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An Answer to Petrarch

author notes: This may be a difficult poem to understand without a little explanation.

The first thing one might notice is that there is no punctuation! The reason for this is that I didn't want to tie myself to one way of reading these verses, and I like to shift the emphasis depending on my mood.

The main question: what does Petrarch have to do with this poem? Petrarch was notorious for writing love poems that fixated on his beloved's body to the exclusion of her whole self. Well, I though it would be interesting to find comparisons that seem to encompass the whole character of the man this poem is about. To accomplish this, I avoided writing anything that focused on a body part (eyes, thigh. whatever). Some of the lines describe what he does with the whole body ("listless gestures"), wheras others simply paint a setting that reflects my mood whenever I am near my beloved. In the last verse, the whole forest and trees thing plays off the phrase "you don't see the forest for the trees," which is my main critique of Petrarch.

To break the poem down: The first verse establishes the emotions I felt whenever my loved one was near. I describe a setting that seems appropriate for an European city such as Rome, which also helps establish my Petrarchian theme. The fact that this man of mine inspired feelings very similar to those that Petrarch felt for Laura should be noted. The second verse goes into an abstract study of my beloved, examining how the matter that makes up his body becomes a wave that is like a light that infuses his body. Furthermore, using the laws of chemistry and physics I note that man is as changeable as quicksilver, and my response are as unpredictible as my abilty to record my feelings (to "log my rhythms"). The third verse is the centrepiece of this poem, running like a list of features- SO Petrarchian- but tackling the sublect in a completely different fashion. Wheras Petrarch might say that his lover's eyes were like a blue glacier, I prefer to call my lover a kiss, a righteous dream. Some might find the salvation comment controversial, but I don't see it as sacriligous to say that my love for this man was so great that it felt as expansive and as rich as my soul's hope for salvation. The last verse describes a sparkling ocean near a forest, and the whole scene is important, not just the individual bits. Descibing a scene while omitting details can be very challenging, and if that means that parts of this poem don't make sense, that's the price I'm willing to pay. I'm very happy with this poem. It is extremely personal but with a little explanation, I hope anyone can relate.


(copyright 1997, Kathleen Pilchowski)

Here, and here lasts long shadows
and a delicate curve
and too delicious nights 
and always the lonely yellow lights 
that blend and fade the stars 

A bend and no mere whisper
transverese the particulate phases
I log my rhythms 
I shatter in titrations
ever: no intentions last before morning falls

You are a kiss 
You are every listless gesture
You are Buddha's willow
You are a righteous dream
You are my every hope of salvation

And the flashes simmer
gravely swimming in precious salt
never reminding the forest
never leading the trees 
always mocking the diligent
always quarreling with peace.