body, Choices, Love, Poetry, Relationships

How to Write a Love Poem


1. Here is your blank page.
A crease deepening in the fold of their neck.
A spiderweb alongside the eyes.
Knuckles nicked and gnarled
from every saw blade that has ever gone sideways.
Their hull with its jagged seams lashed back together
more times than even they can count,
Yet strength enough still to flip you like an egg
over easy, your wet yolk intact (but not for long).
Their silhouette against the moonlaced slats,
looming, flesh-wrapped,
lifting the crenulation of your ribs
smoothing the oil they somehow coax
from pockets
you forgot you’d sewn into the edges of your whispers.

2. Here is your title.
That first time,
after that first kiss
out in front of the house.
Frost breath candy floss
in the December starblue suspended between you.
Good night, Honey.
Warming you, like you the milk and that word, the thing itself,
Somatic onomatopoeia:
The humming gold of their voice
Sugaring your bones.
Until you hear them aim it elsewhere.
Honey for their children, their exes, the dog for god’s sake.
So now what title will you take?
Baby. You feel it low and pure and secretly yes, but
alas, the patriarchy.
So Darling. My pet? My love, my dear.
Cielo, recommends a friend from Mexico, but no.
You try on pumpkin
My mouse.
My sweet.
How to name this pillow of spun cells?
Their thumb releasing the marble of pain
buried beneath your right shoulderblade, right there.
The moan, the turning towards. Your ear upon their chest.
The heart, in its chambers,
all of what’s held back even as it surges.
Their secrets.
Your choosing.
Their defensiveness.
Your doubt.
Their promise.
The old wound.
The new scald.
The distance.
The hollow place.
The echo there, if you shh. If you listen.
for the source: the plain truth of their bloodbeat:
That steady sweet heart.

3. Here is your itinerant passage.
When you are writing this poem, they must not be nearby.
Wait for a small forced separation. Work trip. Grocery run.
Best to preclude death unless it’s the only option left.
Distance lets you feel for their traces in the space between.
Leave the fat seals sunning at Point Lobos.
Ditch the bikes near a tattoo parlor in Chinatown.
See it all recede, the stovetop chicken and salad
on a school night
as they rehash the significance of the 13th Amendment
with the boy one last time
before tomorrow’s test.
Follow the winding songlines across stretches
of mercifully featureless earth
to trace the story of you
to the story of us.

4. Here is your confession
Are you relying on your imagination?
How much of this do you embellish
to prod the winter-dulled butterflies
into a flurry of enthusiasm?
It’s time to put down the pen.

5. Here is your atonement.
Go to them.
With whichever of your remaining senses is at hand,
Brush the wary arm. Inhale the faded heat.
Place your forehead against theirs for ten full seconds.
This is longer than you might think, so you must commit.

Stay put. Do only this.

It may not be too late.
Let the surprise ebb and the soft surf give way to sorrow.
Stay put.
With them.
Abandon your big plans. Don’t say a word. Certainly don’t try to write one.
This, simply rising and crossing the room for this,
feels far harder than you ever imagined love would.
Your poem lives here,
suspended in the eddy of your shared breath.
It unfurls the thin, wet paper of its wings
in the silent roar
of surrender.

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