Today, napowrimo.net asked us to write a response to another poem (or a line from another poem) in poetic form.
I immediately thought of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43). My response to her sonnet, in a longer poetic verse is more of an imaginary (is it, really?) response to a lover who makes all sorts of promises and then doesn’t make good on any of them. I love the original sonnet very much, but hey, who doesn’t love a little bit of drama every now and then?
Happy reading, and don’t miss out on the endnotes for more! Xx
‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,’
You say that like we have forever,
Like we could never fall apart,
Go our separate ways—
You know I’d believe in every lie you ever say,
Like the words on your tongue aren’t my holy grail,
Like I don’t seek your warmth even on the warmest days;
But when it came to love, you failed;
Failed me in ways I couldn’t even count,
Perhaps we were just setting us up for heartache,
We could only think of reasons to stick around,
Waiting for the other shoe to drop someday
Because nothing is ever that perfect—
I would’ve believed your lies, but you, too, walked away.
How I love to hear you say
All those things I wish you had meant,
I should have walked away,
But I keep saying, ‘Just another moment’.
You count all the ways you love me in,
As though you never promised me that this love held no limits,
Perhaps, they were just more of your empty words
You could tell me you hung the stars, and I’d believe it—
Laughable, really, how the sweetest words cloud your mind:
One moment, you speak of the ways you’d show me your love,
As though we didn’t clash blades in a swordfight,
And the very next you show me this love you speak of;
Then the curtains are draped
As we dim all the lights.
And for just another breathless moment,
I would have believed this was really it,
The weight and depth of your love—
But the heart is so easy to please, isn’t it?
Reading me poetry under the evening sky,
You were no great poet, but you had a silver tongue,
It wasn’t much of a reach to believe in your lies,
All you ever had to do was look me in the eyes,
And I found myself falling,
Melting, weak and pliant in your arms,
I never stood a chance against your charms,
It was hopeless and I was hopelessly in love,
But then, it was curtains and everything slipped away.
I could, on one hand, count all the ways you love me,
And perhaps there’d still be space left,
Like the space there is between us
Now that we’re under different blankets—
Under different roofs,
There’s not much I have despised
The way I did walking away from you;
And you’re still trying to find a way through
All the walls I’ve built to keep you out,
You swear you mean all the things you say,
You swear you could still love me in a hundred ways,
Until the end of all our days,
But I just don’t believe you.
~© Shubhangi Srinivasan.
There always comes a time when we give certain people hundreds of chances to make good on all the promises they keep making, saying that they mean every word of it, even though they really don’t. And for some reason, we find ourselves believing in their surprisingly sincere words of apology. But everything has a limit and getting tired of being lied to is inevitable in such situations. I thought it would be fun to write a response to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) with an imaginary spat between lovers. It served as the perfect poem to derive from, to write a commentary about some of the sadder realities. I hope you enjoyed reading this poem!
The Shubhster. Xx