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How Do I Love Thee?
By Charles Ghigna
October, 2006, 11:00

Expressing your heartfelt fondness without being trite is the writer's challenge.
he love poem is one of the easiest and most difficult poems to write. On the one hand the need to express our feelings for the ones we love provides us with one of our most natural and powerful forms of inspiration. On the other hand, the ability to turn our personal feelings into poetry without sounding trite provides us with one of our most challenging tasks. How many ways can we say "I love you" without sounding like just another greeting card? Cliché and sentiment often get in the way. Trying to remain original while trying to clearly communicate our love provides us with one of poetry’s greatest challenges.

Unlike most poetry where the self-conscious first person point of view is avoided, the love poem is often written in a more personal voice directly to the listener/reader, the ever-present “you” of the poem. Here are three free verse love poems written in the first person point of view (“I”) directly to the unknown “you.” The unknown “you” in these three love poems is my beloved wife, Debra.

Your Song

sings always in me
even when you are silent,
even when you are away.
To me there is no sound
as soft as you,
no voice on earth
that gives my feet
such wings,
no whispered prayer
filled with so much promise.
Your voice is the pillow
on which I rest my heart,
the blanket with which
I warm my dreams,
the bed in which my soul
learns its nightly lesson
of everlasting love.

Give Me Ten More Years

and I still could not tell you
any more than right now about
how brown your eyes are to me,
about how your voice is always
the best first sound I hear
each morning, about how even
your fragrance in an empty room
lifts me up and sends me searching,
about how your long legs in summer shorts
make me want to run outside
and jump so high I might just
catch hold of a cloud, might just
find you already there smiling
with your arms out-stretched
letting me know this is where we are,
this is where we always will be.

A Gift of Flowers

I want to give you flowers,
not in baskets and bouquets,
not cut and dried in vases,
not wrapped in green wax papers
or pinned into corsage;
I want to give you flowers,
a hillside full of flowers
where all our someday babies
can run and laugh and play
among the wild flowers
I give to you today.

The older, traditional verse forms such as the sonnet are also options for writing out your more formal expressions of love. That classical fourteen-line poem of iambic pentameter is the sterling standard of lyrical verse. For examples of the English sonnet read Shakespeare. For examples of the Italian sonnet, read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets From The Portuguese.

The villanelle is one of the longest, most challenging, ornate lyrical forms of traditional verse. It contains nineteen lines, five stanzas of three lines each (tercets), and one stanza of four lines (quatrain) with two rhymes and two refrains. The rhyme scheme of the five tercets is a-b-a.  The rhyme scheme of the quatrain is a-b-a-a. The first, then the third lines alternate as the last lines (refrains) of stanzas two, three, and four; and then stanza five ends with a couplet. It is not as complicated as it sounds. Simply look at an example of the villanelle to follow its pattern. Most villanelle are written in iambic pentameter (ten syllables, every other syllable accented). Here are two examples of the villanelle. The first one is written to my wife, the second is written as an apostrophe to Van Gogh.

Angel Hands

You make our morning bed with love each day.
A simple task, you ask for nothing more.
You are the only prayer I ever pray.

Your angel hands prepare a soft bouquet       
Of pillows wrapped in handmade lace decor.       
You make our morning bed with love each day.

This moment captures more than I can say       
About all that I cherish and adore.
You are the only prayer I ever pray.

Out of a dream your gentle hands obey
A sunbeam spread across your daily chore.
You make our morning bed with love each day.

How could I ever turn and walk away?
My heart belongs to you forevermore.
You are the only prayer I ever pray.

Like lacy pillows side by side we stay
As evening shadows dance across the floor.
You make our morning bed with love each day.
You are the only prayer I ever pray.

A Villanelle For Van Gogh

You saw beyond the blue that filled your eye
And like a child lost in evening prayer,
You brushed against the stars as you passed by.

You spun nocturnal truths out of the sky
In waves of rolling flame upon the air.
You saw beyond the blue that filled your eye.

Your steeple still transcends the hills that try
To touch the golden dreams that held you there.
You brushed against the stars as you passed by.

You searched the other side where shadows lie
In swirling pools of night upon your stare.
You saw beyond the blue that filled your eye.

But Theo and Gachet could only try
To pull you from the depths of your own glare.
You brushed against the stars as you passed by.

Your final stroke fell on a canvas sky
Where dreams once prayed upon the evening air.
You saw beyond the blue that filled your eye.
You brushed against the stars as you passed by.

It’s also fun creating your own short, clever forms for the love poem.

It Would Be Easy

to write of love
if I could build
a mirror
in every poem
and hand
each one
to you.

Royal Love

You treat Love
like a king.
You crown him
with your smile.
You rule him
with your kiss.
You make him wish
you were his queen.
You make Love

Your Eyes

are the sea
upon which the ship
of all my dreams
sets sail.

Finally, for those of you who like a little mystery in your love poems, you might enjoy the more metaphysical approach to the love poem. Here is an example of a short series of poems from Wings Of Fire, written in a dramatic dialogue.


We follow

to the

We climb
open the door

and enter
the sanctuary
of each other.

Parting Shadows

Your lips are the poem
I enter to write
myself back into being.

They open into that place
where two dark angels
sit in a screaming church.

They whisper the sweet sin
of flying the night
with nowhere to land.

Their winged words
lift us into each other
and tell us who we are.

Wings of Fire

We rise and fall
touching, retouching
ourselves with each other.

We open and close
coming, coming back
to the burning light.

We dare this dance
as one with the
unforgiving flame.

This is our fire.
We are the wings
of its moth.
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Charles Ghigna is the author of more than thirty award-winning books of poetry including Love Poems and Wings Of Fire. For more information, please visit the Father Goose website at

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