a poem for the joy of the moment

Flirtation, by Rita Dove

After all, there’s no need
to say anything

at first. An orange, peeled
and quartered, flares

like a tulip on a wedgewood plate
Anything can happen.

Outside the sun
has rolled up her rugs

and night strewn salt
across the sky. My heart

is humming a tune
I haven’t heard in years!

Quiet’s cool flesh—
let’s sniff and eat it.

There are ways
to make of the moment

a topiary
so the pleasure’s in

walking through.


Once I was talking to a friend about the peculiar bittersweet-ness of romantic possibilities that never come to fruition. ‘I didn’t expect anything from it, and it was lovely while it was happening,’ I said, ‘but it’s always just a little bit sad – that moment when the messages fizzle out or one of you gets busy or is in another place, and after a certain point there’s no pressing reason to contact each other anymore. Or you’re embarrassed to. Or you begin wondering whether you entirely misinterpreted the situation. Or maybe you do see them again, by design or accident, but you don’t know what to say, and neither do they, and then you go off on your separate ways, still not quite sure what happened. Maybe it’s better to leave it unfinished, so that it can never end badly.’

‘I suppose it can be sad,’ he said, ‘but even if it doesn’t lead to anything, it’s just like. A breath of pure hope.’

This poem is a celebration of that breath of pure hope. Dove eludes ‘saying anything / at first’ by focusing instead on vivid, scattered images – of the orange, the night sky, silence as ‘cool flesh’. Despite all the fear and pain and messiness of love, this poem urges us to make joy of the moment, the ‘walking through’ – no matter what might or might not come after it.

All my love,


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