If the TV sitcoms we grew up with were any indication, then all wives really want on Valentine's Day is for their spouse to show up with a giant, satin-covered box of chocolates and an armful of long-stemmed red roses — or even a poetic declaration of true love, spoken aloud for all to hear. Of course, TV isn't real life (even if chocolate is always a win), and not everyone has the ability to wax poetic on the spot. So what are some existing Valentine's Day love poems your wife is sure to fall in love with this year?
And no, I'm not talking about the kind of flowery cursive prose you find inside a greeting card at the pharmacy. That's not to say there aren't some perfectly fine pre-packaged choices you can stuff into a red envelope, of course, but if you're looking to show your wife how deeply loved she is on a more literary level, there's certainly no lack of love poems out there that are bound to speak to her very soul. Whether you write one of these out by hand on carefully chosen, artisan-made paper or get down on one knee to read it out loud (or, let's face it, copy and paste it into a text because it's the thought that counts, right?), these gorgeous words could be just what her heart needs to hear this Valentine's Day.
1. "Looking at Each Other" by Muriel Rukeyser
Perhaps best known for her poems about feminism, social justice and Judaism, Muriel Rukeyser also wrote one stunning love poems, like "Looking at Each Other" (particularly timely for its references to fighting for acceptance in same sex relationships).
Yes, we were looking at each other
Yes, we knew each other very well
Yes, we had made love with each other many times
Yes, we had heard music together
Yes, we had gone to the sea together
Yes, we had cooked and eaten together
Yes, we had laughed often day and night
Yes, we fought violence and knew violence
Yes, we hated the inner and outer oppression
Yes, that day we were looking at each other
2. "After Paradise" by Czeslaw Milosz
With the very first line of "After Paradise," Nobel Prize-winning poet Czeslaw Milosz speaks to the spousal relationship: "Don't run anymore." What follows serves as an exquisite reminder of how important it is to always hold the little things in a long-term relationship sacred.
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what it is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticos
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.
3. "Valentine" by Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.
I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.
Here. It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.
I am trying to be truthful.
Not a cute card or a kissogram.
4. "Another Valentine" by Wendy Cope
Originally commissed by The Daily Telegraph from award-winning poet Wendy Cope, "Another Valentine" puts a sweetly hilarious spin on long-term love.
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.
5. "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O'Hara
Any poem that includes the line "I look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world" is surely a poem any wife (or human) would appreciate, but this poem by Frank O'Hara goes a step further in elevating some of the most mundane moments in a relationship. "Having a coke with you," he writes:
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
6. "Romeo and Juliet" by Richard Brautigan
Both unsentimental and incredibly sentimental, if that makes sense, "Romeo and Juliet" by post-Beat era poet Richard Brautigan is one that will sums up married love rather perfectly, whether or not it was intended to do so.
If you will die for me,
I will die for you
and our graves will be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a laundromat
If you will bring the soap
I will bring the bleach.
7. "Don't Go Far Off" by Pablo Neruda
Of course we couldn't have a list of love poems without one by Pablo Neruda, and "Don't Go Far Off" is a soul-stirring call to the all-consuming spark that brought you two together in the first place.
Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.
Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.
8. "Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses" by Alberto Rios
This playful love poem by Alberto Rios is about what is often the real glue that holds couples together: the ability to make each other laugh.
Mr. Teodoro Luna in his later years had taken to kissing
Not so much with his lips as with his brows.
This is not to say he put his forehead
Against her mouth--
Rather, he would lift his eyebrows, once, quickly:
Not so vigorously he might be confused with the villain
Famous in the theaters, but not so little as to be thought
A slight movement, one of accident. This way
He kissed her
Often and quietly, across tables and through doorways,
Sometimes in photographs, and so through the years themselves.
This was his passion, that only she might see.
He might feel some movement on her lips
9. "[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]" by E.E. Cummings
It's true that E.E. Cummings' punctation was so bonkers he appeared to have a broken shift key on his typewriter. But when your writing is this beautiful, it could be written backwards and it wouldn't matter — it still makes the reader swoon.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
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