You make me want to die happy.

“What an intelligent bookstore!”

A customer just exclaimed that, to no one in particular, while browsing the fiction section. It made us beam with pride. That he turned out to be an intelligent man himself, with whom conversation was a delightful adventure, helps us accept the compliment humbly.

We hear things like “what an amazing selection of books” and “what an incredible atmosphere and all these wonderful and tasteful gifts!” all day long. More than anything else, we’re constantly thanking people. But, like a lot of other things in life, this one was about precision. Word choice, to be exact.

I share this with you because I feel like boasting  in order to illustrate the point that sometimes all it takes is a couple of the exact, right words and you’re forever etched into another person’s memory and, by extension and/or definition, their being.

The trick, I find, is to get at the root of things. Not to strive for profundity, but quite the opposite. Strive to find the most basic and simple truth and get to it via as direct a path as possible. Here’s a line that Marvin Bell gifted his wife in “To Dorothy”: “You are not beautiful, exactly./You are beautiful, inexactly.” I haven’t seen Dorothy but I’d be willing to bet he’s right. And it feels, very specifically, that I know exactly what he means by “inexactly”.

Here’s another, this one from e.e. cummings’ “somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond”: “(i do not know what it is about you that closes/and opens;only something in me understands/ the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)/nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands”

It need not be absurd or lofty or intentionally poetic. All it needs to be is true and specific and, most importantly, you need to look for it as deeply as your senses can see.

“You are everything I will never be.”

“The way you laugh makes my head pulse. “

“When I sit next to you in the evenings in silence, I can actually feel my molecules wanting to break away and join your molecules.” [okay, maybe that one was a little much…]

This Valentine’s Day, draw a picture, pick a flower, write a poem (and include it in the box of diamonds, of course.)

Good luck!

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