Timeless Love Poems

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Lately I’ve found myself in a new stream of reading poetry. Plenty of people (my own friends included) scoff at poetry, but I’ve always loved it. As a genre, poetry has consistently forced the world to look again at social norms. Each poem challenges our experiences and demands that we observe life with a new perspective.

I’ve come back, again and again, to my favourite love poems – controversial, cliché and cataclysmic in their turn. Below are some of my absolute favourites – ones to sit, and read, and contemplate over and over again. Heartbreak and heartsick and heart-full; it’s all here.

What He Said
Cempulappeyanirar, translated by AK Ramanujan
(found in The Interior Landscape: Classical Tamil Love Poems)


What could my mother be

to yours? What kin is my father

to yours anyway? And how

did you and I ever meet?

But in love

our hearts have mingled

like red earth and pouring rain.


You Don’t Know What Love Is

Kim Addonizio


but you know how to raise it in me

like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to

wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.

How to start clean. This love even sits up

and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.

Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want

to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive

to some cinderblock shithole in the desert

where she can drink and get sick and then

dance in nothing but her underwear. You know

where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up

with an ache she can’t locate and no money

and a terrible thirst. So to hell

with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt

and your tongue down my throat

like an oxygen tube. Cover me

in black plastic. Let the mourners come.



Rupi Kaur


if you are broken

and they have left you

do not question

whether you were


the problem was

you were so enough

that they were not able to carry it


My Lover is a Woman

Pat Parker



my lover is a woman

& when i hold her

feel her warmth

i feel good

feel safe


then- i never think of

my family’s voices

never hear my sisters say

bulldaggers, queers, funny

come see us, but don’t

bring your friends

it’s okay with us,

but don’t tell mama

it’d break her heart

never feel my father

turn in his grave

never hear my mother cry

Lord, what kind of child is this?



my lover’s hair is blonde

& when it rubs across my face

it feels soft

feels like a thousand fingers

touch my skin & hold me

and i feel good


then- i never think of the little boy

who spat & called me nigger

never think of the policemen

who kicked my body & said crawl

never think of the Black bodies

hanging in trees or filled

with bullet holes

never hear my sisters say

white folks hair stinks

don’t trust any of them

never feel my father

turn in his grace

never hear my mother talk

of her backache after scrubbing floors

never hear her cry

Lord, what kind of child is this?



my lover’s eyes are blue

& when she looks at me

i float in a warm lake

feel my muscles go weak with want

feel good

feel safe


then- i never think of the blue

eyes that have glared at me

moved three stools away from me

in a bar

never hear my sisters rage

of syphilitic Black men as

guinea pigs

rage of sterilized children

watch them just stop in an

intersection to scare the old

            white bitch

never feel my father turn

in his grave

never remember my mother

teaching me the yes sirs & ma’ams

to keep me alive

never hear my mother cry

Lord, what kind of child is this?




& when we go to a gay bar

& my people shun me because i crossed

the line

& her people look to see what’s

wrong with her

what defect

drove her to me


& when we walk the streets

of this city

forget and touch

or hold hands

& the people

stare, glare, frown, & taunt

at those queers

i remember

every word taught me

every word said to me

every deed done to me

& then i hate

i look at my lover

& for an instant



then- i hold her hand tighter

& i can hear my mother cry.

Lord, what kind of child is this?


Should You Die First
Annabelle Despard
(Taken from Being Human, Neil Astley, Ed.)


Let me at least collect your smells

as specimens: your armpits, woollen sweater,

fingers yellow from smoke. I’d need

to take an imprint of your foot

and make recordings of your laugh.


These archives I shall carry into exile;

my body a St Helena where ships no longer dock,

a rock in the ocean, an outpost where the wind howls

and polar bears beat down the door.