The Word for Love

The Word for Love
A. J. Odasso
For Rumi and Shams, wherever they wander.


The Word for Love

The word for love was not love,
or even kiss. It was bliss
beyond the dust of the road
on which you met him, blinded

by the last rose-shaded flames
of sunset. Let the desert stones
that will in time shape his death
be your comfort; find the place

where the ones who know the words
for touch and wine and even God
have hidden themselves from the face

of hate, and there

partake of grace.



I see you now, dear wanton. On your back
you pray, begging, sand-scoured lips athirst
for verse. You rode in, dark stranger, wrecked
the poet’s books; I never knew. What I saw
came much later, trysts and your death. Now,
there is this weaving: a shadowed room above
in the eaves of the inn where he led you, laid
you down upon silk-shot wool, birds and trees
knotted fierce as your breath. Your fingers caught
in scattered fringe, pulled taut as your hips to his.



It is what love will do, what it demands
of fools who fall. Meet insult with miracle,
miracle with wonder: you will wax dumb
with the weight of his stare. And much later
you will sink, sink and spin, spin and curse
the day you were thus blessed. This night is
for the moment what you want, but by dawn
all of Konya will talk; their great teacher, this
lawyer lost, is a lover of men. Just for now
your voice is silent, your whirling heart his.


No Words

And there is no word for loss
or for tears, no balm for pulse
stopped in its tracks, no wish
to halt your screaming— Shams,

come back! No sigh for grave
I can’t visit by daylight, no voice
left in the void. You’d drown
your books if it would save him

from scorching sand. Touch
and wine and God and love
were his. There is no word

for comfort, no word

for this.

A. J. Odasso’s poetry has appeared in a wide variety of strange and wonderful publications, including Sybil’s Garage, Mythic Delirium, Jabberwocky, Cabinet des Fées, MidnightEcho, Not One of Us, Dreams & Nightmares, Goblin Fruit,Strange Horizons, and Stone Telling. Her début collection, Lost Books (Flipped Eye Publishing, 2010), was nominated for the 2010 LNPA Best New Poet Award and for the 2011 Forward Prize, and was also a finalist for the 2011 People’s Book Prize. Her two chapbooks, Devil’s Road Down and Wanderlust, are available from Maverick Duck Press. You can find her online at (and on Twitter under the same name).

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