Valentine  

Valentine

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.

“Valentine” is a dramatic monologue written by Scottish poet, author, and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, originally published in her 1993 poetry collection “Mean Time”.

The title may suggest that this poem will deal with the conventional topics for the occasion: love. flowers, hearts, kissograms (humorous telegrams in which the messenger arrives and kisses the recipient) and romance.
However the opening line immediately subverts the stereotypical view of a Valentine’s Day gift based on romanticized, fraudulent narratives about love, far from reality

Love and affection, on the contrary, are expressed in the form of a conceit whereby the proper symbol of love is an unconventional onion.

A conceit is a figure of speech, usually a fanciful simile or metaphor, in which an unlikely, elaborated and far-fetched comparison is made between two seemingly dissimilar or incongruent objects or situations. Its purpose is to surprise the reader by means of its his intelligence and wit.

In this poem it is slowly revealed that the unusual gift can represent love better than any futile gift given on Valentine’s Day, such as roses, hearts or love cards, because it represents its real nature.

An onion is like a shining moon wrapped in rough brown paper, and its light will beam forth as it is unwrapped, like a “careful undressing of love”. Through these words Duffy subverts the usual sexless phrases on Valentine’s Day cards and describes the growing discovery of complex feelings as an emotional bond becomes deeper, as well as the physical act of undressing before the sex act.

The fact that love can make a person cry, just as getting too close to a chopped onion can make the eyes fill with tears, highlights both the negative and positive effects of a deep and loving relationship, which may elicit pain and anguish as well as love and passion.

There is also the constant allusion to the senses through the taste of the onion whose “fierce kiss will stay on your lips”, which once more emphasizes not only the romantic and positive aspects of love, but its more negative and darker associations.
The sharp smell and taste lingering on a lover’s lips give the idea of how much an intense mutual devotion can be all-consuming while it lasts (“as long as we are”), words that gives it an idea of time and impermanence.

The emphasis on the vulnerability and danger people expose themselves to when they wholly submit to a romantic relationship reminds us of its destructive potential.
Therefore the image of “shrinking” rings and that of the knife, as well as the powerful adjective “Lethal” denote even linguistically restriction and violence. They call attention to the ever-changing, complex, enigmatic nature of love and force the reader to confront the idea that real love based on honesty and truthfulness can be painful and destructive, as well as fulfilling and enriching.

San Valentino

Non una rosa rossa o un cuore di raso.

Ti do una cipolla.
Una luna avvolta in carta marrone scura.
Che promette luce
come il preciso svestirsi dell’amore.

Eccola.
Ti accecherà di lacrime
come un amante.
Renderà il tuo riflesso
un tremolante ritratto di dolore.

Sto cercando di essere onesta.

Non un biglietto carino o un ‘baciogramma’.

Ti do una cipolla.
Il suo bacio feroce ti rimarrà sulle labbra,
possessivo e fedele
come siamo noi,
per tutto il tempo in cui lo saremo

Prendila.

I suoi cerchi di platino restringendosi diventano un anello nuziale,
se vuoi
Letale.
Il suo profumo si attaccherà alle tue dita,
si attaccherà al tuo coltello.

San Valentino è un monologo drammatico scritto dalla poetessa, autrice e drammaturga scozzese Carol Ann Duffy, originariamente pubblicato nella sua raccolta di poesie del 1993 “Mean Time”.

Il titolo potrebbe far intendere che ci troviamo di fronte a una poesia che tratterà argomenti convenzionali per l’occasione: amore, fiori, cuori, bigliettini leziosi o baciogrammi (telegrammi in cui il messaggero arriva e bacia il destinatario) e romanticismo.
Tuttavia la frase di apertura rovescia immediatamente l’immagine stereotipata di un regalo di San Valentino basato su narrazioni false e eccessivamente romantiche dell’amore, distanti dalla realtà

L’amore e l’affetto, al contrario, si esprimono nella forma di un “conceit” per cui il simbolo proprio dell’amore è una poco convenzionale cipolla.

Il “Conceit” è una figura retorica , di solito una similitudine o una metafora estesa , che forma un parallelo estremamente ingegnoso o fantasioso tra oggetti o situazioni apparentemente dissimili o incongruenti . Il suo scopo è quello di sorprendere il lettore con la sua intelligenza e arguzia.

In questa poesia si scopre lentamente che il dono insolito può rappresentare l’amore meglio di qualsiasi futile regalo che viene donato a San Valentino , come rose, cuoricini o bigliettini d’amore, perché ne rappresenta la natura reale.

Una cipolla assomiglia alla luna splendente avvolta in ruvida carta marrone, la cui luce risplenderà man mano che viene scartata, come in una svestizione lenta prima dell’ amore. Con queste parole Duffy sovverte le solite frasi asessuate dei bigliettini di San Valentino e descrive non solo la scoperta di sentimenti sempre più complessi mentre un legame emotivo diventa più profondo, ma anche l’atto concreto di denudarsi prima di fare l’amore.

