Valentine’s Day

posted in: Poetry | 0

Three poems about love, from Sheila Golburgh Johnson, Virginia Anderson and Ebby Malmgren.
6 minutes


Sheila Golburgh Johnson said, “I am always astonished by the difference between love as it appears in popular fiction and the reality of it. Or maybe what astonishes me is the difference between the romantic experiences of youth and the way romance is experienced in middle age.” Here’s Sheila Golburgh Johnson’s poem “Myself in Love.”

Why is it my sexual adventures          
never match                
those in fiction?              
Why does the young man      
show up as unwanted as water      
on the floor
and on the very next
sheds his pants as he follows     
her up the stairs because
she’s baking a fruitcake and
the aroma in the kitchen                              
arouses them both?
My cake never aroused a man to do anything
but eat it and
I would never lead him
in the full awful knowledge that
the cake would have              
to be tested in       
ten minutes     
and might   
need another five.
Anyway, how does     
a man shed his pants                         
climbing stairs?       
I have known men                
to stumble and trip
shedding pants beside                       
their own beds.
I would feel compelled to follow
the fellow             
upstairs to cushion
the fall    
if he fell which might result
in a tender and bruised      
not in the mood       
heap on the floor

 “Myself in Love” by Sheila Golburgh Johnson from Passager’s 21st anniversary anthology Burning Bright

Virginia Anderson started writing poetry in her 60s. Here’s an excerpt from her longer poem “Time to Speak of Him.”

When he and I met, it was complete and full of joy. We’d go deep into
a forest or along a shore. We followed trails or climbed mountains We needed no one else. Now and then we
would find stars. He would make up jokes and we’d laugh, and say they were stars. Oh yes! We knew stars
when we saw them! And he would sing. He was a singing man! And he was good at singing. On a three day
army pass, he’d thumb a ride north to meet me. Truck drivers were the ones who usually picked him up. He had
to sing for his ride. As long as he continued to sing, he’d have a ride. And they’d sing with him. He loved to
sing. He knew all the songs the drivers liked best: Old Man River, The Man Who Stirred His Coffee with His Thumb, Stormy Weather. 
He never lost his ride, because he was good at singing, good at jokes and laughter. The
drivers liked him. AND I WAS IN LOVE WITH HIM FOREVER. And if he were alive today, we’d meet and go 
back to that time no matter how old we might be, we’d go back to that time together and be alive all over again.

“Time to Speak of Him.” Virginia Anderson from Passager Issue 61.

Ebby Malmgren helped edit Passager for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s. She’s also a wonderful potter and clay artist. Her work, her insights, and her spirit have inspired all of the Passager staff and board members who have known her. On Valentine’s Day this year, Ebby turns 100. Here’s her poem “Stone Dream” from Passager Issue 29.

When I became stone
I thought I’d be lonely
for how could I know

that violets would cluster
and whisper in shade at my base.
That lichen would hug me

and field mice and earthworms
and beetles would tunnel beneath me
to winter down. Or that thunder

and lightning would gash me
before rain began with a soft
drumming sound. Or know primrose

would sprout on my southern side.
Or know that I’d go on breathing
and dreaming. That time is both

taker and giver and in the year
of the hundred year flood
I’d dance, once again in the river.

“Stone Dream” by brand new centenarian Ebby Malmgren.

To purchase any of these issues, subscribe to Passager, or learn more about the press and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.

Before we go, this from Passager’s managing editor Christine Drawl: 

“Passager is a small nonprofit press with a big mission. As the youngest Passager staff member, I am continually surprised by writers decades older than me who are putting their work into print for the first time. If you think older writers are only relevant to older readers, I’m here to say that these voices have given me a tremendous amount of hope for my own future. I used to fear that creativity and discovery were things we left behind as children, but these remarkable people have shown me that these are things we always carry with us, and it’s never too late to re-ignite them. You can help inspire others with a donation to Passager in any amount. Go to, and click on Donate at the top of the page.”