Featured Selection: Amit Majmudar

For this month’s Featured Selection of a new work – The Valentine’s Day Sutra — from Amit Majmudar, we are fortunate to have a preface from the author himself, followed by a short biographical note. Enjoy!

 

 

The Valentine’s Day Sutra

 

 

1.] Before I read this Sutra aloud to you, a word about its magic. Don’t worry—it’s all white magic, since this Sutra gets its magic from love.

 

It’s said that if you read any three passages aloud to the one you love on a night when it seems like you might get laid, you will climax at least once before dawn; read six passages aloud, and you will climax at least twice before dawn; and so on, in multiples of three.

 

It’s said that if a guy reads the whole Sutra from beginning to end on a night when it seems like he might get laid, he clearly doesn’t want to get laid badly enough, because there are 33 chapters in this book. The worst thing you can do is read it in a rushed way because the magic will sense that you are getting greedy. In any case, while climaxing 33/3 = 11 times may seem like a fun night, orgasms that multiple come naturally only to women. Eleven is totally doable, so a woman is generally advised to read this whole thing through, without her shirt on. Ideally she should make her prospective valentine watch, and wait, and curse this book’s entirely unnecessary, utterly gratuitous, long-winded, slow-paced, seemingly endless, self-indulgent proliferation of words.

 

Of course, this Sutra isn’t really meant to get anyone laid, although it will serve that purpose if used correctly. This is the Valentine’s Day Sutra for a reason: Its white magic is meant to help out people who really love someone but aren’t in a relationship yet. Reading it aloud is meant to get you something better than laid. It is meant to get you loved.

 

It’s said that if you give this Sutra as a gift to your valentine, on Valentine’s Day, before sunset, your valentine will think about you before nightfall. If, on Valentine’s Night, your valentine asks you to read aloud anywhere between 3 and 32 chapters in a secluded place, you have an 80% chance of ending up together by the end of the month, though not necessarily forever. If your valentine asks you to read all 33 chapters aloud, there is a chance your valentine has realized your love is the real thing, but only if the reading is interrupted, at any point, with a true love kiss. If that fabled true love kiss cuts short the reading of the Sutra, the Sutra will see to it that your love lasts forever.

 

Worth keeping in mind.

 

Here goes.

 

 

2.] Once upon a time in ancient Rome there was a blind girl. All those aqueducts and caps-lock inscriptions with V’s instead of U’s and clay phallus good luck symbols and mosaics of grape-eating satyrs, and she could see none of them. One day her father, a judge, said, I have someone I want you to see.

 

A doctor?

No, he answered gently. A prisoner.

 

A cool hand pressed her eyes and lifted. The darkness (not that she knew it was darkness beforehand) came off her eyes and stuck to the palm. What she saw were light and shapes and colors for the first time. The colors soothed what the light stung, and the shapes distracted her from colors and light alike. She didn’t realize it, but she was looking at her first face ever. It had the sun behind it. Part of the shape moved, a curious oblong hole with twisty flaps over it, and she thought, Oh, that’s what voices come out of. The man was telling her his name.

 

Valentinus.

 

 

3.] Not much is known about Saint Valentine, or Valentinus, as he was known then. He is elusive enough to be anyone. Pick anybody, it doesn’t have to be me. (I have picked someone myself. It didn’t have to be you, but it is.)

 

One of the only stories about Valentinus says that, when he was under arrest as a prisoner, he cured a judge’s daughter of blindness. I was blind once. You are my Valentinus already, and you haven’t even touched me. In exchange for vision I can give you love. In exchange for this light I can make your darkness much, much better.

 

Of course, that story may not have really happened. What little we know about Valentinus merges the stories of two people with the same name. But that’s only fitting for the patron saint of love. Don’t I want our stories to converge and link? I want our plotlines to braid into the double helix of a new species, with us only two examples on earth. We can be the first and last of our kind and mate with all the frenzy of impending extinction.

