No one doesn’t love you like I do

I don’t love you like I love
ten million dollars in my bank account,
peace on Earth, goodwill to all men,
the corrective to global warming,
me who is a normal person,
unconditional love love love, world without end, amen,
free, unfettered, blissful childhoods,
two good parents with two happy kids
and other things that don’t exist.

I love you like I love
the sun in winter,
the sun in summer,
black coffee & a cigarette,
a friend,
another friend,
one of my other friends,
tower cranes –
such things as exist.

I don’t love you like I love
the Frank Gehry submission for Te Papa
or Kengo Kuma’s, I’d heard, untrue, he entered too,
that it was more beautiful than a Danish museum of fairytales
like those books they wouldn’t publish and the plays I couldn’t write,
the kibbutzim I never lived on,
the travels I might have taken using sails instead of planes,
the trips throughout New Zealand I would have had by train…
Like an absence of trauma setting me sound asleep at night,
and all the things that should have been but never were.

But I love you like I love
the 800-year-old leaning mosque in Mosul,
destroyed like all crooked things must be,
destroyed before I had a chance to love it any stronger,
the way I love the things that were and are no longer,
disappearing Richmond Stoneware china,
Erskine College, Bill Toomath in Karori,
Taputeranga Marae, Futuna here and now but for how much longer,
the blipping time of homogeneous homogenous homo sapiens,
destroyed like you or I will be.

And I don’t love you like I love
contact with extraterrestrial sentient life,
or the colony on Mars that saves hugemankind,
parrots evolving to go to psittacine universities,
octopodes writing epic oceanic verse,
corvids discovering fire and bombing Dresden,
dolphins mastering the dative to outwit Leibniz,
the singularity, the cure for senescence,
and all my nonsense hopes that are beautiful but meaningless.
                (They say that faith is for the future…

But I love you like I love
contact with extraterrestrial bacteria,
that there are robots on Mars at all and probes in deeper space,
and that some guy is trying to grow spider silk from yeast,
that those psilocybinetic fungally infected cicadas collectively live,
the way all life eventually falls to the ground
on this cooling dust ball heliocentring a hundred thousand kilometres an hour around,
purslane porcelane lithophane lithops and the desert blooms,
this present beauteous, slight and realistic hope.
             …and that belief is for the present.)

I love you not tomorrow but today.

Image of Charlotte SimmondsCharlotte Simmonds is an autistic Wellington translator, technical editor and hobby academic and a writer of poetry, theatre and short prose. Simmonds’ creative work has appeared in theatres, comedy clubs, radios and podcasts in Wellington, in literary journals in New Zealand such as LandfallSport and Hue & Cry, in literary journals in the United States such as the Iowa ReviewMid-American Review and Painted Bride Quarterly, and in Australia and the United Kingdom. Simmonds’ 2008 collection of poetry and lyric prose The World’s Fastest Flower (VUP) was a finalist for the 2009 Best First Book Award for Poetry. For Simmonds’ academic work in the history of research into Asperger’s Syndrome, autism and autism-like conditions, see the European Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Simmonds comments: Back around 2006 or 2007, a flatmate told me a story about a design for Te Papa that had been rejected. He said it would have been almost entirely made of glass, with the glass designed in such a way that the whole building would fill with rainbows as the clouds over Wellington lifted and the light entered. It was incredibly beautiful, my flatmate had told me, but it was rejected due its author being an overseas architect instead of a New Zealander. The architect, the flatmate continued, had then taken the design to Denmark, who loved it, and so it became the Danish Fairytale Museum instead.

I wrote this poem during the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. That weekend I read W. H. Auden’s Moon Landing and Roger McGough's The Way Things Are to a data analyst and planted a lithops. I exchanged emails with Harry Ricketts about Moon Landing. I wrote this poem, but needed to factcheck the architecture. Later I went to a moon landing party and watched The Dish. It’s no Moon Landing(Unsmudged, thank God, my Moon still queens the Heavens) and it’s no Sonnet 130, but people seem to like it anyway.

Strangely, there is no public record of the losing designs for Te Papa or even of the losing entrants. (You’d think this would all be on their website.) Te Papa Archivist Jennifer Twist did a lot of work for me locating various designs she thought might be related to the story, but in the end, I concluded it was entirely made up, a fairytale…

I don’t cry when people die. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about them or love them or am indifferent to them. People are going to die. I cry when buildings and crockery die, the objects that signify people and which we could have kept for almost forever if we’d been careful, beyond the point when Earth has lost its atmosphere and become unfit for air-breathing life.’

​Poem source details >


Charlotttes Victoria University Press author page

Photographer credit: Daniil Ivshin