fall 2018 / Poetry 2018 / volume 49

The Darkest Side of Love—Eric Paul Shaffer

If some glad scientist strapped, belted, and buckled me to a gurney, then told me to think only of you while he peered into my skull using positron emission tomography, my otherwise lackluster brain would scintillate with multi-colored sparks like Times Square

on New Year’s Eve or flash in erratic patterns and sub-ultraviolet glows like new LED lights on that greeny polyurethane Christmas tree we’ve dragged around the planet since we bought the floor model in the Shuri Ryubo on Okinawa, using over-sized gestures,

energetic nods, smiles, and our first twenty thousand yen of pay. Or if some dull-eyed technician in a ratty labcoat spoke your name as she gazed through the gray shadows of the flesh and blood and muscle of my body at the blinding white fury of my bones,

she would set those calcium columns pirouetting in a symphony of X-rays as piercing as a Hallowe’en scream. And if somebody thinks this is a love poem, and love really is great–isn’t it?–love is all you need, and love is a reason to live, and love is the meaning

of life, and love is all of this and all of that, then let’s flip the pic to the empty side of the 4 x 6. Those dopey fools who go moony and doe-eyed over words as vague as “love” would pale and pee their knees at this polished marble truth: if ever you were gone

from the world forever, and I stood weeping alone beneath stars I would curse for outlasting you, I would summarily execute all seven billion souls, end every one of their murky, muddy lives without thought or regret, to get you back, breathing and laughing
and blinking with the sunlight in your eyes, even if for one day, for a single winter afternoon, for a prime-time commercial break, or for only long enough to read you this damn poem one last time.

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