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W hat is a love story? When I wasn’t thinking about Virgil’s Aeneid or lost in the wtf world of Amos Tutuola, I found myself in the past few days thinking about love stories. What, I want to know, is the love in stories and the story in love? I typed “love story” into Wikipedia and got a list of films and books titled Love Story. The first time, by the way, that wikipedia has let me down. I continue my search. If you are one of those many friends I have pestered about this question, forgive me or otherwise ignore me. The search is still on.

My train of thought: If love is heretical, a love story is about transgression and sin. If love transfigures, the love story is about a metamorphosis in which a human turns into a dragon or an angel. Someone told me love is about the joy of being alive. If that’s true, then the love story is about pleasure and death. Clearly I am not getting anywhere with this.

So I pay what I hoped would be a quick visit to one of these magical banks of knowledge called databases. I entered love story in quotation marks. The next hour fleeted by as I read through poem after poem after quirky fiction that claim to be about love stories.

I compiled a selection of these pieces and would post one every week.  As odd and unrelated as these writings on love may appear to be, humor me. Let’s see if at the end of this exercise, I’ll discover the essence of the love story.

The first selection is “Love Story,” a poem by David Cornel Dejong published in Poetry.

LOVE STORY

by David Cornel Dejong

Tell me your name, I cried to her,
gnawing her neck, but still caressing
her cheeks. Why in God’s careful world
are you dead, before my love built
you a shrine with pigeons and ferns?

Nowhere is anyone who believes in
my racking remorse, not while her arms
are dangling from my bed, and my fists
are filled with her hair, and my knees
are still scalded white with guilt.

Errors in satin gloves, precious
hats, arch-preserver shoes are still
comparing this with the virtue they lost, but they
had no mercy and
no terror to kill what they dropped.

Must I endlessly be beholden,
while even from my ribs hangs the cross
whereon I nailed my flesh so early
so that the soul could cower safely
in the closets of Everyman’s God?

Lend me your name, your blood,
I asked, enfolding her a dozen nights
Her ears listened instead to a dream
smooth men concocted recklessly
from marginalia of dreams and gold.

Source: Poetry, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Jun., 1945), pp. 138-139

Photo credit: Manuel Atienzar

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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