Shall I Compare Thee? Poem BY T. Alan Broughton
According to early Icelandic law it was a serious offense to
address a love poem to a woman, even an unmarried one.
Love prefers the least contact to the greatest distant joy.
If I loved the moon I would not praise
the varied light she casts from night to night,
nor tell her how much she fills the dark and somewhat
when she is not there, when memory only
lifts her above the horizon, pulls her
above me where I lie and wait.
If I loved the earth at twilight,
when mountains are soft contours in the dying light,
when the lake lies silver and still and I wade deeper,
beyond the shallows, until
I am buoyed, afloat and surrounded by her touch,
I would not call her a woman.
Oh no, each thing I praised I would be sure to say
was only what it was, was not what my body
most desired, the other half of my torn self,
was not what I need most when my spirit
wishes to speak without words.
I would say nothing to the woman I loved,
not even in what I write, because I would not,
have others know how she is all
they could want, would not want even
the smallest syllable to lie between us.
T. Alan Broughton
first published in The Southern Review, vol. 37, no. 3,