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They include the poets from Ovid to Rumi, from Browning to Yeats, from Dickenson to Plath, from Auden to Lawrence and Adrienne Rich. The readers may overlook the title of this collection as there is no such divide as of physical and spiritual when it comes to love.

Poetry is the literary form which leaves more unsaid than what’s said, hence, existing and flourishing in the blank spaces it leaves, relying more on similes and metaphors, indirect references than direct description. A counter argument can be made by referring to the epic poetry, Qissas and long poems that remained in vogue for millennia but even there, poetry remained more elusive than prose and one aspect of its joy remained in unfolding the multiple layers of its meanings.

It’s a common perception that poetry has expanded its horizon in terms of form, technique and theme in the modern, rather contemporary world, with the poets discussing every aspect of life, every topic under the sun and all kinds of human relations, including physical love or sex. However, poetry as the most rebellious form of literature never remained within bounds, especially regarding selection of its themes and the poets always followed throes of passion, pouring emotions into their poems.

Here are the amatory poems going thousands of years back in the history of poetry that take on the theme of physical love, sex and sexuality. The oldest ones are from Gathasaptasati or Gaha Sattasai, a poetry collection written from 200BC to 200AD in Prakrit language of ancient India. There are ancient Chinese as well as ancient Arabic poems. All of them are written by famous poets and include some of them who use metaphors as well, like Plath, Auden and H.Y.’s poems that don’t take the subject as directly as others. They include the poets from Ovid to Rumi, from Browning to Yeats, from Dickenson to Plath, from Auden to Lawrence and Adrienne Rich. The readers may overlook the title of this collection as there is no such divide as of physical and spiritual when it comes to love.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1455416422846{background-color: #ebebeb !important;}”]


your hair

Your Hair

Anonymous from Gatha Saptasati, Prakrit (India, 200BCE-200CE)


Your hair is as messy as a peacock’s tail,
Thighs are trembling,
Eyes half-closed.

You have been playing the man a little
And you want to rest.
So consider the trials of men!

Even elegant
And practiced sex
From shrewd men
Won’t sweep me off my feet

As will love made
In goodness and affection
Wherever or however done.

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Mu’allaqat (The Hanging Poems) (excerpt)

By Imrual Qais (6th century Najd, Arab)

And the day I hopped up into her howdah
She screamed:
“Damn you.
Get out of here.
Do you want me to walk?”
The howdah rocked with the rare pair of us in there.
She shouts:
“Get out! Get down!
You’ve hocked my camel.”
I teased:
“Ride on.
Loosen the rein.
Don’t refuse me your fruity ripeness.
You’re not the first pregnant woman I’ve got into nor the first
nursing mother I’ve got at night-times
and distracted her from her darling
with his magic amulet against the evil eye.
When he bawled behind her
she’d half twist her body to him
but hold her lower half
hard against
under me.”

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To the Tune of “Magpie on the Branch”

Anonymous from Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Her peony is raised high and dewed with fragrance
but his legs are too short to reach,
so he uses a small table
like a man climbing up a cloud ladder
or an old monk beating the temple drum.
His vast and gentle squashy passion,
is like a swing
swinging up and down in the courtyard
till the urge is uncontainable.
When the tree falls down,
monkeys scatter everywhere.

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A Woman Waits for Me

By Walt Whitman (1819-92)
A woman waits for me, she contains all, nothing is lacking,
Yet all were lacking, if sex were lacking, or if the moisture of the
right man were lacking.

Sex contains all,
Bodies, souls, meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals,
All the passions, loves, beauties, delights of the earth,
All the governments, judges, gods, follow’d persons of the earth,
These are contain’d in sex, as parts of itself, and justifications of

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his
Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Now I will dismiss myself from impassive women,
I will go stay with her who waits for me, and with those women that
are warm-blooded and sufficient for me;
I see that they understand me, and do not deny me;
I see that they are worthy of me, I will be the robust husband of
those women.

They are not one jot less than I am,
They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds,
Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength,
They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike,
retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves,
They are ultimate in their own right, they are calm, clear, well-
possess’d of themselves.

I draw you close to me, you women!
I cannot let you go, I would do you good,
I am for you, and you are for me, not only for our own sake, but for
others’ sakes;
Envelop’d in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

It is I, you women, I make my way,
I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,
I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for These States, I
press with slow rude muscle,
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated
within me.

