648: Love is a Luminous Insect at the Window

648: Love is a Luminous Insect at the Window

648: Love is a Luminous Insect at the Window


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

If you have ever had love turn on you, you know that even the sound of the word “love” can be devastating or at least annoying. I remember once, after having my heart broken, sitting in my drama class at the University of Washington, and after practicing a scene from Romeo and Juliet saying, “I mean if they hadn't died, they would have broken up anyways.” A new friend laughed and I, in turn, told her how serious I was being. I had gone from a full on, pedal-to-the-metal believer in all things true love to a highly cynical straight shooter in a matter of months.

During my cynical years, I wrote drafts of poems about how love was rather dumb really. I distrusted anyone who asked me out and tried to spew some romantic crap my way. I was good at it, that being alone and being walled like a protected ancient city. I felt better being skeptical and side-eyed than I did when I was open and willing to believe any and all flirtatious banter tossed my way. I knew who I was. I was a house with a locked door. It was safe in there. My ribs made a nice cage for the beating heart that needed protection.

Then of course, love did happen. And it wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t what I had known before. And on top of everything it wasn’t painful. It was easy and kind. I didn’t know that kind of love, the one that wasn’t mercurial and sometimes hurtful. And when that did happen it felt like realizing that the word “love” can’t do all the different kinds of love justice. It can’t cover all that ground and the muddy waters in between.

In today’s poem, we see that idea of different “loves” explored. How they are different animals entirely. I also want to mention, this is the love poem the poet read at his own wedding.

Love is a Luminous Insect at the Window
by Martín Espada

	       for Lauren Marie Espada
			                   June 13, 2019

The word love: there it is again, indestructible as an insect,
fly faster than the swatter, mosquito darting through the net.
How the word love chirps in every song, crickets keeping
a city boy up all night. I wish I could fry and eat them.
How the word love buzzes in sonnet after sonnet. I am
the beekeeper who wakes from a nightmare of beehives.
To quote Durán, the Panamanian brawler who waved a glove
and walked away in the middle of a fight: No más. No more.

Then I see you, watching the violinist, his eyes shut, the Russian 
composer’s concerto in his head, white horsehair fraying on the bow,
and your face is bright with tears, and there it is again, the word love,
not a fly or a mosquito, not a cricket or a bee, but the Luna moth
we saw one night, luminous green wings knocking at the screen
on the window as if to say I have a week to live, let me in, and I do. 

"Love Is a Luminous Insect at the Window" by Martín Espada, from FLOATERS copyright © 2021 Martín Espada. Used by permission of W.W. Norton & Company and Massie & McQuilkin.