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By Holly Payne-Strange

PROMPT — What is Love?

Perhaps I am not in love with you.

Perhaps I am enthralled,

Dangerously besotted and beautifully dedicated.

Maybe being with you feels fresh and easy,

Natural as a hibiscus,

Blossoming in some salubrious, sundrenched field.

No more, or less, complicated

Than the open ocean.

What if you made me better, wiser, happier,

And when I look at you, my soul smiles?


No one really knows what it is.

We make all these grand claims,

Use the word for restaurants, boots, and children,

Pets, parents, and partners,

All the same.

For you, it is a cage.

A rose, certainly, but solely the thorns,

A mess of obligation, of risk and pain.

A reasonable interpretation.

I would not give you that poisoned chalice.

So sit with me a stretch,

And enjoy our sunlight.

You are not obligated to anything.


Holly Payne-Strange (she/her) is a published novelist, poet and podcast creator. Her writing has been described as “genuinely captivating” by LA Weekly and “profound and sincerely engaging” by USA Today. She was also a writer for Fireside Mystery Theater, which The New York Times called, “One of the top ten podcasts to bring drama into your home.” Her next novel, All Of Us Alone, was a recommended read for Women Writers, Women’s Books in December 2023. Her poetry has been published by various groups including Curating Athena, Door Is A Jar magazine, In Parenthesis, Rising Sun Productions, SHEAUXTIME Collective, and will soon be featured in Academy Heart, among others.


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