Through you I drain the pent-up rivers of myself,
In you I wrap a thousand onward years,
On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America,
The drops I distil upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new
artists, musicians, and singers,
The babes I beget upon you are to beget babes in their turn,
I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love-spendings,
I shall expect them to interpenetrate with others, as I and you
interpenetrate now,
I shall count on the fruits of the gushing showers of them, as I
count on the fruits of the gushing showers I give now,
I shall look for loving crops from the birth, life, death,
immortality, I plant so lovingly now.

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She Being Brand

By E. E. Cummings

She being Brand

-new; and you
know consequently a
little stiff I was
careful of her and (having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch (and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell) next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg. ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning) just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good


was the first ride and believe i we was
happy to see how nice she acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens i slammed on

breaks Bothatonce and

brought allofher tremB
to a:dead.


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Gloire de Dijon

By D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

When she rises in the morning
I linger to watch her;
She spreads the bath cloth underneath the window
And the sunbeams catch her
Glistening white on the shoulders,
While down her sides the mellow
Golden shadow glows as
She stoops to the sponge, and her swung breasts
Sway like full blown yellow Gloire de Dijon roses.

She drips herself with water, and her shoulders
Glisten as silver, they crumple up
Like wet and falling roses, and I listen
For the sluicing of their rain-dishevelled petals.
In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses.

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Leda and the Swan
By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

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Le Balcon (The Balcony)

By Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), translation by Michael R. Burch

Paramour of memory, ultimate mistress,
source of all pleasure, my only desire;
how can I forget your ecstatic caresses,
the warmth of your breasts by the roaring fire,
paramour of memory, ultimate mistress?

Each night illumined by the burning coals
we lay together where the rose-fragrance clings—
how soft your breasts, how tender your soul!
Ah, and we said imperishable things,
each night illumined by the burning coals.

How beautiful the sunsets these sultry days,
deep space so profound, beyond life’s brief floods …
then, when I kissed you, my queen, in a daze,
I thought I breathed the bouquet of your blood
as beautiful as sunsets these sultry days.

Night thickens around us like a wall;
in the deepening darkness our irises meet.
I drink your breath, ah! poisonous yet sweet!,
as with fraternal hands I massage your feet
while night thickens around us like a wall.

I have mastered the sweet but difficult art
of happiness here, with my head in your lap,
finding pure joy in your body, your heart;
because you’re the queen of my present and past
I have mastered love’s sweet but difficult art.

O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!
Can these be reborn from a gulf we can’t sound
as suns reappear, as if heaven misses
their light when they sink into seas dark, profound?
O vows! O perfumes! O infinite kisses!

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By Alfred Byron (1871-1958)

Teach me to sin—
In love’s forbidden ways,
For you can make all passion pure;
The magic lure of your sweet eyes
Each shape of sin makes virtue praise.

Teach me to sin—
Enslave me to your wanton charms,
Crush me in your velvet arms
And make me, make me love you.
Make me fire your blood with new desire,
And make me kiss you—lip and limb,
Till sense reel and pulses swim.
Aye! even if you hate me,
Teach me to sin.

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I Knew a Woman

By Theodore Roethke (1908-83)

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek).

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make).

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved).

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).

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Love Is Not All

By Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by need and moaning for release
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

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Privilege of Being

By Robert Hass (b.1907)

Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy-
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed-
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids, and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man,
tugging the curtain rope in the dark theatre?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other,
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it.
It fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again, and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour or so
and one day, running at the sunset, the woman says to the man
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness.
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that this life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail at their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other, with old invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about the intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other.

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To a Dark Moses

By Lucille Clifton (b. 1936)

You are the one
I am lit for.

Come with your rod
that twists
and is a serpent.

I am the bush.
I am burning
I am not consumed.

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Danae by Titian

Ars Amatoria

By Ovid (Rome, 43BC-17CE)

