1. I ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens rewards thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so preserver,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
2. Today we are obliged to be romantic
And think of yet another valentine.
We know the rules and we are both pedantic:
Today’s the day we have to be romantic.
Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.
You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.
And saying that has made me feel romantic,
My dearest love, my darling valentine.
3. My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
His heart in me keeps me and him in one …
– Sir Phillip Sydney
4. I’ve been visiting again
with a sunken southern corner.
Fish smaller than first teeth, birthed from the soil,
maneuver in the glaze
where rain pools, covering the lowest stones.
Behind him, in a cracked white tub,
my knees to his sides,
left ear pressed to
the stack of bones in his neck,
I was once so terrified of my own contentment
I bit my shoulder
and drew blood there
to the surface—past it—
What I have wanted most
is many lives. One for each longing,
round and separate.
Sometimes I bring figs here, asphyxiating
in plastic, for their distant echo
of your humid, ghost-flesh air
shouldering the leaves—that almost-a-human
I was born in autumn
as it fled underground
to be fed to a body
of water that only swallows.
– Gabrielle Bates
— 5th of 25 Love Poems for Him
5. I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May …
6. Yes, I move, I live, I wander astray—
Water running, intermingling, over the sands.
I know the passionate pleasure of motion;
I taste the forests; I touch strange lands.
Yes, I move—perhaps I am seeking
Storms, suns, dawns, a place to hide.
What are you doing here, pale and polished—
You, the stone in the path of the tide?
– Alfonsina Storni
7. What shall meadow hold to please me,
Spreading wide its scented waving,
How shall quiet mosses ease me,
Or the night-wind cool my craving?
Hill and hedgerow, cloud-sweet sky,
Echo our good-by.
Bud unplucked and leaf a-quiver,
Bird that lifts a tuneless trilling,
Restless dream of brook and river,
All June’s cup a wasted spilling—
You and I so thirsty-hearted!—
Summer knows us parted.
– Leonora Speyer
8. I grew
Only for you.
Cut the acacia boughs that demand
Only destruction at your hand!
My blossom blew
Only for you.
Uproot me—in its natal hour
My lily doubted were it candle or flower.
My waters blue
Flow for you.
Drink me—never crystal knows
So pure a tide as in this channel flows.
Wings I knew
Only for you.
Pursue me! (Quivering firefly,
Veil your flame from every eye!)
I shall suffer for you.
Blessed be the evil that your love will do!
Blessed be the blade, the net I shall feel!
Blessed be thirst and steel!
My heart’s blood will flow
That my love you may know.
What fairer gem, what rarer jewel could be found
Than this offering of a scarlet wound?
Instead of diadems in my hair,
Seven long thorns I shall wear.
Instead of ear-rings I shall don
Two burning coals of vermilion.
When you see me suffering
You will hear my laughter ring.
And you will weep and pity me:
Then more than ever mine you will be.
-Juana de Ibarbourou
9. When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
-William Butler Yeats
— 10th of 25 Love Poems for Him
10. If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile … her look … her way
Of speaking gently, … for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou may’st love on, through love’s eternity.
-Elizabeth Barret Browning
11. They must have been different once,
fire and water, miles apart,
robbing and giving in desire,
that assault on one another’s otherness.
Embracing, they appropriated and expropriated each other
for so long
that only air was left within their arms,
transparent as if after lightning.
One day the answer came before the question.
Another night they guessed their eyes’ expression
by the type of silence in the dark.
Gender fades, mysteries molder,
distinctions meet in all-resemblance
just as all colors coincide in white.
Which of them is doubled and which missing?
Which one is smiling with two smiles?
Whose voice forms a two-part canon?
When both heads nod, which one agrees?
Whose gesture lifts the teaspoon to their lips?
Who’s flayed the other one alive?
Which one lives and which has died
entangled in the lines of whose palm?
They gazed into each other’s eyes and slowly twins emerged.
Familiarity breeds the most perfect of mothers—
it favors neither of the little darlings,
it scarcely can recall which one is which.
On this festive day, their golden anniversary,
a dove, seen identically, perched on the windowsill.
– Wislawa Szymborska
12. I’ve always underestimated myself,
Always tried to humble myself,
But when it came to true affection,
Settling was out of the question.
I used to settle for the ones in my league,
Continually thinking that my game was weak.
So what if she’s just alright?
It’s just a girl, am I not right?
But this is love we’re talking about,
A force larger than all doubts.
This girl could be my wife.
She could reflect my entire life.
And so when I saw the perfect one,
I thought, it’s her or none.
Might as well give it a shot.
For once I’ll be the man I’m not.
I chose her because she was the best.
I fell in love with her; God knows the rest.
Convincing myself I’m more than a mess,
God gave me perfection and nothing less.
13. When I thought it was right to name my desires,
what I wanted of life, they seemed to turn
like bleating sheep, not to me, who could have been
a caring, if unskilled, shepherd, but to the boxed-in hills
beyond which the blue mountains sloped down
with poppies orange as crayfish all the way to the Pacific seas
in which the hulls of whales steered them
in search of a mate for whom they bellowed
in a new, highly particular song
we might call the most ardent articulation of love,
the pin at the tip of evolution,
In the middle of my life
it was right to say my desires
but they went away. I couldn’t even make them out,
not even as dots
now in the distance.
