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Justin Barisich

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30/30 Poetry Challenge (2017) Creative Writing Poetry

Day 20 – Love is a Standardized Test (for Jonathan and Elizabeth on their wedding day)

By on June 11, 2017

[Photo Credit: Darrell McDavid Photography]

Love is a test we study for our entire lives
and hope we never have to take.
Because if we fail, it means we were
never prepared for it in the first place.

We emerge from the warmth
of the first woman who ever loved us,
screaming to be returned to the comfort
that is all we’ve ever known –
loving out of survival.

We watch the playground crushes,
perhaps get lucky enough to have a few ourselves –
exchanging the stolen lives of flowers
for plastic trinkets that will live on forever,
even without us, any of us,
any combinations of possible loves and lives.

We watch the Disney fables play out
in glorious fashion, with animation wizardry
montaging past the hard parts,
showing only the highlight reel of
happily ever after, brought to you by
the blotting out of grim truths.
Little girls a world over still search
for their Princes Charming, ever believing
they can still rise to life from ink.

We consume the reality shows
that feed us instructional videos
on how to prep our bachelor pads
so that we may leap
from one Lily to the next,
never lingering long enough
to make a splash in the pond.

We hear stories of our grandparents –
golden and wrinkled, celebrating
their 50th wedding anniversaries –
but it’s the photos of their darkest times
that never seem to get exposed.
We try to breadcrumb trail it back
to what they did to make it work,
but only half the signs are still there,
and they only point in one direction,
and our love has never been good
at following directions.

So Jonathan and Elizabeth,
when love comes for you –
and I hope it has come for you –
I hope you fail its test.
It’s standardized and media-distorted
version of humanity’s greatest function –
one that no formula or script or practice
could ever properly prepare you for.

Because if you did take it,
and if you did pass it,
you’d surely find happiness –
at least someone else’s idea of it –
but such a love would never last.
You’d remember what you’d memorized,
but forget why you’d ever tried to learn it.

So do not fill in the bubbles fully,
or show your work,
or use a #2 pencil,
or a non-graphing calculator,
or your inside voices to explain
your love or logic
for anyone else’s understanding.

Simply write your name at the top
in wide, purple, permanent marker,
Draw an anatomically-incorrect heart
on the back of your scantron,
and leave everything else blank.

Your answers for acing your specific love
apply to you two alone.
And whatever that is,
and whatever that may become,
has never had an answer key.

And no machine will ever be able to tell you
how perfect you are for each other.


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