Study Guide

Central Heating Love

By Pierre Reverdy

Love

You see a tiny light coming down landing on your stomach and lighting you up (2)

This line gives us the first mention of the "you," whom we grow to suspect is the speaker's lover as we read the poem. Yet, in a way, the word "you" incorporates us readers into the speaker's love. Maybe it's us he's in love with, after all—can you feel your cheeks getting red? Even if he doesn't mean us, we can actually see that this is a quite romantic image. Maybe the light is a metaphor for the speaker's love, as it comes down and lights his lover up.

Short-circuit in the heart-system (6)

Now, we get the first hint that there's something up—this isn't your average love poem, full of swooning for beautiful women. Well sure, there's plenty of swooning and beauty in this poem, but there's also a really cool metaphor running through it—the metaphor of central heating. Love, here, is mixed in with engines, and systems, and wires. Technology adds a little distance into the mix—we're not talking about kissing, and touching, but about how engines are running. Yet, instead of making us feel distanced from the love affair, it gives us a whole new way to visualize it, and think about love in general.

My eyes and my love are both taking the same wrong road (9)

A-ha. Here we skip from hearing about a heart, often the symbol of love and romance, to love itself. But, of course, we couldn't get something as simple as, "You're beautiful, and I love you, but I'm afraid that this love isn't going to go in the right direction." Instead, we're left to wonder exactly what this road that seems so wrong is, and how the eyes and love are connected as they take it. We don't even know if they're taking it together, or if one is straggling along behind the other, by coincidence. But the mystery in this poem gives us readers plenty of room to use our imaginations, and hey—we dig that.

Despite the fact that I warm up wherever your hand touches me (16)

Here, the speaker is talking about physical contact with whom we now guess to be his lover. He's pointing out that this physical contact is not an exception to the rule that he's drawn up that everything visible is artificial. Yet, the very fact that he's having to point this out as an exception means that it's nagging at the back of his mind, as if it were an unhappy toddler, whining "but, but, but." It's up to us to decide whether or not the speaker thinks something as warming as his lover's touch is truly artificial, or if that's just something he's saying to push the limits of reality.

One night when we were unhappy we sat down together on a trunk (20)

This line gives us an actual memory for a change, demonstrating what this love affair might be like. It's, of course, not a happy memory, but an unhappy one. Yet, the two of them are together in their misery, sitting on a trunk, keeping each other company. If this memory were perfect and happy, the poem wouldn't be as interesting as it is, or as sweet. The unhappiness in this memory makes it more relatable and real. Our speaker and his lover aren't perfect—they're real, with real dissatisfactions and troubles.

The sun and your heart are compacted of the same substance (25)

This line clinches the love poem aspect, which, until this moment, has seemed to be wavering between a love poem and a "I'm not sure if I love you, or even believe that you exist" poem. Though the speaker still, of course, has his doubts about whether or not this love is healthy for him, and what exactly about the world he finds to be real, he does have a lot of respect and passion for this woman.

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