Sometimes, when I’m miles deep in the woods, looking for a new cutting site, it feels like I’m the first man who has ever been there. I look up and the trees are so thick I can barely seek the sky. I get so scared but the world somehow makes sense there. Being with you feels like that.–Roxane Gay, “North Country”

His curls spilled through my fingers. We tasted like the whitest heat of a fire closest to the ground where most things burn. –Roxane Gay, “Break All the Way Down”

If something happened to you, I would have to be put down. I would become an animal. –Roxane Gay, “Strange Gods”

I love you like I love the sea. And I’m ok
with drowning.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Waves Put You to Sleep”

At home in bed a few weeks before he died, I asked him, “Can you breathe okay with my head on your chest like this?” His answer was “It’s the only way I know how to breathe.” –Lucy Kalanithi, in the epilogue of Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air

Every love poem is really a broken bone kaleidoscope, turning. –Rachel McKibbens, “Poem for Miss Meade”

I’ve always known, on a purely intellectual level, that our separateness and isolation are an illusion. We’re all made of the same thing—the blown-out pieces of matter formed in the fires of dead stars. I’ve just never felt that knowledge in my bones until that moment, there, with you. And it’s because of you. –Blake Crouch, Dark Matter 

I want her in a way I can’t explain. That I don’t ever want to be able to explain, because the mystery of it is a perfect thing. –ditto

We sat in the park for a long time, watching the shooting stars and making wishes upon them, kissing with a kind of sweet abandon. Looking at star fields can induce a piercing terror at one’s finite place in the universe. This night it did not. It was just Nature at her most ravishingly beautiful, and we saw it together. It was a moment, one bead among many on our wire of time, and I would not exchange it, or our kisses, for anything in the world. –Kay Redfield Jamison, Nothing Was the Same

That was always a good story: an actual coup de foudre, a bolt of lightning, love at first sight. I felt a visceral torque, I would tell people, a literal churn of my organs: not butterflies, not arousal; rather, a not unpleasant rotation of my innards, as never before. Lightning struck and did not curdle the cream but instead turned it to sweet, silken butter. Lightning turned sand into glass. –Elizabeth Alexandre, “Lottery Tickets: Grieving for a Husband,” in the February 9, 2015, issue of the New Yorker

She was his home. The only land that bound him. –Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Perhaps our deepest love is already inscribed within us, so its object doesn’t create a new word but instead allows us to read the one written. –ditto

... my whole sense of being is blasted by your absence ... –Sylvia Plath, in an October 7, 1956 letter to Ted Hughes

I don’t believe in love at first sight but maybe this is as close as it gets: seeing someone, a person you have no business loving, on a football field one night and thinking, I want you to be mine and I want to be yours. Lying on a closet floor with someone and thinking, I shouldn’t know you but I do. Recognizing someone as a part of you before they’ve even become that person in your life, and knowing, without a doubt, that neither of you will ever be who [you are] in this exact moment ever again and believing, against all odds, you will continue to belong to one another despite that. –Emily Henry, The Love That Split the World

Every space between us aches. Every part of him feels warm and magnetic over me. –ditto

When some elements come together they create a reaction that can’t be reversed. They transcend chemistry. Is this what love feels like? Is this how it begins? Am I even capable of this? –Michael C. Hall, in Dexter

The weight of his fingers on mine, like a bird landing on a branch. It was the drop of the match. I did not see that we were surrounded by tinder until I felt it burst into flames. –Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

In those early visits it was as though we were building something sacred. We’d place words carefully together, piling them upon one another, leaving no spaces. We each created towers, two beacons, the like of which are built along roads to guide the way when the weather comes down. We saw one another through the fog, the suffocating repetition of life. –ditto

We are who we are as a result of who we love. –Jennifer Finney Boylan, quoted in Andrew Soloman’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

You and I could collide, like atoms in
some scientist’s wet dream. We could
start a new universe together. We could
mix like a disease. And if we do, I hope
we never get better.
–Iain S. Thomas, “The Slight Pinch”

Each time I saw her smile, hope and joy rose up inside me with the force of blooming sunflowers. I was reminded by her beauty, and by her gestures, which were so dear to me, and by her luminous skin, that the center of the world, the center to which I must travel, was at her side. –Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence

What I wanted to say was, It is enough for me to sit beside you. –ditto

The whiplash of living at once what I had been awaiting for years, the sheer disbelief at finding happiness in this world, had reduced the pleasures to a series of luminous moments, discrete and without measure, like so many fireflies, beaming and vanishing in an instant. –ditto (the narrator had just made love with his soulmate after years of estrangement)

To have her here in bed with me, breathing on me, her hair in my mouth—I count that something of a miracle. –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

My religion is well known to those who know me. I believe in bodies, arms entangling and untangling. I believe, and I know it to be so, that there are so many curves and hollows in a single body that none of us can come to know them all within a single lifetime. I believe in one to one and one on one. No wine or magic, no hand-me-down Bible can improve on that. I believe in spring, but only if I’m rolled up in a pillow or holding some well-loved face in my hands ... More often I’m a spectator, meaning I’ve no reason to believe in anything save what I see. But I do. –Rod McKuen, Alone

It is odd how much we want to be in love when you think about how much anxiety comes with it, like a tax on money you won in the lottery. –Joe Hill, “Rain”

I just started feeling what it felt like to love someone. I don’t remember it being ecstatic; I just remember it feeling like when I would go fishing as a young girl, and a sunfish would catch the hook. Just that tug on the other end of the line. –Susan Weinreich, quoted in Andrew Solomon’s Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

Oh, right, I keep forgetting, for lots and lots of people in the world, the notion of “falling in love” has (of all things) sexual connotations. No, that’s not what I think is happening. For me, what falling in love means is different. It’s a matter of suddenly, globally, “knowing” that another person represents your only access to some vitally transmissible truth or radiantly heightened mode of perception, and that if you lose the thread of this intimacy, both your soul and your whole world might subsist forever in some desert-like state of ontological impoverishment. –Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “A Dialogue on Love”

Love is our essential nutrient. Without it, life has little meaning. It’s the best thing we have to give and the most valuable thing we receive. It’s worthy of all the hullabaloo. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

... what if loving something means you should mostly feel frustrated and thwarted, and then a little ruined, too, by the pursuit. But that you still come back for more. –Chang-Rae Lee, On Such a Full Sea

