Every year for Valentine’s Day, my Dad buys a gift for my mom and one for each of his three daughters. We would come down in the mornings to find them placed around the kitchen table, under pink and red envelopes that bore our names, surrounding a centerpiece of cookies, our shared gift. One by one, we moved out of that house, but my father still buys the gifts and places them on the kitchen table. He sends us a picture of the spread to remind us that love will always be waiting for us at home on Valentine’s Day.
I have received countless gifts over the years from jewelry to perfume to cookbooks. But every year I am reminded of one gift in particular: a daily poetry anthology. When I cracked the book open years ago to the February 14th page, I found Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, “Valentine.” To this day, it is one of my favorite poems about love. As a woman in love, I still find it a much more honest representation than the cutesy cupid cards you find at Hallmark.
I am not a poet. I dabbled in high school mostly because my English teachers forced me to. Everything I wrote was incredibly melodramatic. I remember writing a poem called, “Silence Is Silver, Like a Knife.” I don’t even know what the poem was about, but even the title is just so angst-ridden I can’t stand myself. In college, there was some poetry sprinkled throughout my curriculum, but I always had to work extra hard to understand it. Occasionally, I would read a poem once through and have a visceral reaction to it, but then would get bogged down with interpreting every line so that I could pass a test. Why can’t poets just say what they mean?
When my friend, Alison, told me that she would be starting a poetry blog called Postcards from Thursday, I internally sighed. I had read her gorgeous prose, but now I would have to pretend to understand poetry every week. I read her first poem reluctantly. Then the next week I returned to read another which I barely understood and which made me incredibly sad. After that, I teared up while reading “Eight Hundred Feet” and I have never doubted her poetic sensibilities since. I have been back to reread her poems over and over. To try to glean new meaning from them, but mostly to feel my feels. As a relatively pragmatic person, I sometimes forget to get in touch with the uncomfortable emotions that I bury down within me. Her poetry brings those to the surface, even if just for the couple minutes I spend reading and trying to understand.
I asked Alison if she would collaborate with me and write a poem to go along with this bark. I explained to her the sweet/salty/bitter profile I had going on here and wanted her to capture how love is like that. One minute you’re talking to each other in googoo voices and the next you’re barely speaking because of an insensitive remark or inconsiderate action. And then you’re back to cuddling an hour later. Love is amazing, but love is haaaard. (Fortunately, this bark is not)
Of course, Alison came back with the most upsettingly truthful poem about love and pain. I understood the poem in one way, and then when I asked Alison about it, she said I was dead wrong and an idiot. No, she said my interpretation was totally legit, too, because she is a consummate professional. And then we geeked out about poetry and literary interpretation together. That’s what I do enjoy about poetry. It is informed by our own experiences. A line might conjure up different images and emotions in me than it will for you, and neither of those might be what the poet intended. Regardless, we all get to feel and understand something. Perhaps poetry is less about understanding metaphors and more about understanding ourselves and what is important to us.
Check out Alison’s Valentine’s Day poem, “Asylum,” while eating this bark and feel all your feels this Valentine’s Day.
- 16 ounces (450 grams) chopped white chocolate, divided
- 1 tablespoon tea of your choice (I used Raspberry Rose Hibiscus tea), divided
- ¼ cup (50 grams) dried whole raspberries
- ¼ cup (28 grams) roasted almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or other sea salt (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bring a pot of water to a simmer over medium heat. Place about three-fourths of the white chocolate and ½ tablespoon of tea in a metal bowl and set it over the simmering water to create a double boiler. Gently stir the chocolate until melted, then remove from heat. Stir in the remaining chocolate until it has melted.
- Pour chocolate out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate into a large rectangle. Sprinkle wet chocolate with remaining tea, dried raspberries, chopped almonds, and finish by sprinkling with sea salt, if desired.
- Let sit at room temperature for at least two hours, until the chocolate has set up. Cut into rectangles, triangles, or break by hand to create candy bars or bark pieces.