Kuan Tao-sheng, Valentine

February 13, 2013   •   By Brett Fletcher Lauer

KUAN TAO-SHENG’S POEM is a creation (and destruction) myth of sorts for married life: two separate beings are forged in the supernatural fires of love, and then there is the smashing and shattering of figurines, which will be recast to encompass not only oneself but their beloved. Something about that feels almost right — the feeling I carry with me to the grocery store, to work, that in her physical absence my wife is somehow still with me, more than just “in my thoughts” but in my experience of the world.

I should note that an internet search produces a slightly less-than-romantic backstory. The poem was written in response to Kuan Tao-sheng’s husband contemplating taking on a mistress, as was in vogue amongst his peers. Thus the last two lines are less sentimental and more a reminder of ’til-death-do-us-part vows.

— Brett Fletcher Lauer

Kuan Tao-sheng, “Married Love”


You and I

Have so much love,

That it

Burns like a fire,

In which we bake a lump of clay

Molded into a figure of you

And a figure of me.

Then we take both of them,

And break them into pieces,

And mix the pieces with water,

And mold again a figure of you,

And a figure of me.

I am in your clay.

You are in my clay.

In life we share a single quilt.

In death we will share one bed.


Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung


[more Valentine's Day poems]