There was a lotus inside a person, and another person could share its atmosphere, its fragrance, even if those two people were not touching. –Kathleen Winter, Annabel

So we kiss, and the weird smells of the morgue suddenly turn into something tame and slippery, something our lungs can slide over like jelly, something that can hold our hearts steady throughout own quiet death-rattle. –Alissa Nutting, “Corpse Smoker”

And then my soul saw you and it kind of went “Oh there you are. I’ve been looking for you.” –Iain S. Thomas, “The Point of Contact”

Everything you do, you pay for. So if you’re going to kiss me, you’d best be prepared to bleed. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Shipwreck in My Head”

So yes, we could kiss. I could kiss you and you could kiss me. There’s no science, plane ticket, or clock stopping us. But if we kiss, it will end the world. And I’ve ended the world before. No one survived. Least of all me. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Missed Appointment”

It may have just been a moment to you, but it changed every single one that followed for me. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Fragile Arc”

There are a million important things to do. But none as important as lying here next to you. –Iain S. Thomas, “The To Not Do List”

You are the best parts of all the songs I love. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Heart Beats Per Minute”

There are a million ways to bleed. But you are by far my favourite. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Scars You Love”

When I look up at night, all the constellations look like you. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Zodiac of One”

You and I could collide, like atoms in some scientist’s wet dream. We could start a new universe together. We could mix like a disease. And if we do, I hope we never get better. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Slight Pinch”

You can be in love and you can be in a relationship. But they’re not always the same thing. –Iain S. Thomas, “The Rose Is not Always a Rose”

Only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The human heart does not beat conveniently in time to a pre-written score. –Bel Mooney, in the November 23, 2012, issue of The Daily Mail

When you’re with someone, you put up with the stuff that makes you lose respect for them. And that is love. –Ellie Kemper, in The Office

As the minutes passed I became acutely aware of his breathing—even, rhythmic—and soon found that my own had matched his tempo. How he could soothe me in a time like this, without even trying, how we connected on this most basic frequency made my heart ache for something impossible. –Kristen Simmons, Article 5

I could feel him. Every part of him. His soul was sewn to mine. His heated blood flowed through my veins. ... There was no part of me that was not his. –ditto

And after all this time, kissing him felt the same as landing on the island had felt: the same sense of fear, and of arriving finally on a safe shore. –Francesca Haig, The Fire Sermon

… here was a boundless sensual freedom, theirs for the taking, even blessed by the vicar—with my body I thee worship—a dirty, joyous, bare-limbed freedom, which rose in his imagination like a vast airy cathedral, ruined perhaps, roofless, fan-vaulted to the skies, where they would weightlessly drift upward in a powerful embrace and have each other, drown each other in waves of breathless, mindless ecstasy. –Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach

His voice touches places inside me like someone moving through a house, flicking light switches. ... And even if it was dark and there was shellfire or an arctic gale blowing, I’d still be able to understand him, because our thoughts nestle against each other, like pigeons on a wire. –Geraldine McCaughrean, The White Darkness

... two people in love don’t make a hive mind. Neither should they want to be a hive mind, to think the same, to know the same. It’s about being separate and still loving each other, being distinct from each other. One is the violin string, one is the bow. –Graham Joyce, The Silent Land

This is what we are: a collection of stories that we share, in common. This is what we are to each other. –ditto

She didn’t have to remember how his kiss tasted; his kisses always tasted of red wine, silk, pepper, the scent of blood, of hope. –ditto

The smell of sex charged the room, circling above them like smoke, like a ghost. –ditto

The only jewels she wanted were her husband’s eyes regarding her with admiration as he did at that moment; the only necklace that of his breath on her skin as he kissed her throat; the only ring the simple gold band she already had. –ditto

I’ll hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallowed ground. –Florence + The Machine, “Howl”

I want to go back to bed and get inside her. That’s the only time there’s anything approaching peace. –Leonard Cohen, “The End of My Life in Art”

... they stood together, swaying slightly like the grasses around them, almost growing into each other like two tree trunks rising up from a single root. –Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

So that’s what love was: savage as a bull prodded with a spike; brutal, smelly, sweaty. This love was like a brawl in which man and woman wrested pleasure from each other, fighting, incapable of thought, half stunned, wheezing, less than human. –ditto

… nothing is worth the love of a soul, and, if out of sentiment we must give our love, it’s just as worthwhile giving it to the small element that is my inkwell as it is to bestow it on the grand indifference of the stars. –Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

... she finally felt it, rumbling like a bone-deep hunger she’d been ignoring for weeks. A sensation somehow totally new and totally familiar at once. It was the glistening green blossom of jealousy, and deeper down, beyond the place where the stem met the dirt, the parched and greedy roots: love. –Tommy Wallach, We All Looked Up

She’d thought love had something to do with happiness, but it turns out they were not even vaguely related. Love was closer to a need, no different from the need to eat, to breathe. –Joe Hill, NOS4A2

I often look forward to a time when there won’t be anything left to grow attached to. I’m tired of everything being taken away from me. Yet there’s no escape, for as long as there’s something for me to love in the forest, I shall love it; and if some day there is nothing, I shall stop living. –Marlen Haushofer, The Wall

Loving and looking after another creature is a very troublesome business, and much harder than killing and destruction. It takes twenty years to bring up a child, and ten seconds to kill it. –ditto

You know, I wouldn’t be me without you. –Chandler Massey to Deidre Hall, on Days of Our Lives

In a marriage, words are like rain. And the land of a marriage is filled with dry washes and arroyos that become raging rivers in almost the wink of an eye. –Stephen King, “L.T.’s Theory of Pets”

But there were other feelings. There was love, for instance. Still love. A kind that girls in Catholic-school uniforms didn’t suspect, a weedy, unlovely species too tough to die. –Stephen King, “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French”

Love had sealed their doom. Which is what love did. –Justin Cronin, The Twelve

I became nonsexual and my body felt inside-out—covered with ice and carbon and plywood like the abandoned mini-malls, flour mills, and oil refineries of Tonawanda and Niagara Falls. –Douglas Coupland, Generation X

Until the planet grows smooth, however, love will continue to toughen under siege; the very threats to love strengthen it even as they suffuse it with pain. –Andrew Soloman, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

It’s so hard to describe. It’s not like love at first sight, really. It’s more like...gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it’s not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her...You become whatever she needs you to be, whether that’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother. –Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse

Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you. –Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

When you’re in love you don’t have to do a damn thing. You can just be. You can just stay quiet in the world. You don’t have to move an inch. –Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