 

 

4.] No wonder this feels like an emergency to me. You know how the God of Love has a bow and arrow? In the old days, that was the most dangerous long-range weapon around. Soldiers carried it into war zones. Love is militant, love is insurgent. His clothes torn, covered in tattoos of paired initials with hearts around them, bleeding from a chest wound, he just strode into my heart with an M1 assault rifle.

 

Come closer. Let’s hunker down and be taken hostage. Love is pointing an assault rifle now at me, now at you, shouting, Stop what you’re doing and listen now, now, now! Every Valentine’s Day the whole world lights up with a DEFCON 1 red wash. Sirens swing behind my eyes. This is far more important than a matter of life and death. This is a matter of love. The safety is off. The amo is live.

 

5.] No wonder I feel a little terror. We are, after all, in the presence of what the pagans and Christians alike believed a God: Love. People always feel terror in the shadow of love. Arjuna gazed up at it and stammered. Paul, on the road to Damascus, collapsed under it. Semele, who asked to see Zeus in his raw godly body, shrieked and went blind.

 

We ourselves are more than just human beings on Valentine’s Day. On this day, you are a possible future for me, just as I am for you. A whole family tree is pencilling itself between and under us, floaty wisps of graphite-colored smoke, offspring branches and marital crossbars, thousands of not yet souls queued vaguely in the future’s footer. Not to put any pressure on you. Really this is just to ask you to be my valentine. I swear that’s all this is.

 

6.] Which is no small feat of boldness. Reading you valentine this Sutra is a cautious way to be bold because I get to read these words to you and keep my eyes on the page. You can’t get tongue-tied if the Sutra does the talking for you. You’ll notice I’m not looking up to check your reaction because I want to keep up the illusion I’m just reading from a book even though this Sutra’s telling you, in way too many words, exactly what I feel, which is love, which is God, which is poetry, which is oceans.

 

Someone who isn’t in love yet hides a perfectly flat ocean, with no tides and no waves. So I have to be more than just a gentle moon with you. I want to trigger a tsunami, then wade out to meet it.

 

 

7.] Not that this Sutra contains any hectoring. I know magic isn’t something I can force. It requires too much belief on the other end. Magic, like love, is magical precisely because it has no physicality.

 

So the Hindu God of Love, Kama, has another name, Ananga, which is the Sanskrit word for Bodiless. Kama wasn’t always Bodiless. He flew up Mount Kailasa and shot, with his bow and arrow, the meditating ascetic God, Shiva. This was so Shiva would see and fall in love with the Goddess Parvati. That is exactly what happened: Shiva traded bliss for love, and he was furious about it. So he opened the Third Eye on his forehead and burned Kama away.

 

Kama’s wife begged to get her husband back, and Shiva, realizing that to destroy love would be to destroy the universe before its proper time, brought Kama back—only now Ananga had no physical body.

 

Which is why you shouldn’t look at me, just listen. By listening, you will see through me to the me I secretly and most completely am. I mean the I who does the things I do in your dreams; the I in whose voice my mind reads words when I am reading silently; the I who has stayed the same person, no matter how my body has changed over the years.

 

8.] Bodiless love is best, as every lover knows. If love had anything to do with the genitals, a woman would be little more than a stabbing victim, and lovemaking just some petty violence in the night. In fact, love is so indifferent to the genitals that men love men and women women in every generation—which is why this Sutra makes no distinctions in that regard. Its magic works whether valentine and would-be valentine possess a lock and a key, a lock and a lock, or a key and a key. A future together is the gate this Sutra opens.

 

Not that lovemaking doesn’t have its metaphysical justification. All kinds of lovemaking have one common purpose. What the male jimmies into his lover is a crowbar, trying to split the lover’s body open at the pelvis. Two women with their legs scissored are wishbones: When they climax, they snap at last and pass through each other, meeting in the middle. Or else a lover might open a woman like a book and descend to read her, silently, but moving lips and tongue to new words, converting her into a secret sacred text. Call and answer: The call silent, and the answer a moan.

