I find love poems hard to write (and to read) because they can so easily teeter on the edge of sentimentality. I much prefer the conflagration of a good breakup poem. But this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi charms me because of its delicate intimacy. The second person “you” in the first line and throughout the poem invites the reader into a private relationship. The poem, in its sonnetlike compression, makes arguments about the miniature motions of love during a simple act of tying a bow tie, as if to say that describing love is easiest through the acts of love. Selected by Victoria Chang
Credit…Illustration by R. O. Blechman
She Ties My Bow Tie
By Gabrielle Calvocoressi
What you thought was the sound of the deer drinking
at the base of the ravine was not their soft tongues
entering the water but my Love tying my bow tie.
We were in our little house just up from the ravine.
Forgive yourself. It’s easy to mistake her wrists
for the necks of deer. Her fingers move so deftly.
One could call them skittish, though not really because
they aren’t afraid of you. I know. You thought it was the deer
but they’re so far down you couldn’t possibly hear them.
No, this is the breeze my Love makes when she ties me up
and sends me out into the world. Her breath
pulled taut and held until she’s through. I watch her
in the mirror, not even looking at me. She’s so focused
on the knot and how to loop the silk into a bow.
Victoria Chang is a former Guggenheim fellow whose fifth book of poems, “Obit” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry. Her book of nonfiction, “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief,” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. She teaches in Antioch University’s M.F.A. program. Gabrielle Calvocoressi is an American poet whose latest book is “Rocket Fantastic” (Persea Books, 2017), which won the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.