Death would be a trivial event as long as I loved her. –ditto

But before I had even quite realized that I was attracted to her—well, I knew I was because I wanted to be more like her than I was like myself—the old terrible magic coalesced into the air, and I realized with a sort of shock what I wanted to do. Dear God, I wanted to put my hands on her as a trial, just as a test. I wanted to put a hand on her face or on her arm because I thought that if I did that, I would be so happy. I just wanted to feel her skin and I wanted to get at the soul underneath that muscle because I could smell it. –ditto

When we were naked, finally, we were standing up, and then he had his hands on my breasts and he was kissing me. I felt star-spattered. And I was thinking: he can have every inch of me. Sweet Jesus, he can pick my bones clean. –ditto

Our lovemaking is so stormy and theatrical that we keep tearing into each other, and when we do, we tear holes. Sometimes what we do is more like fighting than love. We slam each other around. I think we’re trying to find each other’s souls, knowing they must be in there somewhere, close to our undernourished hearts. You shouldn’t envy us, sexy as we might appear to be. It’s not sustainable. No one could endure it. This intensity can’t continue forever. –ditto

Anyway, you can’t figure out love without figuring out death, too, but the effort it takes can knock the wind out of you. Love is the first cousin of death, they’re acquainted with each other, they go to the same family reunions. –ditto

Once someone has bound your heart, he’s the only person who can let it lose again. –ditto

What she had realized was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst. –Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

All along I believed I would find you. –Christina Perri, “A Thousand Years”

Someday soon I’ll find you. Someday soon I’ll know you. –Amy Stroup , “Hold On to Hope Love”

Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together, and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home. –Tom Hanks, in Sleepless In Seattle


When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
–an untitled piece in Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi


The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.


The first time her skin had touched his own the texture of the world had changed, grown warmer but also more expansive. He had felt permeable then; he had seeped into everything and everything into him. –Lydia Millet, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

Love is furious and brave and loud. –Michelle Williams, in Incendiary

I bury these things in my heart—the feel of him under my fingers, the taste of him on my mouth. I’ll need them, like talismans, to survive an impossible journey. –Jenny Downham, Before I Die

Hearts will never be practical. –Brianna Gianti, on a piece of her art spotted at DC’s Artomatic 2009

Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy …
–Hafiz, “In a Tree House”

Every desire of your body is holy;
Every desire of your body is
–Hafiz, “Because of Our Wisdom”

He takes my heart and sets its pulse. Everything else is easy. –Alla Nazimova, quoted in Margaret Wettlin’s Fifty Russian Winters

I love one man, and you know it; I love him while awake; while sleeping; living; dead; love him. And if I can’t have him then God doesn’t exist, Reverend Sigurður; and you, the archpriest, don’t exist, nor does the bishop, nor my father, nor Jesus Christ; nothing—except for evil. –Halldór Laxness, Iceland’s Bell

As long as we are sitting here together we have everything. –ditto

We could have grown roots, we stood there so long. We could have grown wings and risen like angels up through the tunnel of the stump and out into the sky, still talking in that mute language we suddenly discovered we shared, the fluent and precise language of tongues. –Jean Hegland, Into the Forest

All these words are just a front. What I would really like to do is chain you to my body, then sing for days and days and days. –Hafiz

We who were loved will never
Unlive that crippling fever.
–Adrienne Rich, “After a Sentence in ‘Malte Laurids Brigge’”

I loved her body and I could never have enough of regarding it as a world in which I could wander and wander without fear. –Christer Kihlman, The Blue Mother

Your name is a golden bell hung in my heart. I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name. –Butterfly, in The Last Unicorn

There was no engine on earth whose power compared with the want of one body for another. –Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer. –Havelock Ellis (Note: This quote has also been attributed to Marcus Aurelius.)

At the heart of sex is something intrinsically spiritual, the desire for a union so primal it can be called divine. –Sam Keen

The Christian view of sex is that it is, indeed, a form of holy communion. –Bishop John Robinson

You can run from love
And if it’s really love it will find you
Catch you by the heel.
–U2, “A Man and a Woman”

Sexy is effortless because it’s oblivious. It’s a quality often held by the insane, the hungry, the manic, the gentle, and frail. –Zofia Szeretlek, in a February/March 2010 interview in Sexis

People die because they want who they want. They do all kinds of crazy, stupid, sweet, tender, amazing, self-destructive things. –Dear Sugar, March 18th, 2010

If you have sex with someone you care about there’s a good chance your heart will be crushed eventually. But why are you so afraid of having your heart crushed? It’s not anywhere close to the worst thing that can happen to you. It might feel like the worst thing for a while, but it’s not. Far worse is a sexless, loveless life ruled by fear, in other words, the life you’re choosing for yourself at this very moment –Dear Sugar, April 8, 2010

Fucking is fantastic. Blowjobs are a hot dream. But you’re going to have to seriously acquaint yourself with the clitoris if you want to make your honey sing. –Dear Sugar, April 22, 2010

... we’re all crazy, immature, insecure lunatics sometimes. Especially when it comes to romantic love. –Dear Sugar, April 29, 2010

Contrary to what the Bachelor/Bachelorette television franchise and the entire spirit-decimating Hollywood Industrial Complex would have you believe, romantic love is not a competitive sport. –Dear Sugar, May 27, 2010

The women your lover knew and loved and fucked and had wild orgies with before you are pieces of his life. He wants to tell you about them because he wants to deepen his relationship with you, to share things about himself that he doesn’t share with many others.
     This is called intimacy. This is called fuck yes. When people do this with us, it’s an honor. And when the people who do this with us also happen to be people with whom we are falling in love, it lets us into an orbit in which there is only admission for two. –ditto

Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep. –Dear Sugar, June 17, 2010

You will never have my permission to close yourself off to love and give up. Never. You must do everything you can to get what you want and need, to find “that type of love.” It’s there for you. I know it’s arrogant of me to say so, because what the hell do I know about looking like a monster or a beast? Not a thing. But I do know that we are here, all of us—beasts and monsters and beauties and wallflowers alike—to do the best we can. And every last one of us can do better than give up. –Dear Sugar, August 5, 2010

The question about who you will love and when you will love him is out of your hands. It’s a mystery that you can’t solve. –Dear Sugar, September 16, 2010

