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American Life in Poetry
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American Life in Poetry

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Kwame Dawes

2021 American Life in Poetry editor

Craig Santos Perez packs into this love sonnet, “Love in a Time of Climate Change”, echoes of many famous love poems, from Robert Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee (Sonnet 43),” to Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18,” to Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII." In the title, he alludes wittily to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. But to what end, one may ask? To remind us of the persistence of love through times of catastrophe and change over the course of history, and to remind us that in clever and sensitive hands, a “recycled” love song can seem fresh current and deliciously urgent.

Love in a Time of Climate Change

By Craig Santos Perez

recycling Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII”

I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals,

conflict diamonds, or reserves of crude oil that cause

war. I love you as one loves the most vulnerable

species: urgently, between the habitat and its loss.

I love you as one loves the last seed saved

within a vault, gestating the heritage of our roots,

and thanks to your body, the taste that ripens

from its fruit still lives sweetly on my tongue.

I love you without knowing how or when this world

will end. I love you organically, without pesticides.

I love you like this because we'll only survive

in the nitrogen rich compost of our embrace,

so close that your emissions of carbon are mine,

so close that your sea rises with my heat.

Poem reprinted by permission. Weekly column made possible by The Poetry Foundation, Library of Congress and Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Unsolicited manuscripts not accepted.

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