Nailing down the best erotic poetry is difficult because preferences and tastes vary so greatly from person to person. This is great news! It means we have a variety of erotic poems to read that maximize and diversify our concept of sexiness.
As I was researching poems for this list, I found that I knew exactly what I didn’t like in an erotic poem. Descriptions of throbbing veins and the curve of her creamy white neck, for example, do not move me. This means that if you love phallic symbols and lingering contemplations of white ladies’ necks, you’re not going to see very much of that here. Sorry.
I landed on these 13 erotic poems that I think are genuinely sexy for one reason or another. For some, it’s the urgency in the speaker’s voice. It’s lovely to feel seen and needed. Poems with sensory detail so rich that I feel embodied in the poem itself also make a strong case for eroticism. There’s at least one poem here that had me pressing my hand to my heart with my mouth open, thinking with joy, “can they say that?”
So, here I present to you, 13 erotic poems that span from the classics to the contemporary, each of which made me sigh at least once:
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,
spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:
your stalk has caught root
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?
Bring me your pain, love. Spread
it out like fine rugs, silk sashes,
warm eggs, cinnamon
and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me
the detail, the intricate embroidery
on the collar, tiny shell buttons,
the hem stitched the way you were taught,
pricking just a thread, almost invisible.
Unclasp it like jewels, the gold
still hot from your body. Empty
your basket of figs. Spill your wine.
That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it,
cradling it on my tongue like the slick
seed of pomegranate. I would lift it
tenderly, as a great animal might
carry a small one in the private
cave of the mouth.
*(Note from Sarah: this is it. This is the one that had me fanning myself.)
At the touch of you,
As if you were an archer with your swift hand at the bow,
The arrows of delight shot through my body.
You were spring,
And I the edge of a cliff,
And a shining waterfall rushed over me.
Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.
you burn me
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 had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.
it is easier to work
after our bodies
paper and pen
neither care nor profit
whether we write or not
but as your body moves
under my hands
charged and waiting
we cut the leash
you create me against your thighs
hilly with images
moving through our word countries
writes into your flesh
you make of me.
Touching you I catch midnight
as moon fires set in my throat
I love you flesh into blossom
I made you
and take you made
The first time we made love I realized why
I never prayed. One human can only say
Oh God so many times.
Last night I slept, and when I woke her kiss
Still floated on my lips. For we had strayed
Together in my dream, through some dim glade,
Where the shy moonbeams scarce dared light our bliss.
The air was dank with dew, between the trees,
The hidden glow-worms kindled and were spent.
Cheek pressed to cheek, the cool, the hot night-breeze
Mingled our hair, our breath, and came and went,
As sporting with our passion. Low and deep
Spake in mine ear her voice: “And didst thou dream,
This could be buried? This could be sleep?
And love be thrall to death! Nay, whatso seem,
Have faith, dear heart; this is the thing that is!”
Thereon I woke, and on my lips her kiss.
If only he could touch her,
Her name like an old wish
In the stopped weather of salt
On a snail. He longs to be
Words, juicy as passionfruit
On her tongue. He’d do anything,
Would dance three days & nights
To make the most terrible gods
Rise out of ashes of the yew,
To step from the naked
Fray, to be as tender
As meat imagined off
The bluegill’s pearlish
Bones. He longs to be
An orange, to feel fingernails
Run a seam through him.
You came to the side of the bed
and sat staring at me.
Then you kissed me—I felt
hot wax on my forehead.
I wanted it to leave a mark:
that’s how I knew I loved you.
Because I wanted to be burned, stamped,
to have something in the end—
I drew the gown over my head;
a red flush covered my face and shoulders.
It will run its course, the course of fire,
setting a cold coin on the forehead, between the eyes.
You lay beside me; your hand moved over my face
as though you had felt it also—
you must have known, then, how I wanted you.
We will always know that, you and I.
The proof will be my body.
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.
As I would free the white almond from the green husk
So I would strip your trappings off,
And fingering the smooth and polished kernel
I should see that in my hands glittered a gem beyond counting.