* using ‘like’ and liking it

(a note on motion)

The heart is a thing in motion,

like the stars, like the ocean.



In early 2010, I filed for divorce.  I had never thought I would get married, much less that if I did that it might not work out.  Owning up to a relationship not working hurts no matter what side you are on. I spent the first month of the process reeling in late nights, beer, coffee, and words.

Two nights in particular stick out to me.  I got home one night and read the first of a number of nasty emails from my ex (she had every right).  The turn, though, from confidant to stranger hit hard.  Her words haunted me.  I was stuck between beating myself up and needing to move on.

I spent that night playing around with different phrasings of the above lines.  The original was (embarrassingly enough) something like: the stars are always in motion, the heart with them.  When I came back to the words the next day, I cut much of the free write out and found myself, of all things, rhyming.  At a time in my life when few things were harmonious, here were these two lines wanting to chime.


What I see in these lines is a meeting of the personal with an admission of insignificance.  However vast the heart inside me felt at the time, the stars and ocean were always vaster.

Another thing I see in these lines is the affirmation of a lesson learned: For years I had carried with me something Galway Kinnell had said about simile, how the word ‘like’ pointed to where imagination cut off from reality.  He said it in the context of avoiding simile.  The lesson for me with these lines is that there is a time and place for ‘like’.  In these lines, it needs to be ‘like’ because while, yes, all three things – heart, stars, ocean – are perpetually moving, of the three things listed, the heart is the one thing that eventually ceases.

Mortality as played out in word choice.  Whoa.

Seriously, this distinction, this cut between imagination and reality, lifted the lines from the mire of naivete that rhyming couplets evoke and made them self-aware of that naivete, made them realistic as well as hopeful.


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