“Graffiti Heart,” acrylic on canvas, J.A. Carter-Winward

the four letter word that
means everything
or nothing at all —


love means i promise
it means i want you;
it means i’m sorry,
love means i will never hurt you
love means i will try to never hurt you — 
it means a preference:

i love lemongrass chicken
i love iron man 3.



love is not a feeling.

the first time he said it
i called my sister
because the weight of it,
the mass
was too big to be contained
by my flesh.

love is a doing.

when she irritates you
and your words are loving.
when he disappoints you
and you accept and forgive.


love doesn’t wear makeup — 
it lounges around in a tatty bathrobe
and farts out loud.
love doesn’t close its mouth
when it chews.
love burns the steaks and
love eats it anyway.

love doesn’t shower on sundays.

love believes you
even if you lied once before.
love forgives
and doesn’t keep weapons
in its heart for future battles.

love lets you go first,
or goes first for you — 
love gives you the window seat.
love lets you ride shotgun.

love makes love even when its tired, because
he needs to connect.
love cuddles instead of making love,
because she’s had a hard day and needs comfort.

love loads the dishwasher
while you pan fry the chicken.
love works overtime
and is late for dinner.
love suffers through art films in
12-seat art house cinemas.
love goes for take-out
when you’re too tired to cook.

love holds your hair back when you vomit.
love cleans your dirty clothes.
love goes with you to
family and high school reunions.
love puts a cool hand on
your feverish forehead.

love loves you when you are unlovable.

love is not sexy and love is not fleeting.
the kind of love that has existed through the ages
is the kind of love
poets and romantics miss altogether.

it is the mundane, the ordinary,
the tedium,
the countless times,
the always and never,
the monotony and
the showing up and the sacrifice
and the bleeding heartache
and the wonder.

it is the softest pair of slippers you own.

and yet for all of its pervasiveness,
that solid,
is incredibly rare.

if you have it,
do it.
if you don’t,
find it.
create it.

it can’t be found in a box or package.
it’s cultivated from a tiny speck of intention — 
and as it grows

it feeds your belly and bones
for life.

~j.a. carter-winward

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