How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
This poem is in the public domain.
What will suffice for a true-love knot? Even the rain?
But he has bought grief’s lottery, bought even the rain.
“Our glosses / wanting in this world”—“Can you remember?”
Anyone!—“when we thought / the poets taught” even the rain?
After we died—That was it!—God left us in the dark.
And as we forgot the dark, we forgot even the rain.
Drought was over. Where was I? Drinks were on the house.
For mixers, my love, you’d poured—what?—even the rain.
Of this pear-shaped orange’s perfumed twist, I will say:
Extract Vermouth from the bergamot, even the rain.
How did the Enemy love you—with earth? air? and fire?
He held just one thing back till he got even: the rain.
This is God’s site for a new house of executions?
You swear by the Bible, Despot, even the rain?
After the bones—those flowers—this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.
What was I to prophesy if not the end of the world?
A salt pillar for the lonely lot, even the rain.
How the air raged, desperate, streaming the earth with flames—
To help burn down my house, Fire sought even the rain.
He would raze the mountains, he would level the waves;
he would, to smooth his epic plot, even the rain.
New York belongs at daybreak to only me, just me—
To make this claim Memory’s brought even the rain.
They’ve found the knife that killed you, but whose prints are these?
No one has such small hands, Shahid, not even the rain.
From Call Me Ishmael Tonight by Agha Shahid Ali. Copyright © 2003 by the Agha Shahid Ali Literary Trust. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
I now replace desire
Instead of saying, I want you, I say,
there is meaning between us.
Meaning can swim, has taken lessons from the river
of itself. Desire is air. One puncture
above a black lake and she lies flat.
I now replace intensity with meaning.
One is a black hole of boundless appetite, a false womb,
another is a sentence.
My therapist says children need a “father” for language
and a “mother” for everything else.
She doesn’t get that it’s all language. There is no else.
Else is a fiction of life, and a fact of death.
That night, we don’t touch.
We ruin nothing.
We get bagels in the morning before you leave on a train,
and I smoke a skinny cigarette and think
I look glam, like an Italian diva.
You make a joke at my expense, which is not a joke, really,
but a way to say I know you.
I don’t feed on you. Instead, I watch you
like a faraway tree.
Desire loves the what if, the if only, the maybe in another lifetime.
She loves a parallel universe. Or seven.
Meaning knows its minerals,
knows which volcanic magma belongs
to which volcanic fleet.
Knows the earth has parents. That a person is raised.
It’s the real flirtation, to say, you are not a meal.
To say, I want you
Copyright © 2023 by Megan Fernandes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.