Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, February 9, 2014
Dear Mr. Chaucer,
For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
I don’t pretend to speak for all people, just a couple hundred million. Just kidding. Or kydnyg or however you would say it in 14th Century English.
I am not sure you are aware that yours is probably the first reference made to a Valentine’s Day having to do with romantic love, and that from this offhand allusion to an anodyne little birdie choosing his mate (chesing his make), the science fiction of today’s romantic love was born.
Yes, science fiction!
If Mr. Space Alien were here right now, having safely landed his donut-shaped thing, believe me, he would be scratching his pale green and hairless pate. He would be squinting his almond shaped, wide-apart, and non-blinking eyes, trying to “get it.” What am I saying, he probably is here right now, among us, in an invisibility cloak or the 4th dimension or something.
Anyway, Mr. Alien would certainly be questioning what we no longer question. Why all the gifting and gorging on little brown squares with gooey centers? Why the rush of agitated male humans to purchase things, many of them red or lacy or on a chain, for the female of the species? And what has this to do with love, which beings from his world do, in fact, understand? Though there is no single word for it, like luve (as you would write), there is music that represents it, celestial light and a feeling very similar to that of warm honey on one’s shoulders. And when it is felt, it is radiated. And no one talks about it much and certainly no alien is about to hand off a box with a satin bow to denote his radiance. His radiance denotes that. Oh, Alien knows what love is, all right, and it has very little to do with a little bryd choosing a mate. Just so you know.
He is, however, fascinated by Planet Earth, highly amused by its animal population doing whatever curious rituals fruitful multiplication entails. Bonobos, of course. Porcupines. Bedbugs. Birds of paradise. All the famous extravagant ones, at the very least. Hyenas. But these are creatures, for goodness sake, and he knows that. Far more puzzling is a species that can laugh, cry, remember, write history, rescue babies from wells, give away kidneys, adopt orphans; and then, when called upon to signify any of this, it flails. It would be funny if it weren’t so exasperating.
If you understood modern brackets, Chaucer, I’d use them right now and insert a sigh. [sigh] Like that. I mean, see what you started? The species that glorifies the notion of romance is now growing 190 million plus roses just for the purposes of this one day alone, a holiday with an enormous rose appetite that requires an enormous rose massacre. It would be hard for you to imagine the size of the greenhouses in Central America, Geoff. It even blows the Alien’s mind — or mind-heart, as he would call it. Minde-herte, to you.
I’m not saying it’s all your fault — just that people, especially poets, should be careful with loose references. To be fair, one could blame it partly on Christian leaders needing something to trump Lupercalia, a mid-February pagan fertility fest. We could certainly find some way of blaming the two to three early martyrs named Valentine whose names were snatched and then loaded with meaning. We could even say it was the industrial age and the mass production of Valentine cards that then sent us into realms undreamed of. Do you realize that nearly $4 billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day juelerie this year?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for love in every form it takes. Fraternal, maternal, paternal, romantic, spiritual, erotic — not necessarily in that, or any, order. But sometimes I feel like the alien. I just want to go back to handmade cards containing delicious messages. A simple and yet careful gesture, a love letter containing words that read like warm honey. Wearm hony.
You know what I mean, Geoff? Thank you for your consideration.