Who says poetry doesn’t pay?


Come live with me and be my love,
Assured before you voice your fears
That we will meld as hand to glove
With tender wearing through the years.

How could I love another more,
Or ever you abandon me?
So come, our prospects let’s explore
Assay our hopes in honesty.

I’ll write old-fashioned poems for you,
The kind that sing with foot and rhyme,
To soothe your ear and gently woo
Your cautious heart in its due time.

We’ll stay abed when springtime rains,
And care not if it’s ever done;
We’ll pedal wooded country lanes,
And bask beneath a merry sun.

In lilac-time I’ll break for you
The heart-shaped leaf and purple bloom
That flourished when our love was new,
And filled the night with strong perfume.

Like hardy husbandmen of old,
Who ploughed and tilled the fertile soil,
We’ll give ourselves to labors bold,
And harvest children for our toil.

And when the winter of our years
Bespecks our thinning hair with snow,
We’ll stoke our fire against the fear,
Companions though the chill winds blow.

Relentless time moves on apace,
Time leaves its vanquished under stone.
But we can win at time’s own race
By choosing not to run alone.

Defying reason, let’s unite
To form a sturdy three-fold cord,
A braid miraculously tight,
Of bridegroom, bride and gentle Lord.

If my proposal your love stirs,
If this be your desire for life,
If to my faith your heart avers,
Come live with me and be my wife.


Notes: In what has become a somewhat of a tradition, I share my proposal poem to Jan on the occasion of our anniversary.

I sprung it on her 34 years ago. Thankfully, she didn’t think it was too goofy, but she didn’t give me an official response on the spot. She made me sweat until the next day. We went out to brunch at a now-defunct Minneapolis restaurant staffed by hippies who hadn’t gotten the memo that the ’70s were over.

When I dug into my scrambled eggs, I noticed a folded piece of paper. It was grease-soaked and writing from the other side was showing through. I thought one of the yogi-fry cooks had lost his Sanskrit prayer in my breakfast. I was about to send it back when Jan urged me to unfold the note and read it.

It was her response. She had slipped her note to the waitress and had her hide it under the eggs. Jan had taken the last verse of the poem and turned each line around into an affirmative response.

Somehow we managed to misplace that grease-laden scrap of paper. Pity, it would have been a treasured keepsake. But I’m pretty sure her response went like this:

Yes, your proposal my love stirs,
Yes, this be my desire for life,
Yes, to your faith my heart avers,
I’ll live with you and be your wife.


I was delighted and didn’t mind a bit that she adapted my poem for her answer.

How could I mind? I had shamelessly ripped off the first line myself from Christopher Marlowe’s poem “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love.”

My proposal may not have been wholly original poetry, but it did the trick. She said “yes.”

The funny thing is … soon after that I wound up practicing direct marketing copywriting as my day job.

After my experience with this poem, I should have known I was destined for direct marketing. The poem was my very first direct marketing letter.

I got a 100% response rate. Retention has been solid, and long-term value excellent.

Thank you, Christopher Marlowe.

Published by

Bobby Ball

I love poetry. But I'm picky. No one pays me to read and write poems. It's more of a labor of love. I guess that puts me in good company. This is a project to discover why some poems strike you deep, deep down, while others leave you cold. I've got some ideas, and I'm eager to learn. I'll show you some of mine. Maybe we'll learn something new.

2 thoughts on “Who says poetry doesn’t pay?”

  1. I am sure Marlowe is honored (honoured?) as am I for being able to be a piece of your wall.
    Only yesterday I was talking to another former student–Jill from Malta Bend, strange how these connections work–and mentioned how much I appreciated a poem you wrote about your mother. She asked if I had told you how much I liked the poem. I said something to the effect that you don’t need my approval. She nearly screamed her disbelief in my ignorance. She convinced me to rethink. And I love to think–not so much rethink. Therefore I am now, hopefully and honestly, thanking you for that poem and your sharing. Though I generally prefer free verse, that poem did not seem at all forced to fit any scheme. Thanks.


  2. Bless you for your kind words. And bless Jill from Malta Bend for stirring you up to good works.

    There is something that hungers for the approval, or maybe attention, of our teachers and
    mentors. When you consider that we sat in your classroom when we were mere polliwogs. Not fully formed human beings. And you were worldly wise and knew so much more. We are bound to want to know what you think.

    We wouldn’t have known that Whitman was more than lilacs or “O Captain, My Captain.” And I might never have discovered John Crowe Ransom and “Winter Remembered”:

    “Dear love, these fingers that had known your touch,
    And tied our separate forces first together,
    Were ten poor idiot fingers not worth much,
    Ten frozen parsnips hanging in the weather.”

    For the record, you DID acknowledge my poem before, with your comment about peonies indeed having heavy heads.

    I’m not sure exactly what I am trying to say here. I don’t want you to feel obligated to comment. But you are in some way responsible for fostering this pitiful poet, so any scraps of encouragement you can toss my way are always treasured.

    Thank you. I am honoured.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s