pain:
Although we shall not meet again,
Abiding feelings must remain.
We’re made that way.
We played for love with loaded dice.
We cheated, and then paid the price.
We’d lost the game before it could begin.
We set aside our common sense
With such affected innocence,
Enraptured by the warmth of naked skin.
If we gave in to temptation
There’s a simple explanation:
We are bumbling saints who guiltlessly have sinned.
But now we go on separate ways,
Two pilgrims who have gone astray;
There’s nothing we can do or say;
We can’t rekindle, come what may,
The fire within.
So, dearest friend, we say farewell.
As to the future, who can tell?
You know I wish you only what is best.
We toss onto the funeral pyre
Dry branches of our dead desire.
Please keep this broken heart as my bequest.
If nothing more is spoken,
No more promises are broken;
I won’t ask you to fulfill my last request.
As weary months go plodding by
The hurt will ease, the tears will dry.
Although God knows we truly tried,
The holy light that dimmed and died
Is laid to rest.
Seeking for the magic fountain,
We scaled up love’s sacred mountain,
And gazed down on golden valleys from above.
From this towering perspective
We can be much more objective:
Now you see it’s not what you were dreaming of.
Though love’s strength is monumental,
Just like Sampson wrecked the temple,
You have brought it down with one almighty shove.
But always I’ll remember you --
The things you used to say and do --
For we have loved! That much is true.
Those memories will see us through
The end of love.
© 2004, Neil Harding McAlister