It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

I.

No one's serious at seventeen.
—On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
—You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.

Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds—the town is near—
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

—Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .

June nights! Seventeen!—Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
—And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .

Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide, 
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
—And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You're in love. Off the market till August.
You're in love.—Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
—Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!

That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
—No one's serious at seventeen 
When lindens line the promenade.

29 September 1870

From Rimbaud Complete by Arthur Rimbaud; translated, edited, and introduced by Wyatt Mason. Copyright © 2002 by Wyatt Mason. Reprinted by permission of the Modern Library. All rights reserved.

for Gretchen and Herb: June 15, 1991


imagine the very first marriage a girl
and boy trembling with some inchoate
need for ceremony a desire for witness:
inventing formality like a wheel or a hoe

in a lost language in a clearing too far from here
a prophet or a prophetess intoned to the lovers
who knelt with their hearts cresting
like the unnamed ocean thinking This is true

thinking they will never be alone again
though planets slip their tracks and fish
desert the sea repeating those magic sounds
meaning I do on this stone below
this tree before these friends yes in body
and word my darkdream my sunsong yes I do I do

Copyright © 1996 by Peter Meinke. From Scars by Peter Meinke. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Here you go
light low and long
in the fields
at sunset and sunrise
Everything twice
a doubled existence
two nows
two thens
two names
yours and the other one
also yours
folded into a paper boat
the points of which
constellate stars

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Adamshick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.

Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.

Copyright © 2005 John Ashbery

is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
                                                                                                              I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together for the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
                               it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I’m telling you about it

From The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara by Frank O’Hara, copyright © 1971 by Maureen Granville-Smith, Administratrix of the Estate of Frank O’Hara, copyright renewed 1999 by Maureen O’Hara Granville-Smith and Donald Allen. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.

I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
     murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
     to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
     someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
     live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are
     a nun.”

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
     of me even if he’s not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

From The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Sweetest love, I do not go,
        For weariness of thee,
Nor in hope the world can show
        A fitter love for me;
              But since that I
Must die at last, 'tis best
To use myself in jest
        Thus by feign'd deaths to die.

Yesternight the sun went hence,
        And yet is here today;
He hath no desire nor sense,
        Nor half so short a way:
              Then fear not me,
But believe that I shall make
Speedier journeys, since I take
        More wings and spurs than he.

O how feeble is man's power,
        That if good fortune fall,
Cannot add another hour,
        Nor a lost hour recall!
              But come bad chance,
And we join to'it our strength,
And we teach it art and length,
        Itself o'er us to'advance.

When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
        But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
        My life's blood doth decay.
              It cannot be
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st,
If in thine my life thou waste,
        That art the best of me.

Let not thy divining heart
        Forethink me any ill;
Destiny may take thy part,
        And may thy fears fulfil;
              But think that we
Are but turn'd aside to sleep;
They who one another keep
        Alive, ne'er parted be.

This poem is in the public domain.

consciousness

        in itself

of itself carrying

    'the principle
        of the actual' being

actual

itself ((but maybe this is a love 
poem

Mary) ) nevertheless

        neither

the power
of the self nor the racing 
car nor the lilly

        is sweet but this

From New and Collected Poems by George Oppen. Copyright © 1975 by George Oppen. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

We have encountered storms 
Perfect in their drench and wreck
 
Each of us bears an ornament of grief
A ring, a notebook, a ticket torn, scar
It is how humans know their kind—
 
What is known as love, what can become  
the heart’s food stored away for some future
Famine
 
Love remains a jewel in the hand, guarded
Shared fragments of earth & air   drift & despair.
 
We ponder what patterns matter other than moons and tides:
musical beats—rumba or waltz or cha cha cha
cosmic waves like batons furiously twirling
colors proclaiming sparkle of darkness
as those we love begin to delight
in the stars embracing
 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Patricia Spears Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

If my love for you were a teacup,
I would praise it for its blue. I’d consider
Its delicate handle, the pictures painted there
Of ladies, of their parasols.
But my love is not a teacup,
 
It is not even the tar pit from which we draw
Fodder for the desolate streets, oh lightless at night,
Oh pathways asking for feet and their memory,
It is not even a tugboat going
Bravely into morning, carrying cordage and salt,
 
Nor that saddest, sickest animal
In the zoo, carious, mangy, whose hair molts,
Who with its wounds sits in the bare
Hay-padded corner of a cell and licks
At the question of what it means to be here.
 
