Stanley_Kunitz.jpg Last year, a man published a book that most of us never heard about: The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden . Stanley Kunitz was 100 years old at publication.

Throughout, the book is interspersed with his wisdom and insight about poetry, both writing it and reading it. I won't go into his biography here, but suffice it to say, Kunitz has held his own as an American poet... serving twice as the United States Poet Laureate. And in his book, one finds poetry about everything.

But what is most glorious are his poems about love. Whether or not you are a fan of the Romantics (Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats), the best poetry is absolutely timeless, because love and grief and awe have not changed much over the centuries; these remain to be the emotions that are most difficult to convey in words. Especially love. And Kunitz knows how to write honestly and naturally about love.

I love a good love poem. And it doesn't have to be a, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." deal. (Shakespeare had his day, and he simply repeated himself a lot.) The face of love poetry is different every time, because it must be different! Levels of desire, love, ache, lust and fervor change. Societal acceptance of love changes. As generations grow, crush, lust, love, marry, divorce, die, long... so do the love poems that are conceived through it all.

Recently a professor of mine pulled me aside to share the following poem, one that touched his heart.

Touch Me
Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.
--Stanley Kunitz--

It stays with me. In Stanley Kunitz's "Touch Me" there is something for everyone to appreciate. His sentiment is not for me to analyze. I believe that his sincerity, the time he has taken in his later years to marvel at the sounds of insects and the beauty of flowers, speaks for itself. Most of all, I am warmed by the fact that his final lines are spoken to his wife. She is his warm, tangible reminder of youth and vigor, energy and romance. If he ever feels lost, he knows that he will find himself, his true, best self, tucked away in his wife's heart.

That is the best kind of love poetry.