Yet I see the small lights
of winter campfires in the hills—
teenagers in love often go there
for their first nights—and each yellow-white glow
tells me what I can know and admit to knowing,
that all I ever wanted
was to sit by a fire with someone
who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting.
To want to make a fire with someone,
– Katie Ford
14. Tonight I lingered over your name,
the delicate assembly of vowels
a voice inside my head.
You were sleeping when I arrived.
I stood by your bed
and watched the sheets rise gently.
I knew what slant of light
would make you turn over.
It was then I felt
the highways slide out of my hands.
I remembered the old men
in the west side cafe,
dealing dominoes like magical charms.
It was then I knew,
like a woman looking backward,
I could not leave you,
or find anyone I loved more.
– Naomi Shihab Nye
— 15th of 25 Love Poems for Him
15. Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root,
Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,
Set in the window, bringing memories
Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
In benediction over nun-like hills.
My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.
16. You source
of harmonious eternalities.
Frenzied chords of your soul =
Out of the depths: where minds are born.
Where words stammer =
You must enflame them: –
To the tumult
of the ecstatic spirit!!
17. What sound was that?
I turn away, into the shaking room.
What was that sound that came on in the dark?
What is this maze of light it leaves us in?
What is this stance we take,
To turn away and then turn back?
What did we hear?
It was the breath we took when we first met.
Listen. It is here.
18. Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? They ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.
19. When e’er I read these words, Dear Heart, of your sweet valentine,
I’m sure no heart can ever feel a sweeter joy than mine.
“Faithful!” no word can e’er express a truer, greater love—
No truer constancy than this have angels up above!
“Ever!” ah, then eternally you pledge that you’ll be true!
For love’s sweet sake, alone, I choose a happy life with you.
Through every sorrow, joy or pain that we in life may meet,
In sweet companionship we’ll share—the bitter with the sweet.
We’ll live with these words of faithfulness, what e’er our lot may be.
And live that we may after death from earthly stains be free.
-Lucian B. Watkins
— 20th of 25 Love Poems for Him
20. We were dancing—it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride—such perfect agony
one learns to smile through,
being the sine qua non
of American Smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
I didn’t notice
how still you’d become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.
21. To have been told “I love you” by you could well be, for me,
the highlight of my life, the best feeling, the best peak
on my feeling graph, in the way that the Chrysler building
might not be the tallest building in the NY sky but is
the best, the most exquisitely spired, or the way that
Hank Aaron’s career home-run total is not the highest
but the best, the one that signifies the purest greatness.
So improbable! To have met you at all and then
to have been told in your soft young voice so soon
after meeting you: “I love you.” And I felt the mystery
of being that you, of being a you and being
loved, and what I was, instantly, was someone
who could be told “I love you” by someone like you.
I was, in that moment, new; you were 19; I was 22;
you were impulsive; I was there in front of you, with a future
that hadn’t yet been burned for fuel; I had energy;
you had beauty; and your eyes were a pale blue,
and they backed what you said with all they hadn’t seen,
and they were the least ambitious eyes I’d known,
the least calculating, and when you spoke and when
they shone, perhaps you saw the feeling you caused.
Perhaps you saw too that the feeling would stay.
22. I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach — then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow, Sálvame, mi dios,
Trágame, mi tierra. Salva, traga, Break me,
I am bread. I will be the water for your thirst.
– Benjamin Alire Saenz
23. When, at the end, the children wanted
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no.
I said nope, no, no glitter, and then,
when they started to fuss, I found myself
saying something my brother’s football coach
used to bark from the sidelines when one
of his players showed signs of being
human: oh come on now, suck it up.
That’s what I said to my children.
Suck what up? my daughter asked,
and, because she is so young, I told her
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took
that for an answer. My children are so young
when I turn off the radio as the news turns
to counting the dead or naming the act,
they aren’t even suspicious. My children
are so young they cannot imagine a world
like the one they live in. Their God is still
a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly
of actions. And I think they think I work
for that God. And I know they will someday soon
see everything and they will know about
everything and they will no longer take
never mind for an answer. The valentines
would’ve been better with glitter, and my son
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much
later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter
realized she’d forgotten one of the three
Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are.
And so, before bed we took everything out
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—
and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair
parted smartly down the middle and wrote
WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.
24. Why I love thee?
Ask why the seawind wanders,
Why the shore is aflush with the tide,
Why the moon through heaven meanders;
Like seafaring ships that ride
On a sullen, motionless deep;
Why the seabirds are fluttering the strand
Where the waves sing themselves to sleep
And starshine lives in the curves of the sand!
— 25th of 25 Love Poems for Him
25. It flares up at sunrise, a blush in a bramble
Tumbling out of its bed by the city pavement—a single
Rose, coral heat, at the end of the season.
And you are drawn to it, to its scent, its silky
Layers, to its core. It gathers you into its
Body until you lose your balance, all you can see
Is a petaled grid, an endless repetition
Of roses. You sink swirling into the rose,
Deep into the rose, into the rose.
I hold you to me. Love, I am forty-four,
And you, love, you, my love,
You have planted me.
– Michelle Wolf
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