I find love poems difficult to write (and read) because they can so easily balance on the edge of sentimentality. I much prefer the eruption of a good fracture poem. But this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi captivates me with 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 sonnet-like compression, makes arguments about the miniature movements of love during a simple act of tying a bow tie, as if to say that describing love is easiest through acts of love. Selected by Victoria Chang
She ties my bow tie
By Gabrielle Calvocoressi
What you thought was the sound of the deer drinking
at the foot of the ravine were not their soft tongues
enter the water, but my love ties my bow tie.
We were in our cottage just above the ravine.
Forgive yourself. It’s easy to confuse her wrists
for the necks of deer. Her fingers move so dexterously.
You might call them skittish, though not really because
they are not afraid of you. I know. You thought it was the deer
but they’re so far down you can’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 tight and held until she is done. i look at 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 collection of poems, “Obit” (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry. Her nonfiction book, “Dear Memory: Letters on Writing, Silence and Grief,” was published by Milkweed Editions in 2021. She teaches in the MFA program at Antioch University. Gabrielle Calvocoressia 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.