Love and Its Many Stories: Valentine's Day Edition

We had Hooligan artists show us the different ways in which love is molded:

Courtesy of Kat Freydl

Courtesy of Kat Freydl

By Kat Freydl

here is the thing, love. people like us–we fall in love recklessly, passionately, with the sort of zeal that skirts perilously close to lunacy (the kind that scares us both). we gave our hearts away to people who used them like bullets, like shrapnel. like graveyard dirt packed into scarred fists with bloody knuckles and a tremor. they were returned to us split apart and glued back together and missing pieces, like that japanese pottery that’s shattered and put back together and filled in with gold, except instead of gold we got nightmares and instead of museum exhibits we got the staring, the trembling, the bruised up joke of an organ in the palms of our hands. it goes like this. we hold hands and i stroke my thumb over yours every once in a while. know that this is coping. know that i am making sure you are still there. i like it when you jump into my lap because it’s hard to forget that you’re there when the warm weight of you is keeping me from floating away, when you laugh with your whole body in that way that you do and your hair tickles my nose and I’m laughing too without fully understanding why. know that i argue when you wrap me in your scarves and take away my chocolate milk because you know it makes me sick and kiss my forehead and force me to eat regular meals, but in the quietest corners of my heart, I’m smiling. it is warm, and flowers bloom in my chest. know that when I text you a sarcastic I miss you seconds after you’ve gone, I’m only half-joking. I feel most myself when my hand is in yours, your head on my shoulder while you talk about boys or kittens or anywhere houses or anything at all, really. when your shoulders shake with laughter and shake mine, too. when you hug me to your chest and just for a second I feel small, but not in the way i always have–in this new, warm way, a small part of something big and whole. there are days when you shine like the sun, and days when you’re the moon, waning crescent, something mournful but so, so beautiful. I love those sunny days, but I am acquainted with the night. I love them both. with their light, i don’t need to catch hold of anything.

Photo by Morgan Martinez

Photo by Morgan Martinez

When By Jac Morrison

in the morning as you slip your shirt over the expanse of your chest i feel your pending exit knotting itself between my vertebrae.

when you are going you pull my spine with you. sneak out with half my skeleton. drag it behind your bicycle like a playing card between your spokes.

i lock the door and a humming silence takes your place,

silence reminds me you are temporary,

reminds me someday I will lock the door behind you and it will be the last time,

reminds me someday I will not wonder when you are coming home because someday you will not come home.

when you go i will remember your hands first. hands much larger than mine, capturing my palms in their expanse, keeping my shivering fingers steady in the cold, holding my face with a touch that was somehow both gentle and bold. hands that said stay with me with their embrace on my knee, when I was small and shrinking into my bones and your fingers pulled me back with empathy.

hands that whispered i will not fix you

hands that sighed you are not broken

when you go I will remember how you looked at me. not when I was beautiful and easy to swallow, but when I was swollen and sobbing. when my sadness was an ocean you parted like a disciple of God. i will remember how i could see love in the lines of your face even when my vision was blurred with saltwater. i will remember your eyes locked to mine, refusing to break until my heartbeat steadied.

eyes that whispered i will not leave you

eyes that sighed you are not alone

when you go I will remember your laugh like a lullaby. let it lull me to sleep when you are hundreds of miles west, too far for my arms to wrap around your broad shoulders, too far to stroke your spine with my open palm.

when you go I will remember you singing in my shower. how the tile walls carried the baritone of your voice across my apartment with ease. how i never told you i could hear you perfectly out of fear that you would stop singing.

when you go I will remember your lips on my neck. I will remember your eskimo kisses and your unapologetic softness. I will remember your voice whispering you’re beautiful and then laughing, sternly don’t tell anyone. I will remember your head on my chest. I will remember your little spoon. I will remember your rough and tumble. I will remember your sensitive heart. I will remember your steady hands.

when you go you can take my love with you.

keep it strapped to the rack on your bicycle, or wrapped around the pendant on your neck, or tucked inside your breast pocket.

know that if you ever come home you can unfold it like a love-letter, and bring it to my door step. watch it sweep across the space between us,

and take its rightful place

weaved between the parts of you

I have refused to forget.

