'I love you without knowing how or when this world will end'
Craig Santos Perez packs into this love sonnet, 'Love in a Time of Climate Change', echoes of many famous love poems, from Robert Browning’s 'How Do I Love Thee (Sonnet 43)', to Shakespeare’s 'Sonnet 18', to Neruda’s 'Sonnet XVII'. In the title, he alludes wittily to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. But to what end, one may ask? To remind us of the persistence of love through times of catastrophe and change over the course of history, and to remind us that in clever and sensitive hands, a “recycled” love song can seem fresh current and deliciously urgent.
LOVE IN A TIME OF CLIMATE CHANGE
by Craig Santos Perez
I don’t love you as if you were rare earth metals,
conflict diamonds, or reserves of crude oil that cause
war. I love you as one loves the most vulnerable
species: urgently, between the habitat and its loss.
I love you as one loves the last seed saved
within a vault, gestating the heritage of our roots,
and thanks to your body, the taste that ripens
from its fruit still lives sweetly on my tongue.
I love you without knowing how or when this world
will end. I love you organically, without pesticides.
I love you like this because we’ll only survive
in the nitrogen rich compost of our embrace,
so close that your emissions of carbon are mine,
so close that your sea rises with my heat.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Carlos Santos Perez, 'Love in a Time of Climate Change' from Habitat Threshold (Omnidawn Publishing, 2020.) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.