How do you know if it’s love? she asks,

and I think if you have to ask, it’s not,

but I know this won’t help. I want to say

you’re too young to worry about it,

as if she has questions about Medicare

or social security, but this won’t help either.

“You’ll just know” is a lie, and one truth,

“when you still want to be with them

the next morning” would involve too

many follow-up questions. The difficulty

with love, I want to say, is sometimes

you only know afterwards that it’s arrived

or left. Love is the elephant and we

are the blind mice unable to understand

the whole. I want to say love is this

desire to help even when I know I can’t,

just as I couldn’t explain electricity, stars,

the color of the sky, baldness, tornadoes,

fingernails, coconuts, or the other things

she has asked about over the years, all

those phenomena whose daily existence

seems miraculous. Instead I shake my head.

I don’t even know how to match my socks.

Go ask your mother.

She laughs and says,

I did. Mom told me to come and ask you.

— Joe Mills, “How Do You Know”

Photo by Sean Servis


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