Poet's Choice By Mary Karr

By Mary Karr
Sunday, February 22, 2009

For those unlucky in romance, I offer this embittered, anti-love poem by Alan Dugan to relieve the sting of last week's heart-spattered holiday. "Love Song: I and Thou" takes its mocking title from Martin Buber's philosophical treatise Ich und Du, which posits that only human relations lend life meaning. By loving others, the great 20th-century thinker contends, we engage with God -- our perpetual spouse, our Thou. Against that backdrop, Dugan's poem opens with a man in a shakily framed house, the life he has inherited or been born intoor married into.

LOVE SONG: I AND THOU

Nothing is plumb, level, or square:

the studs are bowed, the joists

are shaky by nature, no piece fits

any other piece without a gap

or pinch, and bent nails

dance all over the surfacing

like maggots. By Christ

I am no carpenter. I built

the roof for myself, the walls

for myself, the floors

for myself, and got


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