Courtesy of  Morgan Martinez

Courtesy of Morgan Martinez

By Morgan Martinez

On the days when I lay barefoot on the floor
of my temporary sunroom,
I like to imagine you as fruit.
The lines in your hands,
are the stems
to everything I’ve ever
wanted to taste.
On the days where I could not
promise you
the sweetness
inside of me,
when I could no longer count on my insides
to make up for the months of fight that I’ve let cripple me,
I like to imagine you as fruit.
You laid there,
beside me,
with my hand
on your heart.
You laid there,
beside me,
belly full of peaches.
I’ve told you once,
and I’ll tell you again.
Love isn’t supposed to be
this sweet.


My Poor Valentine By Sung Yim

Almost every morning, you take the dogs out one by one. Up and down the stairs before work while I lie in bed pretending that you don’t know I’m pretending to be asleep.

When you kiss me goodbye or good morning, you flit into view like a hummingbird and it always takes me by surprise. I imagine we’ll be married in twenty years and I’ll still feel startled. Like the entire notion that you chose to meet me, chose to be with me, stay long enough to kiss me on some Saturday morning before work is a miracle. Sometimes these small miracles are too dubious to accept. Sometimes I shrink away from you.

You watch all this clutter gather in every room of the house. Used glasses and dishes, scraps of paper, old drafts, tangled clumps of yarn, dirty laundry. You come home some nights to me curled up on the couch, unwashed in pajamas or the same sweater I’ve been wearing all week, staring off at the TV. You come home after twelve-hour shifts and still you might do a load of dishes. You might bring home dinner. You might have the presence of mind to touch me like again, it’s something new and special. Sometimes you might not.

You love me so much and it’s such a waste.

I never had the luxury of trusting love for what it is, growing up. Sometimes when we fight, you remind me: I know you’ve had a hard life. You can read all about me under Child Neglect and Abuse in the DSM-5 and my mother will probably tell you we went through some “dark times.”

I know the people who love us can hurt us the most intimately. It doesn’t mean you will, but it means sometimes when we fight, you say but I love you more than anything and I don’t know how the hell that’s relevant. I say love doesn’t mean shit. You say it’s why I married you and I say so what.

I’ve had to learn that I can love someone but it’s not enough to undo their violence, that nothing can undo damage, that someone loving me can’t make me function like I should but can’t. I’ve had to learn that love isn’t enough to do or undo much. You loving me won’t help.

It’s just a word, isn’t it? What’s inherent about love? What does love promise any of us, besides trying our best? Sometimes our best is abuse. Sometimes our best is failure.

But here I am. Waiting for you to get home. Doing my best.

Today might not be the day I vacuum the floor. It might not be the day I let you see my body without cringing. It might not be the day I recognize what I should be grateful for. Some days I might. Some days I won’t.

Today might not be the day you listen without interrupting. Today might not be the day you kiss me like you want me, or the day I feel a kiss like that. Today might not be the day you hear what I need. Some days you might. Some days you won’t.

So we love each other, so what?

Love won’t magic away trauma, love won’t correct a chemical imbalance, it won’t fix our addictions, walk our dogs for us, fold the laundry, prop up our sense of self-worth.

But I guess it gives us permission to try. To practice. To learn the art of supporting each other. It’s our opportunity to learn the phrases we each need to hear, learn the gestures that give us what we need. Love is indefinite second chances. Love is clumsy. Love is education.

So I love you, Valentine. I might be damaged and dangerously pragmatic. I might function only half the time. You might be damaged too, and dangerously frivolous, but you might function the other half of the time. Or not.

I’ll keep doing my best.

Courtesy of  Kiele Twarowski

Courtesy of Kiele Twarowski

It Happens Mostly by Jaclyn Jermyn

Purgatory must look like the Starbucks under the Diversey Brown Line with the fake leather chairs because I’m still here waiting.

