549: Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem

549: Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem

549: Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

When I was younger, I thought love was about grand gestures. Someone showing up under the balcony spouting an original love poem. Or, at the very least, holding up a boombox with our favorite song blasting loud enough to wake the neighbors. That’s what I thought I liked: loud love. That was back when I thought love was about fighting and making up. I loved the drama of love.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized what I loved about love was not the drama at all, but the deep privacy of it. My kind of love was never made for an audience. My kind of love is a rapturous sort of secret, built out of unasked-for gifts, unexplainable inside jokes, the oddly impressive songs we sing to the dog in the morning. It’s the sympathetic raised eyebrow, the printer that always magically works when I need it, the changing of the cat box, the garbage bins wheeled out in an ice storm, and that last good bite left on the plate.

Today’s poem speaks to that private type of love, those seemingly inconsequential moments that make us weak in the knees.

Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem
by Matthew Olzmann

So here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
Because you think swans are overrated and kind of stupid.
Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
Because you underline everything you read, and circle
the things you think are important, and put stars next
to the things you think I should think are important,
and write notes in the margins about all the people
you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
Because you made that pork recipe you found
in the Frida Kahlo Cookbook. Because when you read
that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
over the windows, you still believe someone outside
can see you. And one day five summers ago,
when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
which you paid for with your last damn dime
because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

"Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem" by Matthew Olzmann, from MEZZANINES by Matthew Olzmann, copyright © 2019 Matthew Olzmann. Used by permission of Alice James Books.