25 Poems About Breaking Up, Grief, and Heartbreak for Readers Who Aren’t Excited About Valentine’s Day

Since there have been love poems, there have been poems about breaking up, grief, and heartbreak. Seriously, just take a look at Homer or Virgil. Or how about like 60% of what Shakespeare wrote about? Valentine’s Day can be a super fun holiday whether you are in a relationship or not. But if you aren’t particularly feeling Cupid this year, go ahead and wallow in these sad love (and anti-love) poems.

25 Poems About Breaking Up, Grief, and Heartbreak for Readers Who Aren't Excited About Valentine's Day

1. “After Love” by Sara Teasdale

There is no magic any more,

We meet as other people do,
You work no miracle for me
Nor I for you.

You were the wind and I the sea –
There is no splendor any more,
I have grown listless as the pool
Beside the shore.

But though the pool is safe from storm
And from the tide has found surcease,
It grows more bitter than the sea,
For all its peace.

2. “The Break Up Poem” by Rage Almighty

3. “Oxymoronic Love” by Jennifer Militello

Hatred is the new love. Rage is right. Touch

is touch. The collars of the coat, turned down,
point up. The corners of our hearts are smoothed
with rough. Our glass breaks slick, our teeth
rip soft. The mollusk of me, shell-less.
If the future once was, the past predicted
us. The street gives off rhythm. The sun
gives off dusk. When we walk, we
pour backward. When we have nothing,
it’s enough. The hunger leaves us satisfied,
the fullness leaves us wrung. The sum of all
its parts is whole, the reap of it has roots, not
took or plucked. Far apart, we move inside
our clothes: open is old, young is closed. The fangs
we used to bare are milk teeth grown from gums.
The fire we used to be scathed by numbs. We
run on the track of our consumption, done.
We’ve been ice when liquid is our natural state.
We’ve worn our husks, we’ve clenched our fists.
We scold and punish, scrape, pay a price.
We dole out in slanders what has no weight.
We pay in cringing for the moments. We open
injuries in one another. We lacerate places
that flex like knuckles, crack and grow. We are
sipping from the water’s thirst. We were lost
at first. From the finish, begun. We undergo
the pain the other knows. We are cartoon yards
where dogs dig for lost bones. Esoteric,
we are full of holes. That need to be filled.
That need to be dug. We are under-loved.
We are under-known. Give to us and we are
downcast and uplifted and sift like water
and sand like stone. We are greedy, we are
gone. We are helpless, we are prone. Drain us
or fill us and we’ll ache a vast installment.
Let us empty. Let us alone. Madness
is our happiness. Sadness is our home.

4. “The Fist” by Derek Walcott

This fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? But this has moved

past love to mania. This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.

Hold hard then, heart. This way at least you live.

5. “104” from The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

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6. “Stay With Me” by Bianca Phipps

7. “Heavy” by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

8. A poem from The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

9. “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and Where, and Why” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

10. “My Honest Poem” by Rudy Francisco

11. “Sonnet 139” by William Shakespeare

O, call not me to justify the wrong
That thy unkindness lays upon my heart;
Wound me not with thine eye but with thy tongue;
Use power with power, and slay me not by art.
Tell me thou lov’st elsewhere; but in my sight,
Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside;
What need’st thou wound with cunning when thy might
Is more than my o’erpressed defense can bide?
Let me excuse thee: ah, my love well knows
Her pretty looks have been mine enemies;
And therefore from my face she turns my foes,
That they elsewhere might dart their injuries—
Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
Kill me outright with looks and rid my pain.

12. “Prism” by Andrea Gibson

13. “Never Give ALl the Heart” by W.B. Yeats

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

14. “Movement Song” by Audre Lorde

I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
without goodbyes.

Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh
and now
there is someone to speak for them
moving away from me into tomorrows
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into desire
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle
conceiving decision.
Do not remember me
as disaster
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
watching
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
only ourselves.

15. “For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” by Warsan Shire

16. “Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

17. “Local News: Woman Dies in Chimney” by Kristin Tracy

They broke up and she, either fed up or drunk or undone,
ached to get back inside. Officials surmise

she climbed a ladder to his roof, removed
the chimney cap and entered feet first. Long story short,

she died there. Stuck. Like a tragic Santa. Struggling
for days, the news explains. It was a smell that led

to the discovery of her body. One neighbor
speaks directly into the microphone, asks how a person

could disregard so much: the damper, the flue,
the smoke shelf. He can’t imagine what it was she faced.