I test the seams. Creating divots under force—

Thinking about his vegetarianism and his black leather jacket and the salad I’ll most likely make for dinner and eat alone if the lettuce hasn’t gone bad because that’s what you do if you’re trying to be better.

My moon cactus Esmerelda started rotting at the same time he stopped responding to my texts.

Maybe I should let her linger—like a dog you refuse to put down for all the wrong reasons. I’ll let her shrivel up so I can see what happens. She’ll still prick you if you get close enough.

It was a gift from him last summer when I was still waking up warm, soaked in sunlight. I made coffee for the both of us. He came home from work with Esmerelda in a blue glazed pot. That’s what it felt like—warm, soaked in sunlight.

I hope to God the house is empty when I come back. 

I think, no, maybe not. 

God has nothing worthwhile to do with me.

I’ve started praying. It happens mostly at night—an ache in my legs that becomes a numbness in my chest. My twin bed moved to a corner. 

I lean into it.

I wonder if praying feels the same to everybody.

Photo by Rivka Yeker

Photo by Rivka Yeker

Feeling Again by Rivka Yeker

I have this urge to lock my lips
with anyone that wants to feel
the particles of my skin, I
want to wriggle my feet
into your feet and feel
the way your scorching hands
melt my freezing fingertips, I
want to feel my buzzed head float
into your mind, 
as my thoughts unravel every word
that I didn’t mean to say.
I feel like tugging your secrets
into my hidden analogies, I want to make
metaphors of your compliments, because
I feel like they are worth more than
you give yourself credit for, I feel like
a loose tooth in the midst of firm and steady ones
I am wobbly and begging to be ripped out,
I am the blood gushing from gums,
pouring into a cotton ball that soaks up
every piece of advice I want to give you,
you are the painless transition from
a numbing existence, 
I fell asleep to Vicodin and
woke up to you.

By Kiele Twarowski

i keep having dreams about people i do not love. 
two nights ago i slept in a stranger's bed that felt
like relief. it was softer than i was expecting. last
night i slept in my own bed, waking up in the
morning to find my hand outstretched, reaching
for something. you asked me what it felt like. 
i said it felt like longing and letting go. 

quiet love by ian kerstetter

after hot days when i get home with aching feet,
i crave a quiet love.
in moments when time breathes a little and i can see the blue sky,
i feel a quiet love waiting for me.

let me braid your hair,
let my body brace yours
when you cannot hold yourself up.
let my quietness be permission to laugh between tears,
or laugh at all.
feel free to linger in the moment between thirst and the first sip of hot tea;
steep for as long as you like.
i’ll warm you back up if you get cold.

water me.
pour me your quiet love (clumsy morning kisses
reciting once again the shape of your thumbnail
forehead pressed against belly against back)
and i will bear whatever kind of love you need. 
let me see a little sunrise at any time of day,
and i will be loud as summer, supple as rain.

mother, father, brother:
know that hugs and smiles
can never say enough,
but they’ll have to do.
know that my quiet is a deafening rushing
of the river that lives in my head.
i will fail to ever tell you how much i love you,
but let’s go outside. the garden,
will make words form.

and to myself, 
take time to not know what comes next.
the moments of silence in the morning before talking
flowers in vases in windows on the walk home.
remember that your love is for you, too
there’s plenty, and you can have the first bite.
whenever you need some quiet love
give some away. breathe and feel the light in your belly. 
watch the sky. care to your needs.
make little love
and find comfort in hot breakfast, in the dappled light of a train station, in noticing somebody’s laugh, in extra blankets, in a song on repeat.

i am learning.
(quietness takes practice, like everything else)

By Brian Martin

You left when I turned asleep, and refused to eat the meal you’d made. My mouth became an absence of flesh, like lakes are an absence of earth: you wanted to kiss me, and I don’t know why you want to kiss me, I don’t know. There is always something missing where I look. My body is always getting farther away.