 

In all cases, we are either shelling the body of love or beckoning love out of the body. What we are after, after all, is ananga, bodiless. How better can I express this than with intangible sounds—with this Valentine’s Day Sutra?

 

 

9.] We are more empty space than matter anyway, at an atomic level. Whether valentine strokes valentine, or daydream-you strokes daydreaming-me, an emptiness strokes an emptiness. Friction isn’t what makes pleasure pleasure: That’s why shaking hands with a stranger would feel drastically less pleasurable than brushing fingers with you.

 

A nucleus lives at the center of its solar system of orbitals, unapproachably distant. We are living at the center of our roles and duties and relationships. Even at school or work we live in neighboring hermitages. I’m reading you this Sutra because I want to trigger a fusion reaction. The energy released will be love, love by the kiloton, your heart glowingly radioactive for centuries to come.

 

 

10.] Of course, your heart is only figuratively involved. This Sutra represents the latest thinking on the oldest subject, dismissing the genitals, heart, brain, and nerves as candidates for the love organ. Likewise the “soul,” whatever that is. Likewise the various glands and their hormones. Even the tongue and vocal cords don’t satisfy love, this exacting anatomist. Though with the tongue we’re getting warmer. Love is intangible, skittery, always threatening to turn into a blue mist—but through it all, love remains speakable. Love’s body is words, and that body’s pleasure is meaning.

 

No wonder a brush of your fingers would so excite me right now: It would possess a meaning that a handshake with someone else does not. No wonder this Sutra, when it had to choose a body, declined the more readily attractive form of music—and picked words instead.

 

11.] It doesn’t matter how many people there are around us right now. Ideally, none, but for all I care we could be in a coffee shop, or on a plane, or standing in a bookstore, or in Times Square a few minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The Sutra’s magical properties will hold because the act of love, like the act of reading, generates solitude. I think of you and I am alone, instantly, in a solitude that includes you.

 

12.] My eyes close around the thought of you like a wallet with a picture inside. Inside that wallet is a wealth of love just waiting for the spree. It takes the form of a single bill with your face on it, legal tender that cannot be counterfeited, cannot be exchanged into the currency of any other nation. Look at the bill closely: The pyramid is an inverted V, for Valentine. Its color is green, in honor of spring. And its mottos are, translating from the Latin, Among Many, One (and that One is you); and, translating from the English, In Love We Trust.

 

Metaphors aside, you can understand love best by understanding how it’s not like money. True, everybody wants money and everybody wants love, but that’s the only thing the two have in common.

 

When it comes to money, people settled on gold because it was shiny and rare. In El Dorado, where the cobblestones were solid gold, the citizens used to tread on the stuff every day and never understood why the conquistadors kept digging potholes in their streets. Abundance drives down value. Extreme good looks, once geneticists can engineer them on everyone’s face, will go from being beautiful to being commonplace. Extreme intelligence—in that future when rich parents click on the traits they want in their offspring—will end up somewhere in the hump of the bell curve.

 

What I love about you isn’t something that can be replicated by science or chance. People desire money because other people see that money and attribute value to it. A transaction can take place. I want the part of you that other people can’t see and can’t value. I am the sole country where you are the coin of the realm.

 

 

13.] Paper currency, precious metal—the third form of wealth is the jewel. Om mani padme hum, say the Buddhists. The Jewel is in the Lotus. The Lotus, shapely, layered, organic, is the body. This flower found its way into religion because of its origin in pond muck. The Lotus always opened up clean and stayed that way. The body, too, is a refinement of mere earth—for which the Hebrew word, incidentally, is adamah—into petals of skin and sensitive pistils of nerve. The swell at the base of the lotus always evoked a human form in the Indian mind—either the shapely hips of the Goddess (Lakshmi is often portrayed emerging from a lotus), or the seated, meditative Buddha, the knees bent and the feet tucked under, the yogic lotus position.

