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

If music be the food of love, play on. 

This is the house that music built:
each note a fingertip’s purchase,
rung upon rung laddering

across the unspeakable world. 
As for those other shrill facades,
rigged-for-a-day porticos

composed to soothe regiments
of eyes

2
poem
Shirtsleeved afternoons
turn toward leather as the trees
blush, scatter a last

few bright, weary wisps across
the great bruised heart of the South.

The spirit cup drifts
down the pond's moon-sparked highway.
Far laughter, shadows.

Love or poison? Your turn. Drink
to the star-drenched latitudes!