But your absence makes me sad. Your image fools me, lovely now as it vibrates in my eye: doors which are locked by their hinges. The world blurs and recalls the cool detachment with which I watch you cry, jumprope, and dying might mean never having to actually grow up. You could adorn the silence.

You could cut stems off some roses and place them neatly down my throat.

Te quiero by Alyssa Carabez

Te quiero.
I love you.
I want you.
Both are true.
But first I need you to understand:
want and need
are at least a universe apart.
Mi pájaro raro,
your sweet silent song,
reaches me
even when your wings have taken you far away.
Mi corazón
never the cause to my tears;
always there to dry them.

But I chose you.
Te quiero.
Want and need,
they are a world of difference.
You make me feel like it isn't a chore to love me.
Eres la sensación
de despertarse
en la madrugada
en una cálida cama de mantas y darse cuenta de que no hay una necesidad
que levantarse.

By Annie Zidek

spare me the homily;
skip to the part where we drink wine
together around a sullied table
and you embellish me with graceless compliments: 
a stark contrast from my undeniable impurities,
stain my shoulders with merlot, 
and stain my cheeks too.
that doesn’t take much,
just a brush of your fingers,
my own personal incense,
my own sense of you.
i saw your eyes turn gold,
the patron saint of matching beats,
of transcribing my heartbeat.
sing me psalms and kiss my palms.
play my heartstrings. can you hear your name?
now stop.
listen to the choirs of lovers:
heaven is collapsing, turning in on itself.
did you know black holes moan
when they fall into each other?
only god knew that,
but Einstein tells bohemians he hears the
universe whisper millions of years away.
I hear the universe breathing,and it sounds an awful like you

when you're drunk on wine and your eyes turn gold.

headfirst in the shallow end by siobhan thompson

i loved you from the very first moment i saw you-i swear, i didn’t even have time to swoon before i was crossing the ts and dotting the is on a contract with Aphrodite, my signature witnessed by Eros.

and isn’t that just wonderful? isn’t that just fantastic? do you think so? do you think like i think?

just think of it! of every possibility and every combination and every chance and every happenstance there happened to be one where i saw your face, where i was swept so far off my feet that i landed somewhere in the stars— not our stars, understand, not the ones that preside over this world, this planet but stars from some far out place where things make sense and every time a son leaves his house he comes safely back home to his mother at the end of the night.

i knew, you know. i knew right away.

as soon as you opened your heart mouth and sang your sacred hymnsi knew, i knew--

and i never asked myself again, because the answer was always right there, on the tip of my tongue

and written across my chest.

only of you, you know.

but when i reached out to touch you, there was nothing there. and no matter where i looked, i could not find the physical manifestation of every soft word we’ve ever spoken, every dream we’ve ever had. it was a disappearance. it was a loss. it was like waking up without my bones. waking up without my eyes. waking up alone.

so i wished for you in fountains across the world while i searched for you. i flipped shiny coins into stagnant pools and gurgling fountains left in ancient ruins. i blew away the disembodied eyelashes of everyone i met, in every continent and silently passed the time between 11:10 and 11:12 in a state of rapture, darting from time zone to time zone to live it over and over, the minute where i could wish for you and someone was listening, somewhere.

i took to the streets and walked until i found you. i walked until my shoes wore away to nothing, until my skin grew calloused from the concrete beneath my feet and my muscles crept like vines around my legs and i felt shivers and burns and bumps in my breathing.

i am overcome with you and i loved you before i knew how much love could hurt so i dove headfirst into the shallow end, turned the brightness all the way up even though the battery was low. it was easy to love you. it was like i’d been trained for years. it was the only thing i knew how to do. i could solve the equation of your eyes much easier than i could solve for x, and i could map out your angles much easier than i could name the capitals. but i didn’t think i was missing anything, really, because you have everything in the lining of your skin and passion lives in the dust in your eyelashes and the moon shines from up your fingernails.

