Obsessive love inspires a torrent of conflicted emotions in these heartfelt poems.
Love, Makhadmi writes in “I Love Love,” detonates “like the alpha phase of an atomic bomb,” and the 99 poems she gathers here register the searing heat, abject surrender and toxic fallout that ensue. The latter two predominate in her first section, “Poems of Painful Love,” addressed by a besotted woman—in “Raindrops” she wonders, “How can my life have meaning / When the sole purpose of my existence is to love you?”—to a nameless, and often heartless, man. “My stomach fills with pain you’ve left me in,” she keens to her cruelly absent lover in “Drown” before continuing: “I drown in tears that have fallen from my lashes; / Like a seal, I can’t keep up with killer whales.” In “Day and Night,” her unhinged anguish turns to self-victimization: “I cut my flesh to give relief to the constant agony in my heart.” In “Pain,” the tears and blood dry up under a hot anger: “To taste your pain excites me; / To hurt you is my mission. / Oh, how senseless I can be, / And send you to a mortician.” Makhadmi’s dark, repetitive, incantatory images of blood, tears and rainfall lift in the concluding section, “Poems of Sweet Love.” Here the woman’s devotion remains self-immolating—“I would sacrifice my happiness for you alone; / Like a wounded fox, I would lie on train tracks,” she vows in “Sacrifice”—but in “No Boundaries” it yields a quiet joy—“Like the beauty of a flamingo, / My love for you is never ending”—and in “To Know You”—“My heart pitter patters with excitement…Because to know you is to love you”—a sunny lyricism. Makhadmi’s unwavering focus on her narrator’s inner feelings often turns the figure of the lover into a cipher, yet it works: her poetry vividly conveys a certain rapturous kind of love that blocks out everything but the heart’s desire.
An intense, tragic, but ultimately hopeful accounting of the price—and value—of passion.