Valentine’s Day

posted in: Aging, Poetry | 0

Embracing the sweet, and sometimes bitter, temptation of love this season, with poems by Michael Schneider, John Davis and Rachel Michaud.
6 minutes


This edition of Burning Bright is dedicated to our valentines, whoever and wherever they may be. The good news — or bad news, depending on your perspective — is that we’re Passager, not Hallmark, so our valentines poems aren’t going to be all mushy and lovey-dovey. 

Remember those days long ago when you were just discovering lust and romance for the first time, those dances in the gym, those moments behind the bleachers at the football games, the indecision in the movie theater about whether or not to let your hand touch that other person’s hand, that person who was so out of your league… but you could dream, couldn’t you? 

Mike Schneider said, “She was a cheerleader, out of my league, but I had a big crush. I could feel she liked me, though there was no hope romantically. I’d hoped to reminisce about some of this with her at a class reunion, but she died from M.S. before I could do that.”  Here’s his poem “About Time.” 

Accordion bleachers rolled back  
flat to the wall where nervous boys  

clustered & postured to hide how much  
we didn’t know. Ceiling lights dimmed  

to moonglow, up came Vinton’s velvet  
tenor. I mustered inner stuff. You & I fit  

each other, oozed across the gym floor like  
torn edges of continents rejoined. We moved  

& didn’t in slow surge of molten time.  
Your dress was blue & shiny. I think  

it was made of glue. Your soft places  
said unspoken Welcome. My leg, how  

did it get here? — I wondered. Why  
this rush of sunrise inside me? Your  

eyes, also blue, deeper than I had world  
to know, said Dreamer. I faltered. You  

tugged me closer, shore to lapping sea,  
warmth at my ear, a voice: About time  

you learned to slow dance. Why does  
music end? I was never more endlessly  

seventeen. Words that love to play 
hide & seek come in too late to tell you.  

Michael Schneider’s poem “About Time” from Passager Issue 61

John Davis writes about that same nervous anticipation from the other end of the spectrum. He says that several years after his divorce, he reentered the dating world. He said, “As I grew closer to a certain woman, I knew our romance had approached the kissing stage. After a long time of not kissing, did I still have it in me?” Here’s his poem “You Slide Your Wishes into Your Lips.” 

When you haven’t kissed anyone in three years,  
you wonder what will happen when you lean in.  
Will your lips panic or slide a bumpy slide  
against her lips, a cross country ski glide  
that goes awry? What if you slide off, do a face plant?  
It’s a full yard sale on the couch with bumped 
heads that bruise. You fetch two ice packs. This 
is not the cushy cuddle you had planned. These  
are not the moans of lust but the groans 
and throbs of knocking headaches. You stare 
at her and wonder if love is this tough. Ice has  
burned a brain freeze into your scalp. You expect  
lightning bolts to scar your skin and romance 
to be permanent agony like the eagle pecking  
Prometheus. But now on the couch 
after peach pie and cinnamon spice, you notice  
the cut hydrangeas give off an amber glow 
as smooth as her skin. You touch her knee. 
May I kiss you?  

“You Slide Your Wishes into Your Lips,” John Davis’s poem from Passager Issue 71

And finally, a valentine not to a romantic interest, but to a child. Rachel Michaud said that  
after years of infertility, she gave birth to a healthy son, and even as she applauded every step he took, she was also aware that every step took him further away from her. 

I found a deep well.  
I keep hauling up  
love like water 
one more day.  

When you cried 
I answered word, touch, milk.  
We both obeyed 
the clock of hunger.  

Your face became  
the sky. 
I learned to read 
the signs of weather.  

Today you dress yourself  
and leave the house. 
I wait for you 
to bring back news.  

What I didn’t teach you  
the world teaches you.  
What I do not know  
you teach me.  

Rachel Michaud, “Mother to Son” from Passager Issue 69

To subscribe to or learn more about Passager 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. 

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.