True intimacy isn’t a cluster fuck or a psychodrama. It isn’t the “highest highs and lowest lows.” It isn’t John Donne whispered into your crotch followed by months of not-exactly-agreed-upon celibacy. It’s a tiny bit of those things on occasion with a whole lot of everything else in between. It’s communion and mellow compatibility. It’s friendship and mutual respect. –Dear Sugar, October 21, 2010

Love lives not in places nor even bodies but in the spaces between them, the long and lovely sweep of air and sky, and in the living heart and memory until that is gone, too, and we are all of us wanderers, as we have always been upon the earth. –Lee Smith, On Agate Hill

A successful love letter won the heart or the day. It’s creased and worn with rereading, or burned to disc—memorized both literally and technologically. Long after the affair is dead, we will revisit the grave with fresh flowers for those letters that continue to whisper our names. –GL Morrison, “Cyrano in 140 Characters or Less: The Art of the Love Letters—and Email”

... we’re connected. Wherever I am, I feel you ... You’re what makes me real. –Michael C. Hall, in Dexter

But my words become stained with your love.
You occupy everything, you occupy everything.
–WS Merwin, “So That You Will Hear Me”

And when you appear
all the rivers sound
in my body, bells
shake the sky,
and a hymn fills the world.
–Pablo Neruda, “The Queen”

… you and I together have gone down a single river
with linked mouths filled with salt and blood …
–Pablo Neruda, “Furies and Sorrows”

I have gone marking the atlas of your body
with crosses of fire.
My mouth went across: a spider, trying to hide.
In you, behind you, timid, driven by thirst.
–Pablo Neruda, “Twenty Love Poems: XIII”

I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.
–Pablo Neruda, “Twenty Love Poems: XIV”

Who, if he walked
amid the multitudes to seek me
(for I’m a kernel from the human granary),
didn’t find you, pressed to my roots,
raised in the song of my blood?
–Pablo Neruda, “Love”

… these days are hard and radiant
and from them we harvest sweetness
kneaded with eyelids and spines.
–Pablo Neruda, “Love”

Farewell, but you will be
with me, you will go within
a drop of blood circulating in my veins
or outside, a kiss that burns my face
or a belt of fire at my waist.
–Pablo Neruda, “Letter on the Road”

Perhaps a day will come
when a man
and a woman, like
will touch this love and it will still have the strength
to burn the hands that touch it.
Who were we? What does it matter?
They will touch this fire
and the fire, my sweet, will say your simple name
and mine, the name
that only you knew, because you alone
upon earth know
who I am, and because nobody knew me like one,
like just one hand of yours,
because nobody knew how or when
my heart was burning:
your great dark eyes knew,
your wide mouth,
your skin, your breasts,
your belly, your insides,
and your soul that I awoke
so that it would go on
singing untilt he end of life.

... a ferocious love wound around
and around me—till it pierced me with its thorns, its sword,
slashing a seared road through my heart.
–Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: Morning, III”


I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.

I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffling the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratúe.
–Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: Morning, XI”


I love the handful of the earth you are.
Because of its meadows, vast as a planet,
I have no other star. You are my replica
of the multiplying universe.

Your wide eyes are the only light I know
from extinguished constellations;
your skin throbs like the streak
of a meteor through rain.

Your hips were that much of the moon for me;
your deep mouth and its delights, that much sun;
your heart, fiery with its long red rays,

was that much ardent light, like honey in the shade.
So I pass across your burning form, kissing
you—compact and planetary, my dove, my globe.
–Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: Morning, XVI”

Naked you are blue as the night in Cuba,
you have vines and stars in your hair,
naked you are as enormous and yellow
as summer in a church of gold.
–Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: Morning, XXVII”

... I am like a scorched rock
that suddenly sings when you are near, because it drinks
the water you carry from the forest, in your voice.
–Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: Midday, XXXIX

And may our love palpitate like a fish in the cold. –Pablo Neruda, “Ocean Lady, Part IX”

Oh, love
of that first dawn light,
of fierce noon
with its spears,
love taking in the whole sky
drop by drop
when the great ship of night
passes over the world.
Oh, that love
in the loneliness
of adolescence,
oh, the violet
with perfume and dew,
fresh as stars
over the face,
those kisses
crawling over
the skin,
entwining, biting,
from bodies clear and open to
the blue stone of the sailing night.
–Pablo Neruda, “Loves: Terusa (I)”


Your whole body holds
a stemmed glass of gentle sweetness destined for me.

When I let my hand climb,
in each place I find a dove
that was looking for me, as if
my love, they had made you of clay
for my very own potter’s hands.

Your knees, your breasts,
your waist,
are missing in me, like in the hollow
of a thirsting earth
where they relinquished
a form,
and together
we are complete like one single river,
like one single grain of sand.
–Pablo Neruda, “The Potter”

Sex can seem like everything and nothing at the same time. If we measure our hours with someone, so few of them are spent rolling around in bed. Yet sex is the one thing that distinguishes our relationship with our partner from all others. It’s the most intimate way to know another person but thrives in mystery. It’s like that optical illusion: See it one way, and two people are staring into each other’s eyes. See it the other, and all you have is an empty vessel. –Amy Maclin, “Big Love”

growing melons
“I wish you were here”
in the evening coolness
–Basho, The Complete Haiku

though it’s cold
two sleeping together tonight
feels comfortable

don’t be like me
even though we’re like the melon
split in two

In those first minutes
before light starts making sense
we uncurl and kiss.

Every time we kiss
the universe twists like rope
in its feathered nest.

Snowflake on your tongue
my tongue on your burning thigh
your thigh: a sweetness.

A thousand times I’ve
traced your name on my skin, on
damp windows, summoned.

Yearning resides in
its own country, has its own
language and customs.

The wakened lover speaks directly to the beloved,
“You are the sky my spirit circles in,
the love inside love, the resurrection-place.”
–Rumi, “I Have Five Things to Say”

… when I was apart from you,
this world did not exist,
nor any other.

But we have ways within each other
that will never be said by anyone.
–Rumi, an untitled piece in Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi

A fire has risen above my tombstone hat.
I don’t want learning, or dignity,
or respectability.

I want this music and this dawn
and the warmth of your cheek against mine.
–Rumi, “A Thirsty Fish”

The day is for work.
The night for love. Don’t let someone
bewitch you. Some people sleep at night.

But not lovers. They sit in the dark
and talk to God, who told David,
Those who sleep all night every night
and claim to be connected to us, they lie.