Il fatto che l’amore possa far piangere una persona, proprio come l’avvicinarsi troppo a una cipolla tagliata può far riempire gli occhi di lacrime, mette in evidenza sia gli effetti negativi che quelli positivi di una relazione profonda e amorevole, che può suscitare, accanto ad amore e passione, anche dolore e angoscia.

C’è anche la continua allusione ai sensi attraverso il gusto della cipolla il cui “bacio feroce rimarrà sulle labbra”, che ancora una volta sottolinea non solo gli aspetti romantici e positivi dell’amore, anche quelli più negativi e oscuri.
L’odore e il sapore pungente che permangono sulle labbra di un amante danno l’idea di quanto un’intensità devozione reciproca possa essere divorante, finché dura (“per tutto il tempo in cui lo saremo”), parole che conferiscono al legame un’idea del tempo e della provvisorietà.

L’enfasi sulla vulnerabilità e sul pericolo a cui le persone si espongono quando si assoggettano completamente a una relazione romantica ci ricorda il suo potenziale distruttivo.
Quindi l’immagine degli anelli che diventano sempre più stretti e quella del coltello, così come il potente aggettivo “Letale” denotano anche linguisticamente restrizione e violenza. Richiamano l’attenzione sulla natura mutevole, complessa ed enigmatica dell’amore e costringono il lettore a confrontarsi con l’idea che un vero amore basato sull’onestà e sulla veridicità può essere doloroso e distruttivo, oltre che appagante e arricchente.

104 thoughts on “Valentine  

  1. Hi Luisa,
    you have chosen an intersting Valentine’s poem, we really like. It’s hard to find a love poem that isn’t kitchy, full of metaphors we have heard and read too often (especially on social media).
    Thank you very much.
    Keep well
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How appropriate. Love is so much more than giving trite gifts on a commercially manufacture holiday. It is good to have a day to remind us to express our love, but not to tell us we need to buy extravagant gifts to show that love. Things do not say love, actions, expressions and feeling say love. Happy Onion Day Luisa. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this poem, it is different and the use of onion as a prop is cleaver. The way she describe the honestly of a relationship is flawless. You chose the perfect poem for today Luisa, Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Questi versi potrebbero apparire così “irreverrenti” per l’occasione, personalmente li ho trovati fantastici ancor pr8ma di leggere la tua spiegazione, la 16al3 mi ha confermato il mio “giudizio”❣❣❣ Complijenti e brava per la scelta, buon pomeriggio 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a mature poem, Luisa, on this subject.

    I read it several hours ago here and have been wondering since then wether or not I am having a problem with the ‘destructiveness’ of love (sometimes). Do you think love really destroys sometimes?! Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dearest Sarah
      in my opinion love can destroy if it is unrequited, if it is undervalued, if it is taken for granted, and if the attention, care, friendship and complicity that are expected from the partner are no longer given, voluntarily or unknowingly

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand what you are saying even if I am going to cling to the romantic view that love is all good and that its opposite is the absence of love which is the indifference which give rise to the sad conditions you describe.

        I am holding to this view until at least midnight tonight, Valentine’s Day……….Sarah

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Pat,
      I didn’t feel like sharing an over-sentimental poem, also because on this occasion I feel a little more alone than usual, so the image of the onion was perfect
      PS Byron / Romeo , the reddish cat, did not show up, he has been busy all Valentine’s day with my neighbors’ cat (a female) 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great poem just sitting here maxi the kitty cat on my chest and I still can’t breathe but it’s worth it just having her near but like everything you write a memory comes back because I’ve live long enough to have memories 20 years ago just got out of nursing program going to three jobs today not getting much sleep hardly eating I was off to another job went home for a little while took a shower changed uniforms and Gino said I need some things in the market let’s go to the store so we did and I found a big fat ripe red tomato and it would be for my lunch at my patience home and so we get to the checkout counter and a girl ring set up and Gino says how much was that tomato she said 50 cents he said no we don’t want it and I said why not is it cost too much I said out loud I was hurt I said if I’m not worth the price of a tomato so now I’m not worth anything I walked out of the store walk to the car I realized I couldn’t get in he had the keys so I stood in the rain like a five-year-old kid and waited got in silent we drove to my job silence came home late handed him his Valentine card because it was Valentine’s Day inside it said thank you for showing me my worth the price of a tomato yes I am thank you Louisa for making me remember precious days and hurtful times he’s gone now I’ve got 20 things wrong with me and health but I’m still happy that’s what counts!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Cipolla”! easy to understand. In Spanish it is “cebolla”.
    I like the onion concept. Very smart. (Also indispensable for any cooking… 😉
    Happy Valentine Luisa. (Piú vale tarde che mai?)
    🤗💕

    Like

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