Tete-a-tete Archives

An eclectic sampling of my award-winning humor columns. New columns can be read online at www.nashuatelegraph.com on the first Thursday of the month, with columns posted here later in the month.

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Tete-a-tete: Love poetry gone bad, or why I’m still not allowed to use matches

Nothing inspires a man to write poetry quite like his love for a woman. Consider Dante and Beatrice, Petrarch and Laura, Shakespeare and his Dark Lady.

Unless you’re one of the aforementioned great poets, artistry is considered secondary to the successful communication of emotion. This includes ensuring that emotion reaches its intended recipient. Otherwise, such a poem could ignite the wrong kind of passionate response.

When I was in high school, I worked part-time at a drug store. One day, I was cleaning up the cosmetics section, located near the front door, when a young man with whom I was casually acquainted walked in.

We chatted for a bit, but it was clear he had something on his mind. After a few minutes of small talk, he handed me a piece of folded-up notebook paper.

“I don’t know why I’m giving this to you,” he said. He uttered a few more variations on that theme before awkwardly departing.

Perplexed, I unfolded the paper. It was a love poem.

It wasn’t the most skillfully written poem, and it didn’t really describe me – I recall something about dark angels and brooding – but I was flattered to receive it as no one had ever written something like that for me before.

One of my co-workers, who happened to be a friend of the aforementioned gentleman, asked what he had given me. I showed him the poem and expressed my confusion at being its recipient.

“I’m surprised he gave it to you, too,” he replied, “because he wrote it for a girl who’s a cashier at the grocery store next door.”

Ah. So that explained why the poem didn’t really suit me. It was about someone else.

Later that evening, I told Mom about the strange interlude in my workday and showed her the poem. Though the poem wasn’t written for me, I expressed my intent to keep it, simply because it was my first time receiving such a missive.

Mom advised me to throw it away, encouraging me to think of my future husband. If, years from now, he and I were going through my high school keepsakes, would I want him to come across that poem and think that it and its writer had meant something to me?

I agreed it would be best to get rid of the poem, and took it upstairs to my room to dispose of it. The more I thought about it, the more upset I became. Why on earth would someone write a love poem for one girl and then give it to a completely different girl? I mean, just because she and I worked in the same retail plaza didn’t mean we had anything in common.

I shredded the poem into tiny little pieces, letting them fall one by one into my plastic trash can. That didn’t seem to be enough, so in the grand cinematic tradition of teen movie break-up scenes, I took a match from the box near my candle collection, lit an errant scrap of poesy on fire and tossed it into the trash can.

As the pile of post-poem confetti started to burn, I prudently picked up the trash can and placed it in the center of my bed lest any sparks fly up and compromise my curtains.

Thankfully, Dad smelled the smoke and burst through my bedroom door before the fire burned through the bottom of the trash can and set my bed ablaze. The bathroom was mercifully close by, so he threw the trash can into the bathtub, doused it with water and demanded to know what had possessed me to do something so dangerously idiotic.

As you may imagine, my embarrassed explanation was less than satisfactory. Dad confiscated my matches as punishment, but he needn’t have worried. Since that incident, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used matches. I do still own a few candles, but they’re for decorative purposes only.

It turns out that I didn’t need to worry about destroying the poem so completely, so quickly. I have yet to meet my future husband, so the poem would have had plenty of time to decompose of its own accord if I had just thrown it away. Hindsight is indeed 20/20.

So, Future Husband, in the event you ever happen to read this, please note that our relationship does come with one caveat. You can leave your dirty clothes on the floor, drink orange juice directly from the carton or completely fail to understand the importance of china patterns and I will gladly take it in stride.

I do, however, request that you kindly refrain from writing me sonnets, odes, limericks or anything remotely poetry-related. I still have a touch of PTSD (Poetry Torching and Singeing Disorder) and I wouldn’t want our marriage to go down in flames.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Feb. 6, 2014.

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