In silence the heart raves.  It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
A meaning.  I was ten, skinny, red-headed,
Freckled.  In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat
In front of the drugstore, sipping something
Through a straw. There is nothing like
Beauty. It stops your heart.  It
Thickens your blood.  It stops your breath.  It
Makes you feel dirty.  You need a hot bath.  
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.
How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me.  She
Named my name. I thought I would wake up dead.
Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen.  They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop. Did no work.
Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.
He never came down.  They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.
When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him.  I saw the wedding.  There were
Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable.  I thought
I would cry.  I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.
The mortgage was foreclosed. That last word was whispered.
She never came back.  The family
Sort of drifted off.  Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.
But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once.  I didn't even know she knew it.
 
From New and Selected Poems 1923-1985 by Robert Penn Warren, published by Random House. Copyright © 1985 by Robert Penn Warren. Used by permission of William Morris Agency, Inc., on behalf of the author.

Poems by This Author

A Way to Love God by Robert Penn Warren
Here is the shadow of truth, for only the shadow is true.
Evening Hawk by Robert Penn Warren
From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Mortal Limit by Robert Penn Warren
I saw the hawk ride updraft in the sunset over Wyoming.
San Francisco Night Windows by Robert Penn Warren
So hangs the hour like fruit fullblown and sweet,
Tell Me a Story by Robert Penn Warren
Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
The Nature of a Mirror by Robert Penn Warren
Vision by Robert Penn Warren
I shall build me a house where the larkspur blooms


Further Reading

Poems About Love
Paradise Lost, Book IV, Lines 639–652
by John Milton
A Ditty
by Sir Philip Sidney
A Drinking Song
by W. B. Yeats
A Parisian Roof Garden in 1918
by Natalie Clifford Barney
Action Poem
by Helen Hoyt
Amour Honestus
by Edward Hirsch
an endnote and love song:
by Erín Moure
Answer to a Child's Question
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
As I Walked Out One Evening
by W. H. Auden
Credo
by Matthew Rohrer
Dear Tiara
by Sean Thomas Dougherty
Dependants
by Paul Farley
El Beso
by Angelina Weld Grimké
Elegy in Joy [excerpt]
by Muriel Rukeyser
Epithalamium
by Matthew Rohrer
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I Built a Fire
by Natalie Clifford Barney
I Love You
by Sara Teasdale
I think I should have loved you presently (Sonnet IX)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
In Passing
by Stanley Plumly
Invitation to Love
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
It Was Raining In Delft
by Peter Gizzi
June Light
by Richard Wilbur
Losing It
by Margaret Gibson
Love
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Lullaby
by W. H. Auden
Midwinter Day [Excerpt]
by Bernadette Mayer
Miss Sally on Love
by Shara McCallum
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130)
by William Shakespeare
Ode, Aubade
by Greg Wrenn
poem I wrote sitting across the table from you
by Kevin Varrone
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings
Sonnets on Love XIII
by Jean de Sponde
syntax
by Maureen N. McLane
The Love Unfeigned
by Geoffrey Chaucer
To Dorothy
by Marvin Bell
True Love
by Barry Gifford
Two Loves
by Lord Alfred Douglas
Undressing You
by Witter Bynner
What Is True
by Ben Kopel
What Was Told, That
by Jalalu'l-din Rumi
When You are Old
by W. B. Yeats
Who Shall Doubt
by George Oppen
Whom You Love
by Joseph O. Legaspi
Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (249)
by Emily Dickinson
Yours
by Daniel Hoffman