The empty garage. The locked back door. And is that
a light on in the den? They show us the grass

where they found her purse. And it’s not impossible to picture
her standing on the patio — abandoned — the mind

turning obscene, all hopes pinned on refastening the snap.
Then spotting the bricks rising above the roof

and at first believing and then knowing, sun flashing its
god-blinding light behind it, that the chimney was the way.

18. “The Breakup” by Kyla Jenee Lacey

19. “This Was Once a Love Poem” by Jane Hirshfield

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

It spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.

 

20. “Are All the Breakups in Your Poems Real?” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

If by real you mean as real as a shark tooth stuck
in your heel, the wetness of a finished lollipop stick,
the surprise of a thumbtack in your purse—
then Yes, every last page is true, every nuance,
bit, and bite. Wait. I have made them up—all of them—
and when I say I am married, it means I married
all of them, a whole neighborhood of past loves.
Can you imagine the number of bouquets, how many
slices of cake? Even now, my husbands plan a great meal
for us—one chops up some parsley, one stirs a bubbling pot
on the stove. One changes the baby, and one sleeps
in a fat chair. One flips through the newspaper, another
whistles while he shaves in the shower, and every single
one of them wonders what time I am coming home.

21. “You Fit Into Me” by Margaret Atwood

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

22. Poem from Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell

23. “A Winter’s Tale” by D.H. Lawrence

Yesterday the fields were only grey with scattered snow,
And now the longest grass-leaves hardly emerge;
Yet her deep footsteps mark the snow, and go
On towards the pines at the hills’ white verge.

I cannot see her, since the mist’s white scarf
Obscures the dark wood and the dull orange sky;
But she’s waiting, I know, impatient and cold, half
Sobs struggling into her frosty sigh.

Why does she come so promptly, when she must know
That she’s only the nearer to the inevitable farewell;
The hill is steep, on the snow my steps are slow –
Why does she come, when she knows what I have to tell?

24. “Love Elegy in the Chinese Garden, with Koi” by Nathan McClain

Near the entrance, a patch of tall grass.
Near the tall grass, long-stemmed plants;

each bending an ear-shaped cone
to the pond’s surface. If you looked closely,

you could make out silvery koi
swishing toward the clouded pond’s edge

where a boy tugs at his mother’s shirt for a quarter.
To buy fish feed. And watching that boy,

as he knelt down to let the koi kiss his palms,
I missed what it was to be so dumb

as those koi. I like to think they’re pure,
that that’s why even after the boy’s palms were empty,

after he had nothing else to give, they still kissed
his hands. Because who hasn’t done that—

loved so intently even after everything
has gone? Loved something that has washed

its hands of you? I like to think I’m different now,
that I’m enlightened somehow,

but who am I kidding? I know I’m like those koi,
still, with their popping mouths, that would kiss

those hands again if given the chance. So dumb.

25. “I Wanted to Make Myself Like the Ravine” by Hannah Gamble

I wanted to make myself like the ravine
so that all good things
would flow into me.

Because the ravine is lowly,
it receives an abundance.

This sounds wonderful
to everyone
who suffers from lacking,
but consider, too, that a ravine
keeps nothing out:

in flows a peach
with only one bite taken out of it,
but in flows, too,
the body of a stiff mouse
half cooked by the heat of the stove
it was toughening under.

I have an easygoing way about me.
I’ve been an inviting host —
meaning to, not meaning to.
Oops — he’s approaching with his tongue
already out
and moving.

Analyze the risks
of becoming a ravine.

Compare those with the risks
of becoming a well
with a well-bolted lid.

Which I’d prefer
depends largely on which kinds
of animals were inside me
when the lid went on
and how likely they’d be
to enjoy the water,
vs. drown, freeze, or starve.

The lesson: close yourself off
at exactly the right time.

On the day that you wake up
under some yellow curtains
with a smile on your face,

lock the door.
Live out your days
untroubled like that.