Lovers can’t sleep when they feel the privacy
of the beloved all around them. Someone
who’s thirsty may sleep for a little while,
but he or she will dream of water, a full jar
beside a creek, or the spiritual water you get
from another person. All night, listen
to the conversation. Stay up.
This moment is all there is.

Death will take it away soon enough.
You’ll be gone, and this earth will be left
without a sweetheart, nothing but weeds
growing inside thorns.
–Rumi, “The Vigil”


In short: love is dangerous. So love dangerously. –Bennett, in the comments section of the August 12, 2011, Dear Sugar column

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.
Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.
–Rumi, an untitled piece in Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi

Thou art to me a delicious torment. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

And those who come together in the night and are entwined in rocking delight do an earnest work and gather sweetnesses, gather depth and strength for the song of some coming poet, who will arise to speak of ecstasies beyond telling. –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, letter #4

Physical pleasure is a sensual experience no different from pure seeing or the pure sensation with which a fine fruit fills the tongue; it is a great unending experience, which is given us, a knowing of the world, the fullness and the glory of all knowing. And not our acceptance of it is bad; the bad thing is that most people misuse and squander this experience and apply it as a stimulant at the tired spots of their lives and as distraction instead of a rallying toward exalted moments. –ditto

Fireflies in love
Where the sound of two streams
Turn into one.
–Shiihashi Seisui

You can call love many different things, but that is how you know it: when you are with somebody and you do not have to be somebody else. –Seal, in an interview in People magazine, November 19, 2007

In love there are two things: bodies and words. –Joyce Carol Oates

The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe. –William Hurt, in The Village

It’s a very extraordinary, adventurous place to be: incredibly raw, incredibly dangerous and you’re very much out at sea. You’re exposed. You could drown. –Nicole Kidman, on marriage

This marriage is locked. It is impossible to enter. It is a marriage and operates like one, healing itself the moment it is condemned. In every house there is this marriage which cannot be explained. In our day it appears fragile and easily violated, but it is still the profoundest initiation, and one into which no stranger can intrude. –Leonard Cohen, “Commentary – This Marriage”

When I’m with you
I want to be the kind of hero
I wanted to be
when I was seven years old
–Leonard Cohen, “The Reason I Write”

I don’t just want
your heart
I want your flesh,
your skin
and blood and bones,
your voice, your thoughts
your pulse
and most of all your
–Isobel Thrilling, “Lover”

We are each the love of someone’s life. –Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new. –Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Where there is great love there are always miracles. –Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop


My dear,
Venus just leaned down and asked me
To tell you a secret, to confess

She’s just a mirror who has been stealing
Your light and music for centuries.
–Hafiz, “Venus Just Asked Me”

Let us be like
Two falling stars in the day sky.

Let no one know of our sublime beauty
As we hold hands with God
And burn

Into a sacred existence that defies—
That surpasses

Every description of ecstasy
And love.
–Hafiz, “The Day Sky”

… My heart
Is like a wild alley cat
In heat …
–Hafiz, “Among Strong Men”

If you stay near to me,
Stay near to me—
–Hafiz, “Your Shape of Laughter”

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same … –Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

You’re closer to me than my skin—that’s how much you’re a part of me. –Justina Machado, in Six Feet Under

Is part of being found the ability to love others fully even though they might not be around tomorrow, either by choice or fate or some divine plan? –Lynnette Porter and David Lavery, Unlocking the Meaning of Lost

So much of the language of love was like that: you devoured someone with your eyes, you drank in the sight of him, you swallowed him whole. Love was sustenance, broken down and beating through your bloodstream. –Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes

There is nothing safe about sex. There never will be. –Norman Mailer, in the International Herald Tribune, January 24, 1992

Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction. –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

To love another you have to undertake some fragment of their destiny. –Quentin Crisp, “Love Lies Bleeding”

To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god. –Jorge Luis Borges, Other Inquisitions

Love is a blazing, crackling, green-wood flame, as much smoke as flame; friendship, married friendship particularly, is a steady, intense, comfortable fire. Love, in courtship, is friendship in hope; in matrimony, friendship upon proof. –Samuel Richardson, in a letter to Hester Mulso

It is by excusing nothing that pure love shows itself. –Molière, Le Misanthrope

I’m enjoying having him in my life. I feel as if someone has injected me with glitter and stars and popping candy and it’s all in my blood and brain and toes. I love him. I don’t know how to describe how happy I am. –Gemma Costin, in an interview in heat magazine

… later, she would tell him that there had been a crackling magic in the air and he would tell her that his desire at that moment was so intense that his groin ached.
         When she finally felt that desire, she was surprised above everything else. She did not know that a man’s thrusts could suspend memory, that it was possible to be poised in a place where she could not think or remember but only feel. –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun

This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles. –ditto

There is an extravagant exultation in being in love, living always at the extremes of emotion. The problem—which is never evident to the victim—is that this exultant state induces mental tunnel vision. –MK Wren, A Gift Upon the Shore


Just when I had learned to be without,
it happened that I thought:
this person I won’t give up.

And the sheets blossomed.
This is real, he said,
and the dreams paled.
–Eeva Kilpi (spotted here)

… then I did the simplest thing in the world. I leaned down…and kissed him. And the world cracked open. –Agnes de Mille

Our kisses delivered us beyond the pleasures of flesh and sexual bliss, for what we sensed beyond the moment of the springtime afternoon was as great and wide as Time itself. –Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence

Being kissed on the back of the knee is a moth at the windowscreen … –Anne Sexton, “Knee Song”

A mouth that is kissed loses no flavor, but, like the moon, is renewed. –Giovanni Bocaccio, The Decameron

You will remember: it was you who kissed me that evening in the parlor. I tasted that last coil of smoke held in your mouth; it tasted like a word, like a yes. –Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli

… we kiss. And it feels like we have just shrugged off the world. –Jim Shahin

Kisses belong to the shadows, but they shine in the night like stars. –Rémy de Gourmond

As the adjective is lost in the sentence, so I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat—you have enchanted me with a single kiss which can never be undone until the destruction of language. –Kenneth Koch

In the depths of our hearts we are together,
in the cane field of the heart we cross through
a summer of tigers,
watching over a meter of cold flesh,
watching over a bouquet of inaccessible skin,
with our mouths sniffing sweat and green veins
we find ourselves in the moist shadow that drops kisses.
–Pablo Neruda, “Furies and Sorrows”

And to keep me from falling, to help me plant my
feet firmly on the ground, to continue fighting,
bequeath to my heart the errant wine
and the implacable bread of your sweetness.
–Pablo Neruda, “Brother Bartolomé de las Casas”

my body pulls toward yours—
desire a long oar dipping
again and again
in this night’s dark rain.
–Jane Hirshfield, “Half-sleeping...”