i will love you and have that love to fall back on. i will love you forever. that is not a promise, nor a threat. it is a fact. you are in my blood and you are within me and throughout me. you are the scar on the back of my hand that shines in the yellow light of my bedside lamp. you are in every love song i’ve ever heard, and even the ones i haven’t. you are my darkly painted nails and you are very much my voice every time it dares to sing

i don’t feel it too often anymore, but sometimes there is a shield around my heart, an icy barrier that prevents me from looking into my valves and veins and counting my heartbeats to make sure everything is in order/

but i’m feeling it, now. there are pinpricks behind my eyes. there is a weight in my chest and a pressure in my throat. i feel an urge to get up and run. i’m discovering, still, new edges in your voice. knots in the silk. pops in the elastic stretch of you to me. i am hearing you like i’ve never heard anything.

this is the old sadness creeping in.

this is the old desperation rooting in my bones.

i want to take to the streets and walk until i find you, and walk until my shoes wear away to nothing, until my skin grows calloused from concrete beneath my feet and

muscles creep like vines around my legs.

i am feeling shivers and burns and bumps in my breathing.

i am overcome with you.


Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

Act of Self-Love by Mikey Jakubowski 

I’m not hung over but it feels something like it, like this skin doesn’t belong to me, like someone placed tacks under it.

But I’m writing, so that’s something, right?

Last night I told you I did not want to be your friend anymore. You don’t try, I told you. Only I do, only I have.

It’s an act of self-love, I said, love unto me by me for me because everything else has been for you.

I’m being forthright so that’s something, right?

When my mother tells me I don’t take care of myself, I think of the holes I put into myself trying to make space for you

and how you never came to fill them, how I confused loving you with hurting me.

But I’ll still think of you and I’ll still want to hold your hand. I’ll still be in my room and remember how you held me

so tight that my depression crawled away for a bit.

I’ll still look at you and remember how you taste in my lungs, how burn and how soothe, how love. How life.

I’ll stare at the world and wonder where I ever was when I first fell in love with you, where

I’ll be when I stop.

I wish it could be next to you.

Photo by Rivka Yeker

Photo by Rivka Yeker

Happy V-Day by Rivka Yeker 

They dressed up love poems with
milk chocolate and red bows, like
love could be told through taste
and sight, like love could be explained
at all.

The world doesn’t need another love poem,
and I am not planning on giving it one,
but there are times where my longing
becomes desperate, 
almost unbearable.

Yet on Valentine’s Day,
I rest easy. I rest with
exhaled breath and my own
body sprawled across my
bed, as if I am celebrating
how full it is, how unbroken,
how free.

Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

A Portrait of my Mother by Jonathan Burkhalter 

No one brings her flowers.
Her head weighs

one ounce per worry,

totaling an exact ton on Empirical scale.

She sold jewelry
for my shoes,
her sanity

for my happiness, has
given with
every exhale,
without want

as if everyone were

the house still creaks
in the wind,

only her
bedroom light

to stay till morning

Courtesy of  Lora Mathis

Courtesy of Lora Mathis

spitting out want and need by Lora Mathis

I love you
and I think that means I need you.
Or maybe I’ve just shoved those statements
next to each other for so long
that I think they are a part of one married sentence. 

without you,
I go on breathing.
My lungs may slam into my chest
and whine for awhile,
but they work. Without you,
I still work. 

I go to bed, I cry to friends.
I make myself dinner
as usual. And if the absence of you
keeps me in bed for a few nights
with a growling stomach,
it is okay. I get up.
Eventually, I get up. 

I love you,
and I don’t need you.
But I want you.
How I want you.

Photo by Annie Zidek

Photo by Annie Zidek

I Have Been Writing of Sadness for Too Long by Robi Foli

What does a love poem sound like? 
Does it taste like sweet tea when its spoken?
I think a love poem must feel like
the water of an abandoned creek, 
licking the pores of skin
after years of loneliness. 

It rained in Southern California today, 
quenching the most desolate river beds, 
making them feel whole for a moment. 
Is that what it feels like to be read a love poem
for the first time?

Photo by Haleigh Catalano 

Photo by Haleigh Catalano