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

neilmac@durham.net