You and I
Have so much love,
That it
Burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them,
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
You are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share one coffin.
–Kuan Tao Shêng, “Married Love”

We leave the bed where your fingers
are a wide surprise, where your tongue
tells me slow stories. I watch you,
in the daylight, bring your hand
to your face, to your mouth. I tuck
pieces of myself behind
in the tangle of our bodies.
–Kim Ports, “Desire”

How is it that our two bodies
made only of flesh and bone
ignite with this fire
yet do not burn?
–Terra Hunter, “Wanting You”

A million light years and a million more would not give time enough to store that small second of eternity when I took you in my arms and you took me in yours. –Jacques Prevert

You, my own deep soul, trust me. I will not betray you. My blood is alive with many voices telling me I am made of longing. –Rainer Maria Rilke

I don’t know who it is who lives or dies, who rests or wakes, but it is your heart that distributes all the graces of the daybreak in my breast. –Pablo Neruda

I want what I love to continue to live, so that you can reach everything my love directs you to, so that my shadow can travel along in your hair, so that everything can learn the reason for my song. –ditto

My body was a lovely bonfire burning night and day on that tropical coast. –ditto

You began to be irreplaceable for me long before I had ever heard of you. –Roger Sale

I loved you once. D’you hear a small “I love you”
Each time we’re forced to meet? Don’t groan, don’t hide!
A damaged tree can live without a bud:
No one need break the branches and uncover
The green that should have danced, dying inside.
I loved you, knowing I’d never be your lover.
And now? I wish you summers of leaf-shine
And leaf-shade, and a face in dreams above you,
As tender and innocent as mine.
–Carol Rumens, “Once After Pushkin”

What sex is, we don’t know, but it must be some sort of fire. For it always communicates a sense of warmth, of glow. And when the glow becomes a pure shine, then we feel the sense of beauty. –DH Lawrence

Sex is momentary, and sex is transcendent. That’s the paradox. The most intense physical sharing we experience with another person is gone in a matter of minutes. And yet, it connects us with a larger energy, a life force. Real, authentic intimacy leaves behind an inner glow that warms every aspect of our lives. Sex reminds us of our limitations and our expansiveness as humans. We are alone, and we are together. –Wendy Maltz, introduction to Passionate Hearts: The Poetry of Sexual Love

Sexual love is connection, not only with one’s partner, but with the elemental beauty of life on earth. –ditto

In sex we have the source of man’s true connection with the cosmos and of his servile dependence. –Nikolai A. Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act

In my hands your
body is a hymnal
open to the familiar
page of praise. I
sing you in the ancient
rhythm that brought
us all here to make
what we will of
this world, I sing
you in tongues and
in silent awe of our
loving, certain only
of imminent separation.
–Anne K. Smith, “Praise”

And you will always be with me.
I shall never cease to be filled with newness,
Having you near me.
–DH Lawrence, “Wedlock”

in the mirror in front of me
my hands on you
your hands reach back
as we stand dripping
slippery and delicious
our tongues and we
begin again
the long slow dance
we have perfected
like pilgrims returning
home again
to the promised land.
–Charles Rossiter, “Your Body Glistens from the Bath”

And suddenly, again,
I want the long road of your thigh
under my hand, your well-travelled thigh,
your salt-slicked & come-slicked thigh,
and I want the taste of you, slaking,
under my tongue (that place of riding desire,
my tongue) and I want
all the unnameable, soft, and yielding places,
belly & neck & the place wings would rise from
if we were angels,
and we are, and I want the rising regions of you
shoulder & cock & tongue & breathing &
suddenness of you
all fontanel, all desire, the whole thing beginning
for the first time again, the first,
until I wonder then how is it
we even know which part we are,
even know the ground that lifts us, raucous,
out of ourselves,
as the rising sound of a summer dawn
when all of it joins in.
–Jane Hirshfield, “Of Gravity & Angels”

Your body is a new country,
hidden landscape in cotton and chambray
that I want to travel with every vehicle I own:
hands, tongue, slide of silk.

Below, in the heat
and rush of wet, we’re learning again
how summer moves through the deep canyons,
stirring grasses and honeying fruit.
–Kim Ly Bui-Burton, “Poem for R.”

In bed this morning
you tucked into the cove of my belly
our feet slipping past each other like fish
I reached out to embrace
the flat rock of your back
and carved out our names
with my tongue
–Teresa Blagg, “In Bed This Morning”

Drunk as drunk on turpentine
From your open kisses,
Your wet body wedged
Between my wet body and the strake
Of our boat that is made out of flowers,
Feasted, we guide it—our fingers
Like tallows adorned with yellow metal—
Over the sky’s hot rim,
The day’s last breath in our sails.

Pinned by the sun between solstice
And equinox, drowsy and tangled together
We drifted for months and woke
With the bitter taste of land on our lips,
Eyelids all sticky, and we longed for lime
And the sound of a rope
Lowering a bucket down its well. Then,
We came by night to the Fortunate Isles,
And lay like fish
Under the net of our kisses.
–Pablo Neruda, “Drunk as drunk on turpentine...”

Desire is relentless. No matter what science says, it appears not to need our digits, or our gonads, to persist. What does this say about sex? That it is so much more than the hormones which sustain it? That, like life, sex has a soul beyond the body in which it’s housed? That, like God, it is invisible, indefinable? Should we pray to sex? Can we be saved by sex? One thing’s for sure, you cannot kill sex. Carve out the clitoris, cut off the testicles, bind the feet until they are putrid with pain, and still the urge keeps coming, we keep coming; alive. –Lauren Slater

Desire confounds us, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, pantheist, agnostic … desire confounds us. Our vocabulary of the erotic spirit is often impoverished. –Sam Hamill, preface to The Erotic Spirit: An Anthology of Poems of Sensuality, Love, and Longing

All cultures produce “erotic art” of many kinds, expressing the erotic spirit in poetry, visual arts, music, and dance. From the tantric Buddhist texts of India to Taoist love manuals to the Gnostic Gospels, the erotic spirit has been expressed in inventiveness, in constant discovery in the play of ceremonial (religious) devotion. …we find again and again the expression of love in which any distinction between the religious or spiritual and the carnal are utterly obliterated. –ditto