i. Book II Part XVIII: Don’t Ask About Her Age
Don’t ask how old she is, or who was Consul when
she was born, that’s strictly the Censor’s duty:
Especially if she’s past bloom, and the good times gone,
and now she plucks the odd grey hair.
There’s value, O youth, in this or a greater age:
this will bear seed, this is a field to sow.
Besides, they’ve more knowledge of the thing,
and have that practice that alone makes the artist:
With elegance they repair the marks of time,
and take good care that they don’t appear old.
As you wish, they’ll perform in a thousand positions:
no painting’s ever contrived to show more ways.
They don’t have to be aroused to pleasure:
man and woman equally deliver what delights.
I hate sex that doesn’t provide release for both:
that’s why the touch of boys is less desirable.
I hate a girl who gives because she has to,
and, arid herself, thinks only of her spinning.
Pleasure’s no joy to me that’s given out of duty:
let no girl be dutiful to me.
I like to hear a voice confessing to her rapture,
which begs me to hold back, and keep on going.
I gaze at the dazed eyes of my frantic mistress:
she’s exhausted, and won’t let herself be touched for ages.
Nature doesn’t give those joys to raw youths,
that often come so easily beyond thirty-five.
The hasty drink the new and unfermented: pour a vintage wine
for me, matured in the cask, from an ancient consulship.
Not till it’s grown can the plane tree bear the sun,
and naked feet destroy a new-laid lawn.
I suppose you’d prefer Hermione to Helen,
and was Medusa any better than her mother?
Then, he who wants to come to his love late,
earns a valuable prize, if he’ll only wait.

ii. Book III Part XVIII: And So to Bed
To have been taught more is shameful: but kindly Venus
said: ‘What’s shameful is my particular concern.’
Let each girl know herself: adopt a reliable posture
for her body: one layout’s not suitable for all.
She who’s known for her face, lie there face upwards:
let her back be seen, she who’s back delights.
Milanion bore Atalanta’s legs on his shoulders:
if they’re good looking, that mode’s acceptable.
Let the small be carried by a horse: Andromache,
his Theban bride, was too tall to straddle Hector’s horse.
Let a woman noted for her length of body,
press the bed with her knees, arch her neck slightly.
She who has youthful thighs, and faultless breasts,
the man might stand, she spread, with her body downwards.
Don’t think it shameful to loosen your hair, like a Maenad,
and throw back your head with its flowing tresses.
You too, whom Lucina’s marked with childbirth’s wrinkles,
like the swift child of Parthia, turn your mount around.
There’s a thousand ways to do it: simple and least effort,
is just to lie there half-turned on your right side.
But neither Phoebus’s tripods nor Ammon’s horn
shall sing greater truths to you than my Muse:
If you trust art’s promise, that I’ve long employed:
my songs will offer you their promise.
Woman, feel love, melted to your very bones,
and let both delight equally in the thing.
Don’t leave out seductive coos and delightful murmurings,
don’t let wild words be silent in the middle of your games.
You too whom nature denies sexual feeling,
pretend to sweet delight with artful sounds.
Unhappy girl, for whom that sluggish place is numb,
which man and woman equally should enjoy.
Only beware when you feign it, lest it shows:
create belief in your movements and your eyes.
When you like it, show it with cries and panting breath:
Ah! I blush, that part has its own secret signs.
She who asks fondly for a gift after love’s delights,
can’t want her request to carry any weight.
Don’t let light into the room through all the windows:
it’s fitting for much of your body to be concealed.
The game is done: time to descend, you swans,
you who bent your necks beneath my yoke.
As once the boys, so now my crowd of girls
inscribe on your trophies ‘Ovid was my master.’

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The Poem of Huizhen

By Yuan Zhen (China, 779-831), translated by Tony Barnstone

A thin moon pierces the window lattice
and firefly lights appear in the jade sky.
Where the far sky begins is all silky distance.
The low trees emerge as a dark blur of green.
Dragon songs swirl through the courtyard bamboo
as phoenix songs touch parasol trees by the well.
Thin fog descends like silk gauze.
In slight wind the sound of jade rings is heard.
The Royal Mother of the West trails a dark red train.
Her maids carry cloud-shaped jade in their hands.
Deep in the night, people all are quiet.
Our meeting is like dawn, though rain is drizzling.
Pearl light shines from her decorated shoes,
flowers peek from her embroidered clothes,
her jeweled hairpin is a colored phoenix,
and her silk shawl covers a red rainbow.
She says she’s from Yao Hua Garden
and is on pilgrimage to the Jade Emperor’s palace.
Because she took a tour to Luo City
she happened to come here, east of Song family.
When I flirt with her she resists at first.
but soft feelings already secretly connect us.
When she bows her hair it seems the shadows of cicadas move.
As she walks about her jade stocking are gilded with dust.
When she turns it’s like snowflakes swirling.
On the bed we embrace through silk
and like Mandarin ducks dance with our necks twined.
Like two kinds of jade, we go well together,
though her dark eyebrows knit frequently in shyness.
Her warm red lips feel like they are melting.
I taste her breath like a fragrant orchid,
her creamy skin, her full jade flesh.
She feels strengthless, unable to move even a wrist,
though she’s so sensitive that her body tenses.
The light of her sweat is like pearls.
Her tangled hair is loose and black.
Happiness like this comes once in a thousand years.
But now we hear the fifth beat of the night drum.
We want to stay, but time is scarce,
We are so close that it is hard to stop.
Her face is sorrow
and her words promise faithfulness.
She gives me ring to remember this time,
ties a knot, to say our hearts are twined.
Her tears drop on the mirror
and around the guttering lamp insects swirl.
The dawn light comes slowly
and the rising sun starts to show.
She flies back to Luo on the back of a crane
and plays a vertical flute on Song Mountain.
My clothes are fragrant as if dyed with musk.
There are red stains still on the pillow.
Standing in front of the grass in the pond,
my thoughts are floating far away.
I hear a harp crying and complaining like a crane.
gaze at the clear River of Stars and hope to see her crane returning.
But the ocean is too broad to cross
and the sky is too high to soar above,
so like a floating cloud with nowhere to go
I walk back inside the tower.

