by Jo Angela Edwins
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
–Anne Sexton, “Small Wire”
A small cough is easy enough
to imagine, although even the very
smallest is often voluntary,
the sort people make in assembly halls,
school-desk rows, or church pews, to catch
a friend’s attention, or hide a rumbling
belly. A small love
is another thing entirely,
less explicable, less exact.
What makes love small?
The size of the thing loved?
You love your Cadillac
more than your cup of tea. Maybe,
but do you love your St. Bernard
more than your newborn baby?
Or is it the size of what does the loving?
Do elephants love more intently than field mice,
whales than goldfish,
linebackers than jockeys?
When gnats mate, do they create
the smallest love of all?
And what of love unprofessed?
The timid lover, unsuspected, uncaressed,
held hostage to his fevered dreams
cannot rightly be called small.
In fact, his love looms giant,
cast like a shadow on a celestial screen
of what could be, or what might have been
had fate been more compliant.
Still, there lies something almost holy
in the thought of a small love
when love by nature seems immense,
in no way quiet or reserved.
If love can be small, it becomes
something everyone can aspire to,
the sort of thing the humblest among us
can somehow claim at some time to deserve.
If it’s never too small to hear or see,
it cannot be asking too much
to taste, or touch,
or hold lightly in our hands this fragrant seed.
Feed it. It can do no less than grow.
“Small Love” was inspired by Anne Sexton’s poem “Small Wire.” The version I read was included in Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems.
Jo Angela Edwins has published poems in various venues including Calyx, New South, Naugatuck River Review, Zone 3, and other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Play, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. She has received poetry awards from the SC Academy of Authors and Poetry Super Highway and is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize, and Bettering American Poetry nominee. She lives and teaches in Florence, SC.