A love poem from a memory 26 years ago

Today is Valentine’s Day. I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. Hardly anything tops a date night that watching a period film (preferably based on something Austen wrote). My wife and I have been married for almost 21 years and I was remembering this morning a cold rainy day in February 1989. It was one of our first “unofficial” dates. We were both seniors in high school and were friends because of an after school job at a teacher supply store in San Jose, CA. She had called me one day after school and we were *talking on the phone (yes kids, this is before texting…) and she told me about this beautiful area in the hills nearby that she passed driving to school every day.

Before I knew it, I suggested she pick me up (she had the car) and show me. It was a misty, drizzly, lusciously green day, like that scene in the Keira Knightley version of P&P. We climbed the hills together until well past sunset and found the gate locked when we tried to go home. We had to call the sheriff’s department to come get us out. Five years later, and one month before we got married, I was taking a creative writing class at SJSU and wrote this poem to my sweetie on my birthday. We nicknamed the park “Mt Nataka” after a line from a movie. This episode became a scene in my book The Blight of Muirwood.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Mt. Nataka

It was a misty afternoon in February

five years ago

that we walked in the hills

north along 280.

The faint drizzle sprayed our beaming faces

but it could not dampen our spirits.

We trudged across fields of grass and mud

laughing, reckless,

not caring where we wandered.

At the top of a hill, we watched a sinuous trail

of headlights writhing below towards the city,

and were happy to be above it.

We smelled the wild grass and heard

the murmur of a gentle breeze.

The sun had set by the time we returned,

and the drizzle thickened into light rain.

Your car sat lonely and wet, caged

behind a gate the ranger had already locked.

I shivered by a payphone as the shower

pulsed against my coat

and the darkness deepened.

Sitting in your brown Toyota, the heater

blowing like an arid desert wind,

you took my trembling cold hands in yours,

and we smiled comfort into each others eyes.

That moment is forever etched in my mind.

You held my hands and I held yours

and we wondered why it felt so natural

so warm.

There was nothing to fear.

You and I — sitting together —

alone on a stormy winter night.

The sheriff came and turned the key

Which freed us from the cage.

But at the same moment, we were

caged again by our friendship.

We said goodnight,

but we did not mean it.

It took months to regain that lost moment,

And to break through the prison we made.

My heart still burns when I remember

that shadowy February night.

And I still feel today

your warm palm

holding mine.

March 1994

flickr-2963025331_99157a4853_o maryknoll


Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler

Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty epic fantasy novels.

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