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Like This

By Rumi (Persia 1207-1273), translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,
Like this.
When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the night sky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
Like this.
If anyone wants to know what "spirit” is,
or what "God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
Like this.
When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
Like this.
If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this.
When someone asks what it means
to "die for love”, point
If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.
This tall.
The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns.
When someone doesn’t believe that,
walk back into my house.
Like this.
When lovers moan,
they’re telling our story.
Like this.
I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.
Like this.
When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.

Like this.
How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob?
How did Jacob’s sight return?
A little wind cleans the eyes.
Like this.
When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he’ll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us
Like this.

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May I Feel Said He
By E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let’s go said he
not too far said she
what’s too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you’re willing said he
(but you’re killing said she

but it’s life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don’t stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you’re divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

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Come slowly – Eden!

By Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Come slowly – Eden!
Lips unused to Thee –
Bashful – sip thy Jasmines –
As the fainting Bee –

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums –
Counts his nectars –
Enters – and is lost in Balms!

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By William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

And yet one arrives somehow,
finds himself loosening the hooks of
her dress
in a strange bedroom—
feels the autumn
dropping its silk and linen leaves
about her ankles.
The tawdry veined body emerges
twisted upon itself
like a winter wind . . . !

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In a Gondola

By Robert Browning (1812-1889)

The moth’s kiss, first!
Kiss me as if you made me believe
You were not sure, this eve,
How my face, your flower, had pursed
Its petals up; so, here and there
You brush it, till I grow aware
Who wants me, and wide open I burst.

The bee’s kiss, now!
Kiss me as if you enter’d gay
My heart at some noonday,
A bud that dares not disallow
The claim, so all is render’d up,
And passively its shatter’d cup
Over your head to sleep I bow.

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Love and Sleep

By A. C. Swinburne (1837-1909)

Lying asleep between the strokes of night
I saw my love lean over my sad bed,
Pale as the duskiest lily’s leaf or head,
Smooth-skinned and dark, with bare throat made to bite,
Too wan for blushing and too warm for white,
But perfect-coloured without white or red.
And her lips opened amorously, and said—
I wist not what, saving one word—Delight.

And all her face was honey to my mouth,
And all her body pasture to mine eyes;
The long lithe arms and hotter hands than fire,
The quivering flanks, hair smelling of the south,
The bright light feet, the splendid supple thighs
And glittering eyelids of my soul’s desire.

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I Am Vertical

By Sylvia Plath (1932-63)

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one’s longevity and the other’s daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and the flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them —Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

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Sea Poppies

By H. D. (1886-1961)

Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,

spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:

your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.

Beautiful, wide-spread,
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?

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Babies in their mothers’ arms

By W.H. Auden (1907-73)

Babies in their mothers’ arms
Exercise their budding charms
On their fingers and their toes,
Striving ever to enclose
In the circle of their will
Objects disobedient still,
But the boy comes fast enough
To the limits of self-love,
And the adult learns what small
Forces rally at his call.
Large and paramount the State
That will not co-operate
With the Duchy of his mind:
All his lifetime he will find
Swollen knee or aching tooth
Hostile to his quest for truth;
Never will his prick belong
To his world of right and wrong,
Nor its values comprehend
Who is foe and who is friend.

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The Floating Poem Unnumbered

By Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

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 have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave — whatever happens, this is.  

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What Do Women Want?

By Kim Addonizio (b.1954)

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


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