Love (5) : The Present

Love poetry is a universal language passed from one civilisation to another and some love poems have become wedding favourites, especially those about the eternity of love.


Vincent Van Gogh: Starry Night


THE PRESENT -by Michael Donaghy

For the present there is just one moon,
though every level pond gives back another.
But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,
perceived by astrophysicist and lover,
is milliseconds old. And even that light’s
seven minutes older than its source.
And the stars we think we see on moonless nights
are long extinguished. And, of course,
this very moment, as you read this line,
is literally gone before you know it.
Forget the here-and-now. We have no time
but this device of wantonness and wit.
Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
and we’ll live out our lives in it.

This sonnet makes a fine wedding poem. The first part describes the fleeting nature of time, the changes it brings about, second after second. The theme is seen also from a scientific point of view, to underline that everything vanishes quickly, even things that we mistakenly consider permanent.

The other meaning of “present”  is then beautifully expressed in the final couplet, where it is both the gift of the lover’s hand and the tense in which we can live.

Michael Donaghy isn’t the first poet to hang a love poem on the difference between the vastness of the universe and the brief flame of human life, our mortality.
The poet ( 1954-2004) was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents and grew up in the Bronx. After graduating, he moved to London in 1985. In addition to writing and teaching, he was a musician who played the flute and the bodhrán, specializing in traditional Irish music and wove his knowledge of the traditional music scene into his work.
In his poetry, noted for its formal craftsmanship, he uses traditional forms, as well as “free verse organized by some rhetorical or syntactical principle,” and conceits, extended metaphors, puns, paradoxes, and stories. For this reason he has been called “metaphysical” poet by reviewers. However, he can also be considered a verse-raconteur, a master of the apparently casual, free-range anecdote.

The Times described him as “one of the most widely respected figures on the British poetry scene and a fierce defender of poetry as a source of pleasure and truth”


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