The Atomic Theory of Valentines

Photo Credit: qthomasbower. Licensed CC-BY.

Photo Credit: qthomasbower.
Licensed CC-BY.


We’re given paper, scissors, glue, as if
these tools can make or mend our little
hearts. Each February teaches us that red
means love, despite the world’s request
to stop, to see our anger like a film, to hear
an ambulance’s shrill and piercing wail.

Democritus believed the world composed
of atoms, tiny specks defining pleasure
and unpleasantness. The sweetness
of the honeycomb resides in atoms round
and smooth; the other atoms, sharp, a-
symmetrical, cause bitterness and pain.

When called to recreate that part of us
we’re taught to give away, we turn to
simple shapes: a triangle below a circle
split in half. The heart we see is smooth,
two curves to represent the lips, the breasts,
a pair of shoulders bearing weight.

Yet when we try to merge the two into
the singular, a line of vertebrae is drawn
between the shoulder blades. All breasts,
regardless of perfection, cease to rise
and simply fall. The lips, when pulling
back to bare our teeth, go dry, and crack.

Like water, love will fill whatever vessel
we create. On paper, hearts are easy
things to make, the danger being how
we fashion out the end — the barb,
the sting, that dagger point whose tip
can penetrate our thick and lonely skin.