 

Inside that Lotus, the Jewel: Hard, irreducible, requiring work to unearth. The Jewel is love. I am too ambitious simply to desire your body. The real treasure is the Jewel in that Lotus: Your love. Om mani padme hum.

 

14.] I’m not reading this just so we’ll touch lips and stimulate a cluster of nerve endings. This is not a matter of matter. Lust has no holiday, not in hot June when you could have sex by firefly light, not in cold January when the extra body heat would save energy costs. We privilege love with its own holiday because love actually does make this day holy. Two bodies, when engaged not in lovemaking but in making love, dash themselves to pieces, to atoms. One body is a cement breakwater, the other is a long-traveled swell. A man explodes into white spray; a woman climaxes in sequential waves. An embrace tries to squeeze atoms past atoms so that both of your centers occupy the same point in space. Eventually, when that doesn’t work, lovers smash their bodies together in the hopes they will explode in a puff of powder and a drizzle of crumbles like baked clay tablets marked with love poetry from a time before Gilgamesh, covered in bird-track cuneiform.

 

15.] Bird tracks: I have been migrating to you my whole life. And the lives before that, too, I have transmigrated to you, south to the warmth of you. Body after body, perch after brief perch.

 

Here in my memory’s knapsack I carry a compass the size of my time so far. Its needle floats in all the tears I will ever cry, but look, it spins crazy when I enter your magnetic field. That tells me I’ve reached transmigration’s end, like a lagoon in Florida. I want to coast down wings wide onto your surface and winter in you because it’s cold where I came from. I thought I was a sparrow until I found you. You’re the only paradise I am a bird of.

 

 

16.] You always see hearts with arrows through them on Valentine’s Day. I promise to draw a lipstick bull’s eye on my chest if you promise to shoot. This is win-win, I swear: My heart will intercept time’s arrow for you, and you will never age. How’s that for a deal? You will always look to me the way you look right now when you say yes, which is beautiful: arrestingly. Heartstoppingly.

 

Lucky for me, a heart can still beat with an arrow stuck through it. You will see the arrow twitch every time my heart beats. If you dip the tip of your arrow in an inkwell before you shoot, I will bend over a piece of paper and show you, stroke by stroke, lub by dub, over and over, your name. It will trace out like an EKG. Like a seismograph.

 

 

17.] What kind of earthquake are you, that you shake me and buildings rise? These palazzos, these aqueducts, these cathedrals are all your doing. My skull is St. Valentine’s Basilica, my mouth is a Chapel whose undersurface has been Michelangeloed with frescos of your body.

 

If you ever slip your tongue under mine, tectonic plate will slip under tectonic plate. St. Valentine’s Basilica will rupture and grow a volcano in the city center while the cameras marvel. Mount St. Valentine’s, they’ll call it, the biggest eruption in this hemisphere since Mount St. Helens. My lips may start to glow and superheat. Feel free to kiss them harder, until you start tasting lava.

 

18.] A volcano is how the planet gives away the truth about its inner life. The earth’s crust is a kind of stiff upper lip, but underneath, it is all High Romantic fury and poetic fire. The teenage years are when the geological upheavals start, and that’s the age when faces get geologically active with acne.

 

Don’t be fooled by my reading voice. My pupils are basalt discs temporarily plugging Vesuvius and Etna. My pupils dilate when I think of you as more and more upwelling lava cools to black. Look too long in my eyes, and you will peer through to the retinas blazing at the back.

 

Give me some credit, it should be impossible for me to function at all. The earth and I move in our respective circles: Good day, good night. But the whole time, we are burning alive. It’s just that the inferno is all on the inside.

 

19.] In over half the private residences at Herculaneum, archaeologists have found carbonized couples spooning. On the floor, under stairs, in the middle of the street. A few couples, and not always the elderly ones, didn’t try to flee, just spooned on their beds and waited. Roma may be the eternal city, but Amor (Population: 2) is not so fortunate. Do you see that pillar of ash in the distance? There’s something to be said for going out at the same time.

