after the OED

by Despy Boutris

You said it a month after we met.
A week later, we talked about the word:

how inexact the definition,
how easily muddled. An abstract quality

or principle. How easily applied to anything:
you love rosemary, tulips, film. You love

me. To hold dear. Love clarity,
semantics, linguistics. Intense liking,

concern, devotion. Love to fight me
on my usage of pretentious, thriller

versus horror, my labeling you an artist.
You said you wanted more words

to differentiate: eros, agape, storge. I told you
Ancient Persian had eighty words for love;

Sanskrit, ninety-six. To take pleasure
in the existence of.
I said the problem with love

is it’s not always enough, or the word
is devoid of meaning, given too much weight—

a stand-in for more concrete language
or action, the 8.2 miles between my place

and yours. Passion. Attachment. You
resented the word, its insufficiency,

and I wanted to say, When I think of you,
I have plenty more to choose from
: the dream

of us rolling down a hill, grass soft
as your mattress. To be addicted to, partial to.

Texting another song that made me think
of you. I took three weeks to say it back,

the lesbian equivalent to three years.
Roses on your doorstep, gluten-free bread,

a stamped letter in the mail. To offer
(something). A preoccupation.
You asked

if I got home safe; I told you
about my clammy hands. We’ll always love

each other, you said, the night I learned
you were moving back to New York.

You always say the word is too vague,
so I located definitions to use:

To desire. To refuse to part with. To lose.

Despy Boutris’s writing has been published in Copper Nickel, Ploughshares, Crazyhorse, AGNI, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review and elsewhere. Currently, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of The West Review.

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