Erotic love is one of the highest forms of contemplation. –Kenneth Rexroth

Let there be spaces in your togetherness. –Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


We both think of sex as if a presence

had entered the room, a scent of salt
and hot feathers, a musky tickle
along the spine…
–Marge Piercy, “It Arrives Suddenly and Carries Us Off as Usual”

But love doesn’t always generate hope. Anyone who has ever experienced love knows that you can have too much love or two little. You can have love that parches, love that defeats. You can have love measured out in the wrong proportions. It’s like your sunlight and water—the wrong kind of love is just as likely to stifle hope as it is to nourish. it. –Kevin Brockmeier, A Brief History of the Dead

… I don’t believe that in order to be interesting or meaningful, a relationship has to work out—in fiction or in real life. In fact, I consider a forced happy ending in a book almost as bad as a real couple who get married even though their friends know they shouldn’t. … Now, believe me, I love swelling music and kisses at sunset as much as the next woman; when I was growing up, my family crowded around the TV to watch The Love Boat. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized that when it comes to love, it’s the journey that matters as much as the destination. And the messiness is part of what makes romance so fascinating in the first place. Movies and books lead us to believe that if a relationship doesn’t end in marriage, it didn’t count, but that’s absurd. Even unrequited crushes can provide hard-won insights into ourselves and our lives. –Curtis Sittenfeld

I have come to be fascinated with the messiness of desire, of mitigating circumstances; with the ways people fit themselves together, take themselves apart for each other, for want of each other, of some parts of each other, be it companionship, be it great sex, be it brilliant insight or common sense. –Ashley Warlick, “The Difference between 3 and 30: What My Daughter Taught Me about Want”

Whether you’ve been in a relationship for ten years or ten weeks, you know how crazy love can make you. On any given day you’re insanely happy, maniacally miserable, kooky with contentment, or bonkers with boredom—and that’s in a good relationship. Why do you think we call it being “madly” in love? You have to be a little nuts to commit yourself, body and soul, to one other person—one wonderful, goofy, fallible person—in the hope that happily-ever-after really does exist. And yet we can’t help ourselves. We throw ourselves into love time and again, even though we know real-life love is no fairy tale. We trade in our sexy glass slippers for soccer-mom sneakers, or pretend we didn’t hear (or smell) that gastric emission Prince Charming made in his sleep. We stress out and make up and do it all over again—and why? Because nothing makes us feel more alive than the exhilaration and exasperation of everyday love. –Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez, Love Poems for Real Life

No matter how long you’ve been together or how well you think you know each other, you still need to romance your partner, especially in stability. Don’t run off and get an extreme makeover or buy into the whole red-roses-and-champagne bit. Instead, try being kind, receptive, and respectful, practicing what Henry V would call “plain and uncoined constancy.” You simply need to show your partner, often and in whatever tender, goofy way you both understand, that his or her heart is your home and that you plan to be there permanently. –ditto

When we’re deep into the ecstasy of love, no closeness is close enough; we can’t bear to think that our partner could survive without us. –ditto

Real love can whirl you from the glory of ecstasy from the hell of misery and back again, but that’s just how it goes in real life, and aren’t we lucky to be part of that dance? –ditto

Every relationship has at least one really good day. What I mean is, no matter how sour things go, there’s always that day. That day is always in your possession. That’s the day you remember. You get old and you think: well, at least I had that day. It happened once. You think all the variables might just line up again. But they don’t. Not always. –Charles Baxter, The Feast of Love

Good God, what a night that was,
The bed was so soft, and how we clung,
Burning together, lying this way and that,
Our uncontrollable passions
Flowing through our mouths.
If I only could die that way,
I’d say goodbye to the business of living.
–Petronius Arbiter, “Good God, What a Night That Was”

It is a brave and stupid thing, a beautiful thing, to waste one’s life for love. –Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli

In my body you search the mountain
for the sun buried in its forest.
In your body I search for the boat
adrift in the middle of the night.
–Octavio Paz, “Counterparts”

… and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes
and then he asked me would I yes…
and first I put my arms around him yes
and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes
and his heart was going like mad
and yes I said yes I will Yes.
–James Joyce, Ulysses

We touch Heaven as we lay our hand on a human body. –Friedrich Leopold

Breathe your life into my soul and know the greatest story ever told is you and I ... –Neil Diamond, “Create Me”

I know where you are
with my eyes closed, we are bound to each other
with huge invisible threads, our sexes
muted, exhausted, crushed, the whole
body a sex—surely this
is the most blessed time of my life...
–Sharon Olds, “True Love”

We are two sides of the same magic ... –Unicorn, in The Last Unicorn

… a good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude, and shows him this confidence, the greatest in his power to bestow. –ditto

… once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky! –ditto

… when a person abandons himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up in order to come close to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling. –ditto

Sometimes we are just two people together but alone, quietly recharging. –Louise Lague

I long for him most
during these long moonless nights.
I lie awake, hot,
the growing fires of passion
bursting, blazing in my heart.
–Ono No Komachi

that boy who told me: pass
some honey from your hive
I answered: give me back some
on your tongue
& he got angry, yelled:
shall we two sin against the living God?
I answered: let your sin,
sweet master, be with me.
–Samuel Ha-Nagid

… and now my heart melts like wax
embraced by flame.
Oh, I know, I know. She is dark.
And so’s the coal before the spark
that makes it burn like roses.

Think how unspeakably sweet
the taste of snow at midsummer,
how sweet a kind spring breeze
after the gales of winter.
But as we all discover,
nothing’s quite as sweet
as one large cloak
wrapped around two lovers.

