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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

(Belleau Wood, 1917)

“A soldier waits until he’s called—then
moves ass and balls up, over,
tearing twigs and crushed faces,
swinging his bayonet like a pitchfork
and thinking anything’s better
than a trench, ratshit
and the tender hairs of chickweed.

A

poem

 

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2
poem
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting.
Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert.
Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips.

Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round
As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines.
They bring the scent of