Twenty-One Love Poems [(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)]

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine—tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come—
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.


“Floating Poem, Unnumbered” from “Twenty-One Love Poems,” from The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974–1977 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1978 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

About this Poem

"Central Florida in the ‘90s—tourists in mouse-ears and Benny Hinn preaching on TV, the culture stifling as the heat. Even at dawn, the only coolness was the dew on the grass, the just-cut blade-tips painting my ankles as I walked to the dock. Despite nails jutting from the boards like punji sticks, I bellied my way to the edge and perched my book above the water: The Dream of a Common Language. I read and reread the central section of ‘21 Love Poems’: ‘without tenderness, we are in hell. two people together is a work / heroic in its ordinariness.’ Two women together, two writers. Though I had sought lesbian life in other texts, all those I’d found centered around sex alone, around lonely lives in which I couldn’t—didn’t want to—see myself. And then came Adrienne Rich and her poem ‘(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered).’ Sex, yes, but sex held fast by love. A promise that being queer didn’t have to mean a life scrabbling in shadows for transitory pleasures. A promise that beyond the constricted world I knew at fifteen, I might instead inherit a future in which I could live and love in full daylight, that  ‘whatever happens—this is.’”
Jessica Jacobs

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