 

Still, if I have to go first, ring me about with Valentine’s Day Sutras, so archaeologists of the future can tweezer apart the sulfur wafer pages and find out how I felt about you. If it’s you that has to go first, don’t worry, you won’t go alone. I will spoon with you, and you will buckle my arms over your chest, and I will be your jet pack into the afterlife.

 

20.] And from our vantage point, high above that blackhead on the cheek of a teenaged planet, we’ll sail paper airplanes off the edge of low earth orbit. We’ll freefall for a lark, me still behind you, instructor and novice on a tandem skydive. We’ll point at the continents spread out at night, marveling at the sharp line between the two Koreas, one glittery, one dark. We will be too high up to hear the wars, but a finger behind the ear, turned to the right city, will let us hear young lovers shouting in the earthy choir.

 

So what if we’re stubbornly conjoint transmigrant souls by then, up in the stratosphere? ‘Bodiless,’ we will be pure love, the heavenly choir to echo our singing-masters open-mouthed below. We’ll make love as two hurtling spirits locked across the night sky, and people up in the attic of Canada will get a preview of the Northern Lights.

 

21.] As you can guess, I experience looking at you the way I experience looking out the window of a plane—on a sixteen-hour flight, when I’ve just woken up from a sleep that lasted I don’t know how long, and the audiobook in my ears is talking about characters entirely unfamiliar, and I have no idea where over the Pacific the plane is. All I know is an oval dawn, or is that dusk, to my left through the lifted shade.

 

Disoriented, yes, but breathtakingly. Every time I look at you, you make me apprehend that kind of immensity and elevation and estrangement from myself. And maybe just a little holy fear. The ground beneath your feet is solid cloud carpet to me. I get that dropping feeling in my stomach when I take a step in your direction.

 

 

22.] I fantasize about watching a crack propagate across that airplane window until it reaches the other end. Sometimes I tap it, urging it along without the certainty I’m having any effect, like bothering a viper behind zoo-exhibit glass. The window blows out and rips a section of the fuselage with it, and I find myself still buckled tumbling into the atmosphere. I unclick and float free, airplane blanket and somehow my clothes whipped off, carry-on bags and food trays touching the clouds and becoming clouds. I can just make out another far more serenely falling body against the low dark orange sun, which I realize now is dawn for sure, and that body is yours. You calm me, and my breathing goes steady in the frigid thin air at 32,000 feet. We do the breast stroke toward one another and meet, our bodies curving and necks curving, in the precisely gentle turns of a double helix. We crosslink at the hips and hands, my mouth to your neck, your mouth to my neck. We are suddenly the DNA of God, and splashing down we seed a virgin ocean.

 

23.] The thought of you sprinkles bioluminescent plankton in the bay of me. I’ll be honest, it’s chum to my shark-sharp lust, called up out of the depth. But it’s love I want to talk about, and salt water, and my cerebrospinal fluid lit up with you like on an MRI. I want to head down to Puerto Rico with you and tread moonwater. I want to head up to the moon with you and tread moondust.

 

I hear the moon has whole bodies of water we can Magellan together in a gondola for two. The Sea of Fruitfulness, the Sea of Foam. We don’t need glass helmets or space suits; we’ll just kiss and pass the same breath, mouth to mouth, back and forth, until we get to the dark side of the moon, finally some privacy, alone at last on Seas as yet unnamed. We can throw out names like expecting parents: The Sea of Forgetfulness, the Sea of Steam.

 

24.] We now know the continents broke up and sailed away on the seven seas long ago. They say the stars are doing the same thing—moving away from a hypothetical center, and from each other. They say this expansion and dispersal will end someday, and everything will come rushing back.

 

This is our chance to start the implosion sequence. You move toward me, and I will move toward you, just a little if a little is all you want right now. Then watch as the big bang starts reeling in all its gravitational kites and upwinding time’s yo-yo into a curved and waiting palm. The planets and stars will come crowding back to a point roughly midway between us, and aeons before they meet, the weight of the universe will nudge us the extra distance until we do. We will crush together and form a black hole and suck the universe in after us.

