If I Loved You
by James Penha

If I loved you
I would have to see
when you rage
against the world and my
attempts to finger-paint
grays of modulation
beneath your black eyes
that without seizures
in choler you would fall
to pieces: anger
is the scaffolding
you build
I climb
the hangman.

IMAGE: The author takes a spot on a poster for the musical Carousel (1945).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem arcs with the melancholy Julie-Billy love story in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel and, of course, pays homage to its notable “If I” song, “If I Loved You.” But, as well, my IF I poem was inspired by Alan Dugan’s amazing “Love Song: I and Thou” in which the speaker says, “I sawed it, / I nailed it, and I / will live in it until it kills me.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. His essay “It’s Been a Long Time Coming” was featured in The New York Times “Modern Love” column in April 2016. He edits TheNewVerse.News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Visit him on Twitter @JamesPenha.