In response to “The Knife” by Keith Douglas
Keith Douglas describes his poems as “extrospective” meaning that they are focused on external impressions rather than inner emotions. I believe, “The Knife” does not fall into that category and thus intrigues me the most out of all his poems. I would describe “The Knife” as a love poem; a love poem written in the midst of war at the point where dead was most evident. Hence, I believe it is one of the most sincere love poems that could be written. Although it is a love poem, its title is a word associated with danger, hurt and death for which I believe the poem was written for Ying Cheng. Ying Cheng also known as Betty Sze was an elegant Chinese lady who dated Keith during his university days. Unfortunately, her love for Keith was not as deep as his and thus the refusal of his proposal which lead to her being the unrequited love in Keith’s life. “Deeper than a Lifetime” aims to give Keith a second chance at a love that seemed so pure, to tell Betty all the things he wished he did and how differently he would have done things.
To turn back time and make my choices again,
I wish I could say that I would do everything exactly the same,
But unrequited love is only less painful when compared to once-requited love.
I wouldn’t have loved you as hard.
I wouldn’t have dived into the deep end of the pool just like that.
I would have tried much harder, with more suave to make you fall at your knees for me and my love.
I would have made you shed the sophisticated coat you wore whenever you met me,
The one I knew you wore to mask your true form.
I would not have hid the romantic that I was.
I would not have pretended not to be the simple guy who just wanted you to love him, who took this to be more than just a fling.
I would have took you to feel the breeze in your hair more often, and to take long walks in the parks arm in arm, so that you understood the small yet important things in life.
I would have brought you to rooftops to watch the sunsets and sunrises that although were beautiful, weren’t as beautiful as you.
I would have brought you to water bodies to swim so that you could wash away all the uncertainties that you carried on your shoulders, so that you stopped calculating every move before you made them.
I would have ensured that you knew that time stopped when I looked at you, when I was with you.
I would have made sure that my ‘I love you’ s were loud and seductive, but could only be heard in the wind as your long black waterfalls danced to its melody.
I would have made sure you thought of me every day without fail, the same way that not thinking of you each day felt like a bad day.
I would have made sure you understood that such selfless, aching love only came once in a lifetime, to make you more courageous to follow the tune of your beating heart.
I would have made sure that you cried when I had gone to the army, that you sent letters – a short remedy, and a reminder that you hadn’t forgotten me.
I would have made sure that the next time I saw you, would be as I, with you boldly held in my arms.
I would have made sure that I hadn’t die in a war when I had much more I wanted to say to you, to scream at you, to show you as Keith Douglas.
Don’t say that I am full of regret, because I am not.
It would be easier to forget you entirely,
But I guess I can’t.
My love for you runs deeper than just a lifetime, and I can’t
Say goodbye until I have achieved what I truly believe is
Worth living for.