Men Writing a Letter - Gabriel Metsu

By Stephen Cheney


                                                             Turn every jewel in the light
                                                             and see where it glitters.
                                                             In my heart is a certain shrine
                                                             filled by your presence;
                                                             there you are a sparkling amulet.
                                                             I can live without life,
                                                             as a rock beneath the dark ruins:
                                                             but who wants unshared oblivion?
                                                             A crystal touched with sunlight
                                                             can glow beyond its borders.
                                                             Our roots may be buried
                                                             in past sorrows;
                                                             but we branch out 
                                                             our limbs to the wind;
                                                             and our skin soon becomes 
                                                             drunk with the air;
                                                             and our waves of life, in turn,
                                                             register every vibration.

                                                             Nature Always offers itself;
                                                             and we?


                                                             Our enjoyed moments 
                                                             are a blink of surprise;
                                                             and unhappy times 
                                                             are a bitter pick
                                                             lashing our eyes.
                                                             There is always pain;
                                                             and yet, love still dares
                                                             to extend itself,


                                                             Like the coloured helm of God 
                                                             a rainbow bridging the rain-drenched sky.
                                                             We are anointed with promises
                                                             but our human hearts have a present need
                                                             to touch and merge
                                                             in shared experiences,
                                                             moments that we encounter together


                                                             hand in hand,
                                                             tear in tear,
                                                             and smile in smile. 

The Title ‘Selfles’ was spelled that way as it thus reads the same going front to back, back to front, in itself a message both ways: between two people.
You will note within the cropped word “selfles” that the word ‘elf’ occurs both ways.  Thus an extra hidden magic touch like an elf hidden in the forest where the trees are words.  I have an interest in word structures as the etching or their letters and internal symbols also have meanings of their own. Thus ‘HEART’ written in a continuous circle, HEARTHEARTHEART, can also be read as ‘The Art’. Letters can also form paintings, though not as prominently as the hieroglyphs of Chinese or ancient Egyptian.


  1. Thank you for the explanation, Mr Stephen, it helped a lot. "I can live without life" such a touching contradiction, a perfect reflection of human condition. I hadn't been here for a while but I see this blog is getting better and better.

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Indeed, love can brighten up our life and it does make us selfless (although not in absolute terms). "I can live without life" or rather one breathes without love but does it really live? Can one truly live without being loved? Marvin Gaye and Tammi went even farther "You ain't livin' till you're lovin' baby" thus, another indication that reciprocity, duality, is one of life's main rules (which reminds me of the Zoroastrians).

    Yes, past sorrows and experiences are our fingerprint and despite all things we survive for we are thirsty for life, somehow.
    "There is always pain; and yet love still dares to extend itself, selfless." oh dear me, the beauty of this three verses...beyond any spoken word. Humans are survivors by nature.

    Oh your Art, The Art of thee, is simply magical. What a way to end the week. Thank you ever so much for this gift.


  3. I miss the days of letter writing. There is a charm that you don't find with texts and email.

  4. Olá, Stephen!
    "touch and merge", my goodness, its like melting in one another; isn't it?
    You say "selfless" but after reading your formidable poem, I dare to say: selfish; for the whole piece is a pouring of the purest sentiment that only you know about it.
    Love, of course (no matter which kind), is shared between people, but is sensed/perceived by each individual differently; wouldn't you agree?
    Well, there is a French song that says "Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment, chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie", so despite dualities like enjoyed moments and unhappy times, tears and smiles, quietness and raucous: love still is a beautiful and magical dwelling place.
    Thank you for your beautiful poem!

  5. Yes Lenny, we can only know what we ourselves feel; and yet we feel that others can do the same, without there being any justification for it but a linking as if through another world. When we love another we become a being that once was one but now is an enfoldment of two. When we love many we no longer can be defined as a creature, but as a feature of the world that is family-like. When we love nature we shape-shift and become nature; we forget our humanity and become all beyond us that we open and identify our soul to. Our boundaries are not just in terms of our bodies but we have outer boundaries that are our feelings. We are jewels, and our extent is the light that we share and also whatever we light up. Our warmth separates us from the cold. We are as stars formed from the dark, a time of dancing together, galactic like, until enfolded into the dark. But as we came from that dark to shine, now dark again we can only unfold outward again; eternal flowers every eternal spring. The Universe pulses and so can be said to have a heart. For what is a heart but an enclosing and a re-opening. We are ourselves but as well we are what we choose to love. That bonding can be a joyous bursting if free, or a tragic binding if enslaved. This is very subjective, but we are after all a subjective object; so we are more than just a thing, we are a Some-thing. The Sum of all our linking beings. We are us, we are also what we hug. This is just a viewpoint or points of view.

    1. Stephen,

      "but we are after all a subjective object; so we are more than just a thing, we are a Some-thing"

      Indeed. You also said that we are "The Sum of all our linking beings" - in part, yes; but we are mainly a compound of ourselves (i.e. past selves) although you could argue that our selves are also a result of all our connections...present and past.

    2. Olá, Stephen!
      Thank you for your feedback.
      Yes, a good comprehensive viewpoint. But, within the very subjectivity that comprises one, I was wondering if, between two lovers, there is room for boundaries be it self-imposed or otherwise...

      For argument sake and working under the assumption that the heart is "the Art" which is coloured by emotions/feelings; who brushes the canvas? The mind or the imagination?
      For instance, when "one offers itself, only sometimes", is it because, now and then, the canvas is stroked a bit harder, thus inducing one to be en garde, fearing to be hurt? Should in this case, be said that the relationship is cemented on rationality; hence the painter being the mind?
      Or despite the existence of pain, lovers are able to free themselves from their limitations and travel on, in total abandonment just to live in that indescribable state of being one and if you will the said enfoldment. Here, can I state that the artist is the imagination?

      It was just a thought that was on the back of my mind ever since I read your poem.

  6. A lot of deep thoughts in here, but since I don't get poetry much I can only say what I felt after I read this: an erection. First that spy poem and now this? Gotta call my girl now.

  7. It's true that letters can be wonderful forms of art, look at the Alef Bet! Stephen, thank you so much for this masterpiece. It's so emotional!


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