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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 14, 2017.
About this Poem 

“How to find words for the human heart and all the emotions we ascribe to it? The path is a veritable minefield of clichés—those well-intentioned, once-fresh expressions whose very popularity has rendered them useless, even laughable. I decided to take these tired metaphors and deconstruct their camouflage, until all that remains is the true 'heart' of the matter: one human being, stripped of blather and artifice, speaking to the beloved.”
—Rita Dove

Heart to Heart

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Rita Dove served as the US Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2005 to 2011.

by this poet

poem
I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their
poem

When you appeared it was as if
magnets cleared the air.
I had never seen that smile before
or your hair, flying silver. Someone
waving goodbye, she was silver, too.
Of course you didn’t see me.
I called softly so you could choose
not to answer—then called again.
You turned in

poem

 

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