 

Eventually, on the other side of that black hole, we will welcome the whole universe we have here, only turned inside out, like us. You will be left-handed and I will like cigarettes. You will be blue-eyed and I will be good at rollerblading. You will read me this Sutra, and I will listen. You will look up from this page, and I will kiss you.

 

25.] Because that is all I want right now. We can go slow. I want the revelation of you. But not all of it all at once. Secrecy is sexy. A body, male or female, looks more desirable almost undressed than it does completely naked. I wouldn’t want to take you from totally dressed to totally undressed too quickly. Veils take their time lifting because veils know that, if lifted slowly enough, they leave the mystery behind on a face, like a perfectly transparent film on moving water.

 

Undressing or almost undressed or unclothed, lovers never actually see each other fully naked for very long, or at all. The lights may be off, or they may have slipped under the covers, or both. They are just too close to one another. They can only see parts and flashes, never the whole.

 

To see nakedness whole you have to turn on the light and take a step back. The eye becomes, transiently, the eye behind a camera. Even watching someone you’ve made love to take a shower in a lit bathroom can estrange you from lover to intruder. I would wait for the shower door to steam up first so all I could make out is a shape, turning this way and that under the hot water, letting me not quite see from every angle.

 

26.] Go slow. Slow to come in, slow to kiss, slow to pull away: When you do pull away, I want the landscape changed, my new gyri and sulci, my new moraines and valleys the result of your glacier retreating. Let the Love God string his bow with Zeno’s arrow, the one that even when it’s flying is at rest. That arrow will travel half the distance to my heart, but first it will travel half of half the distance, and before that half of half of half the distance, and I will stand here forever being shot and forever waiting to be hit. Physics won’t have a choice, we’ll be young forever, a blank box in the historical record. We’ll be two pre-Socratics in a garden with all of science yet to be discovered, and all of poetry yet to be written, and irony not yet invented. Go slow.

 

27.] What am I saying? Go fast. Riddle me with kisses like your mouth’s a submachine gun and this is the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Prohibition be damned. Smash my windows and run off with my moonshine. Pluck Zeno’s arrow out of mid air and carve our initials into a tree, or into my chest, whatever’s closer.

 

They say St. Valentine was beaten with clubs and beheaded. I know the holiday is his, but I want the Love God to St. Sebastian me with the whole quiver. The arrows won’t slow down to nearly nothing the instant they leave the string. They seem already to be in me, incorporated, inflamed, the points of impact smarting red, hickies preempting the teeth. Go fast, the light is green. First you must travel half the distance to me, and half a second later I will travel three-quarters of the distance to you, and we’ll collide head-on, our arms flung forward and around as our torsos absorb the impact. Love makes crash-test dummies of us all, unbelted, reborn bald and screaming through a blossoming windshield.

 

28.] All I fear is accident, is chance. I am leery of that strange twitchy dog of a god. We all get down low and hold our hands out, but there’s no telling if he’s going to bite, or sniff, or give a sloppy chummy lick.

 

Chance. I read once about this woman in Hiroshima who happened to be standing in the curve of a spiral stairwell when the Bomb dropped. The blast came down the stairs, swept clockwise around her, and left her standing there unscorched.

 

Chances are, though, chance is out to get us, and this blast (if it doesn’t atomize me) will paint my skin with my kimono flower print. I want a kimono with your name all over it, if only to spare me the tattoo needle. I’ll pad around the house in it for easy access.

 

All the houses in my city are made of paper. All the stray dogs in my city answer to the same moan, and the only trick they know is front paws up and beg. So drop your love already. We’ve had it coming.

 

 

29.] The only remedy for the terror of chance is to make it a verb. To go from being the passive object of chance to the subject who does the chancing.

