I ♥ Life

We passed a man by the side of the highway with two I ♥ Jesus signs that were bigger than cars and we laughed because his deep need to show those signs to the people on the highway was so passionate and desperate and extreme there was no bodily function besides laughing. He was testifying, sure, but it felt really emotional to us in that moment. Who holds a sign for personal survival? I’m certainly not. I love poetry and I love love, but I don’t stand in the wind with all my luck. My body will not shut down if I’m not performing a specific duty. Or am I holding an “I ♥ Poetry” sign as I walk around composing lines in my head and notebook? Stealing each subway ride to read a few lines? Is that my big, big sign? Can people read it all over my face? Am I standing on the BQE without even realizing it? Am I in the rain holding on to language? Is my makeup running as pee and blood drip down my leg like a damn animal? Am I pneumonic to you? Is there a virus cracking open, a wet yolk in my eye for all to see? Is there an egg growing out of my flesh as conspicuous? There’s a YouTube video of a woman who has raised a duck since it’s hatched. It imprinted upon her and now she puts it in cute sweaters with little ♥s on it and it sits on the dashboard when they go out in the car and it watches TV with her when it’s night time. When a reporter asked her “Why?” she had a duck living with her, she answered “Why not?” as her whole face lit up like the morning. She was holding an I ♥ sign too. She lives a truth. If she wants to mother a duck, she should. And she does. I don’t live as honestly as the I ♥ Jesus sign holder or the Dashboard Duck lady. I want to. But I’m so lazy. And aren’t you? There has to be an easier way. What cracks open my smile? What is my secret that’s no secret at all? What would make me stand out in the rain 40 hours a week? To live dispassionately is its own sign. The I ♥ life is not to be confused with insanity. It’s sanity itself. It’s the only. It’s love. That heart is not weak.

Amy Lawless is the author of two collections of poems, most recently My Dead (Octopus Books, 2013). Her audio chapbook, from BROADAX, is just out from Black Cake Records. Her prose has recently appeared in Poor Claudia's Ten Sources and Literary Mothers. She grew up in Boston, and lives in Manhattan, where she teaches writing.
*Photo courtesy of Lynn Friedman.
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