Yet in winter my love is covered with the brightness
Of snow, in winter my love is filled with eyes.
It waits for me at the block’s edge,
Habitual dog, who walks me back into that gaseous
Entity we call life. Others’ loves may wink and smile
 
Like the moon through a resurrection of vapors,
Like the coy and barbarous moon, who knows no allegiance.
But my love is more like an ice sculpture
In a country of perpetual coldness, which the heat
Of your anger cannot damage, nor the pick
 
Of your words impugn. Now
Lay your worry aside from you, stranger,
Put your hands near these curves: do you feel
That hallowed temperature? Among my people
We call this absolute love.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

It's a year almost that I have not seen her:
Oh, last summer green things were greener,
Brambles fewer, the blue sky bluer.

It's surely summer, for there's a swallow:
Come one swallow, his mate will follow,
The bird race quicken and wheel and thicken.

Oh happy swallow whose mate will follow
O'er height, o'er hollow! I'd be a swallow,
To build this weather one nest together.

This poem is in the public domain.

9

I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread
on shards.


17

Why is the word yes so brief?
It should be
the longest,
the hardest,
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it.


18

—Sing me The Song of Songs.
—Don't know the words.
—Then sing the notes.
—Don't know the notes.
—Then simply hum.
—Forgot the tune.
—Then press my ear
to your ear
and sing what you hear.

From If There Is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova. Copyright © 2010 by Vera Pavlova. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf.

What was unforeseen is now a bird orbiting this field.

What wasn’t a possibility is present in our arms.

It shall be and it begins with you.

Our often-misunderstood kind of love deems dangerous.
How it frightens and confounds and enrages.
How strange, unfamiliar.

Our love carries all those and the contrary.
It is most incandescent.

So, I vow to be brave.
Clear a path through jungles of shame and doubt and fear.
I’m done with silence. I proclaim.

It shall be and it sings from within.

Truly we are enraptured
With Whitmanesque urge and urgency.

I vow to love in all seasons.
When you’re summer, I’m watermelon balled up in a sky-blue bowl.
When I’m autumn, you’re foliage ablaze in New England.
When in winter, I am the tender scarf of warm mercies.
When in spring, you are the bourgeoning buds.

I vow to love you in all places.
High plains, prairies, hills and lowlands.
In our dream-laden bed,
Cradled in the nest
Of your neck.
Deep in the plum.

It shall be and it flows with you.

We’ll leap over the waters and barbaric rooftops.

You embrace my resilient metropolis.
I adore your nourishing wilderness.

I vow to love you in primal ways.
I vow to love you in infinite forms.

In our separateness and composites.
To dust and stars and the ever after.

Intrepid travelers, lovers, and family
We have arrived.

Look. The bird has come home to roost.

From Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the author.

 

I do not love thee!—no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
   And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.

 
I do not love thee!—yet, I know not why,
Whate’er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
   And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!
 

I do not love thee!—yet, when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
   Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.
 

I do not love thee!—yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
   Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.
 

I know I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
   And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.

This poem is in the public domain.

Whoever you are holding me now in hand,   
Without one thing all will be useless,   
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,   
I am not what you supposed, but far different.   
   
Who is he that would become my follower? 
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?   
   
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,   
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard,   
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,   
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon’d, 
Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from my shoulders,   
Put me down, and depart on your way.   
   
Or else by stealth in some wood for trial,   
Or back of a rock in the open air,   
(For in any roof’d room of a house I emerge not, nor in company, 
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)   
But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares,   
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea or some quiet island,   
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,   
With the comrade’s long-dwelling kiss or the new husband’s kiss, 
For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.   
   
Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,   
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,   
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;   
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best,
And thus touching you, would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.   
   
But these leaves conning you con at peril,   
For these leaves and me you will not understand,   
They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will certainly elude you,   
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.   
   
For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,   
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,   
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me,   
Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few,) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more,    
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at;   
Therefore release me and depart on your way.

This poem is in the public domain.

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

This poem is in the public domain.

I

Sinking down by the gate I discern the thin moon,
And a blackbird tries over old airs in the pine,
But the moon is a sorry one, sad the bird’s tune,
For this spot is unknown to that Heartmate of mine.

II

Did my Heartmate but haunt here at times such as now,
The song would be joyous and cheerful the moon;
But she will see never this gate, path, or bough,
Nor I find a joy in the scene or the tune.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

From Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well By Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1975 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted with permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at www.randomhouse.com.