 

As in: I chanced to look up from my book and saw you two tables over, reading the same book. It was called The Valentine’s Day Sutra, and we both happened to think these words were written to be read aloud to someone. Ideally someone with the same taste in books. Or: I chanced on two tickets to the rest of our lives together, and I will chance that line even though it sounds corny. The only way to know if a Sutra works, after all, is to incant it out loud to a fellow true believer. The only way to stop the terrorism of bad luck is to hijack serendipity.

 

30.] Imagine being the woman in the stairwell, her foot leaving the last step as she follows the curve of the spiral; then pausing, trying to remember what she’d told herself to remember earlier that morning; and then the city shredded and burned up all around her. Imagine those first bewildered steps into the fresh desolation, the heat throbbing through her sandals. The shadows of a man and horse charcoal-sketched onto a stone bridge, but the man and horse gone. That is the reality about reality. The man, horse, bridge, city was all illusion—just light, karomed off atoms and tickling human retinas. From a star’s throat, through outer space, off earth, into an eyeball. The thing perceived is smoke, and we the perceivers are mirrors.

 

Okay, fine. But how do we explain the desolation paving over its burns and growing the glass hair of skyscrapers? How explain the bullet trains, the hospitals, the same game show on a pyramid of in-store televisions, the bride and groom getting pictures taken in the garden? How explain all this but love?

 

31.] Renew me. I have spent my life watching raindrops inch backwards on the window of a speeding car. Just when one of them trails out, another drop obliques into its trail, or it meets and leeches into a stationary drop, and together they surge. I don’t know where this car is going, and I don’t know if it’s pines on a mountainside, or unswimmable Pacific, or Midwestern cornfields beyond the window. I am focused on the raindrops on the window right now, thinking about their long fall, and how mysterious this second horizontal fall must feel to them, here on this mysterious plane made seemingly of smooth solid raindrop. Only unlike the sky or the ocean, this surface has a human face behind it, staring deeply into the near field, perfectly still for all this motion, raining at the eyes.

 

32.] Valentinus was executed outside the Flaminian gate because he wouldn’t deny his love. Police clubs pattered over his body in a private rain shower. His pores flowered in a responsive spring, and the dark red yarrow so panicked the police that they hit him even harder. Tufts of yarrow coalesced into primroses, which coalesced into red roses, and suddenly the prisoner was a rosebush shuffling on all fours, struggling toward the nearby scrub.

 

His roseate bruises called the bees to his rescue. The officer in charge, batting the air and cursing, drew his gladius and swung. The bees dropped to the ground as one, black gravel and flake ash. The head of Valentinus, rolling on level ground, had to be chased down and buried with his body.

 

His yellowed skull can be visited at a small basilica in Rome. In his glass reliquary he surveys a dozen candles. The 1800-year-old flowers found crowning him are real.

 

33.] In the old days, there would be a section at the end of a book called the Envoy. Goe, booke, the Envoy would say, goe out into the world and be read. I don’t want this Sutra to go out into the world unless it is a go-between.

 

Pour a bucket of cold science on my voice if you want. I know I can’t write poetry, I never went to school. I am almost done reading this now, and if the magic hasn’t worked, every crown of roses is a crown of thorns with a sense of fashion. This arrow through my heart is only a flesh wound. This Valentine’s Day Sutra? Merely prose.

 

But if your heartbeat februaries in synch with mine, then Goe, booke, and shelve thyself, because my valentine and I want to march april may june. The Buddha of Infinite Jonesing who wrote this wants nothing more than for us not to read any further. To leave this Sutra unfinished is to bring this Sutra to completion. I want to goe all the way, but not to the end of this Envoy, so now it’s up to you to stop me. You can stop me by leaning over and closing this book, or you can stop me by leaning over and stopping my mouth with a true love kiss. So choose. Choose me or infinite loneliness in a cold monastery on Yu Mountain. Choose me or the ten thousand things that are not me. Choose me or a life full of mid-February snow without a volcano to warm your hands over. I have won either way because a bird of paradise stranded in February on earth gives out a mating call and takes flight to find the echo. I guess I will just keep rereading this next sentence until you close this book or stop my mouth.

 

Love me.

 

 

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