I write love poems for a living, even when I am not in love.
I think, sometimes, that’s the hardest part about being a traveling typewriter poet—young couples are always looking to buy a poem about their partner. Sometimes, it’s fine, but other times I want to be bitter, or perhaps, make a sign that reads no love poems, angry poems only. It’s embarrassing to be clicking and clacking on the typewriter’s keys, crafting romance on a piece of 4x6 paper, thinking only about how awful your love life is compared to the love of these two strangers. The best part is when their partner has the same name as an ex lover of mine. Those are my favorite.
One Saturday, though, I was in a local art market somewhere in downtown Wilmington, and a man approached my table with his daughter. He looked older—different from the younger couples I normally wrote love poems for, but nonetheless, still looking for a typewriter poem for his wife.
When his daughter left to browse at the other vendors, I went through the normal routine of my love poem process, asking questions like how did you two meet? What do you love about her? What do you like doing together?
“Oh, we love traveling with each other,” he said, answering one question. “Drinking wine. Eating good food. Even just staying home with a bowl of popcorn and a good movie.”
I always asked one specific question. Sometimes I used it in the poems, but most of the time I was just curious.
“What color does she remind you of and why?” I asked.
This question was the aha moment of every relationship; it was the realization this stranger had about their lover. How they saw them. How they truly felt about them. Sometimes, people said their partner’s favorite color: “red—that’s his favorite.” But, no, I wanted to tell these people that I needed the real shit; I needed them to rack their brains and tell me what kinda love this was. How this person made them feel. What was the color that dripped from their eyeballs and down their arms and connected their souls together? What was that color? Not their favorite color, but that color.
And, for a moment, he just stood there, like the question really mattered to him, so he lost himself in thought. I looked around, too, so I wasn’t just staring at him staring at the wall behind me. I didn’t notice the tears forming in his eyes until I heard him sniffle.
“Yellow—she’s my sunshine.”
I suddenly felt tears forming in my eyes, as if I knew his wife too, as if I also had someone who loved me so much the thought of them just brought me to tears. But I didn’t, and I remembered I didn’t know this woman, but it was clear how his love for her dripped from his eyes and down his cheeks, and I wanted to cry with him. Cry of happiness for him. Cry of sadness for me. Cry of heartbreak for all the times my younger self waited for a moment like this to happen to her—it never did, and in a way, that moment between me and this stranger was healing. He gave me hope that it would happen. That he really saw her as his sunshine. Not because yellow was her favorite color, because she was the color yellow. She was sunshine.
I wrote the poem, and I didn’t see him pick it up. I thought his daughter did. I walked away to get water before I could catch either one of them. I hoped his wife liked it. I hoped she cried with him. I hoped she saw him in the same way as I did: a man in love with her yellow light.
my little sunshine,
i celebrate our love
when we clink
our glasses of wine,
and with a bag of popcorn
and your soul
by my side,
i wish i could freeze
this moment of time.
i’ve dreamt about calling
a woman like you