The strongest, surest way to the soul is through the flesh. –Mabel Dodge, Lorenzo in Taos

Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
–John Donne, “The Ecstasy”

I gave my life to you as soon as I saw you. –Marianna Alcoforado, to Nöel Bouton de Chamilly

I have a thousand images of you in an hour; all different and all coming back to the same … And we love. And we’ve got the most amazing secrets and understandings. Noël, whom I love, who is so beautiful and wonderful. I think of you eating omelette on the ground. I think of you once against a skyline: and on the hill that Sunday morning. And that night was wonderfullest of all. The light and shadow and quietness and the rain and the wood. And you. You are so beautiful and wonderful that I daren’t write to you…And kinder than God. Your arms and lips and hair and shoulders and voice—you. –Rupert Brooke, to Noël Olivier

Now in the quiet of the evening and in the warmth of the bed a drugged and dreamy feeling steals over me and I am with you once more. Lying here I love to think you near me, your arms encompassing me, my head buried in your shoulder, catching the rhythm of your breathing and living for a few exquisite moments as one being—I said I was dreaming, darling, but I am so delightfully intoxicated, relishing such heavenly moments with you that I wish it to go on forever. –Live Lewis to Leslie Couzens

When you’re young, you think that sex is the culmination of intimacy. Later you discover that it’s barely the beginning. –Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

To lie with you under a ceiling bright with shifting water shadows—that’s good. To drowse in flower-scented darkness—that’s good. But best of all is rain—drumming, roaring, gushing from the guttering—and we two warm and dry and safe together, in each other’s arms. –Pam Brown

I would kiss your nub of collarbone
and trail my lips down your salt-
solid spine, tracing the words
“all my days remaining”
in the hallow of your back.
And before morning, we could ignite a fire
greater than any planets’ suns.
What are words
but a means of conjuring up flesh?
It is your fingers I want, not words;
your fingers tangled in my matted hair,
your tongue trailing across my heart,
the damp nape of your neck resting
against my shoulder.
But words are sustenance in times of hunger...
This chaos is as maddening
and gentle as the moths
that thump against porch lights
on summer evenings
and all I want, sweet boy,
is a moment of respite,
a moment when I can remember
that sometimes joy is nothing more
than a fleeting stillness,
an interlude from longing.

Winter skies are cold and low,
with harsh winds and freezing sleet.
But when we make love beneath our quilt,
we make three summer months of heat.
–Tzu Yeh, “Song”

And there lay the lovers, lip-locked,
delirious, infinitely thirsting,
each wanting to go completely inside the other,
each filled to bursting with their love.
Like Achilles lying with Lycomedes,
her tunic pulled above her knees,
they grope and they fondle,
lips devouring lips, twisting like vines.
And he who is mine
trundles off to bed, thrice blessed.
He is mine in secret only—
we burn in separate beds.
–Paulus Silentiarius

Nothing is more practical than … falling in love in an quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. –Pedro Arrupe


Sex has a way of softening limbs,
oiling joints and melding hearts.

We burrow in closer
wrapping arms and legs over and under each other.

Earthy blanket of sleep covers us
two bodies releasing one breath.

Finding home,
coiled and tucked in each other’s sweat.
–Wendy Lee, “Sex Has a Way”

but who you are
connecting with who I am
making me tremble
like a stroked violin
the pulled bow teasing, pleading
until the moving music
wafts from us    vibrato
vibrato    pizzicato
dolce    dolce    dolce.
–Kennette Wilkes, “Dolce”

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. –Mignon McLaughlin, The Complete Neurotic’s Notebook

So you know I always have a fancy at such times that our love makes us somehow alone together in the world. We seem to have a deep life together apart from all other people on earth, and which we cannot show, explain, or impart to them. At least my affection seems to isolate me in the deepest moments from all others, and it makes me speak with my whole heart and soul to you and you only. And perhaps this isolation is one reason why deep love makes one feel—at least in some moments—so religious. –Walter Bagehot, to Eliza Wilson

… you can’t come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, and if, wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, and if, when you hold me, and I don’t speak, it’s because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses … –Edith Wharton, to W. Morton Fullerton

Sex contains all, bodies, souls,
Meanings, proofs, purities, delicacies, results, promulgations,
Songs, commands, health, pride, the maternal mystery, the
seminal milk,
All hopes, benefactions, bestowals, all the passions, loves,
beauties, delights of the earth…
–Walt Whitman, “A Woman Waits for Me”

And if I can’t speak about my love—
if I don’t talk about your hair, your lips, your eyes,
still your face that I keep within my heart,
the sound of your voice that I keep within my mind,
the days of September rising in my dreams,
give shape and colour to my words, my sentences,
whatever theme I touch, whatever thought I utter.
–CP Cavafy, “December, 1903”

Secretly we both think we were bred for each other
as part of an experiment in getting dreams made
flesh and then having to feed on the daily bread
of passion. So we die and die with loving
and go on living.
–Marge Piercy, “Raisin Pumpernickel”

Sex and beauty are inseparable … –DH Lawrence, “Sex Versus Loneliness”

You see, I know what I mean when I say that I love you. I don’t have a problem about that. You’re the bit that was missing. The bit that makes me feel whole. And when I ain’t seen you for a while, I start feeling empty inside. And when I do see you, I get—I get this burst of excitement inside. And sometimes when you’re asleep next to me, I just lie there and I look at you. And I never get bored. That’s what I mean when I say I love you. –Todd Carty, in EastEnders

You touch me
I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me
With your kiss my life begins
–George Michael, “Wild is the Wind”

Officially the heart
is oblong, muscular,
and filled with longing.
But anyone who has painted the heart knows
that it is also
spiked like a star
and sometimes bedraggled
like a stray dog at night
and sometimes powerful
like an archangel’s drum.
… And sometimes like a thin line
and sometimes like an explosion.
And in it is
only a river,
a weir
and at most one little fish
by no means golden.
–Miroslav Holub, “What the heart is like”

... relationships are not immaculate, not pure; they are often messy, occasionally smelly, and they sometimes feel hopeless. If, though, you can give up the impossible desire for perfection, you may realize that a bad night or two, some uncertainty, and some feelings of alienation will be part of any relationship worth hanging on to. –Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Vélez, Love Poems for Real Life

Historically, intercourse was the act through which male and female experienced God. The ancients believed that the male was spiritually incomplete until he had carnal knowledge of the sacred feminine. Physical union with the female remained the sole means through which man could become spiritually complete and ultimately achieve gnosis—knowledge of the divine. Since the days of Isis, sex rites had been considered man’s only bridge from earth to heaven. …it’s important to remember that the ancients’ view of sex was entirely opposite from ours today. Sex begot new life—the ultimate miracle—and miracles could be performed only by a god. The ability of the woman to produce life from her womb made her sacred. A god. Intercourse was the revered union of the two halves of the human spirit—male and female—through which the male could find spiritual wholeness and communion with God. … It’s a deeply sacrosanct ceremony. –Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

For the early Church, mankind’s use of sex to commune directly with God posed a serious threat to the Catholic power base. It left the Church out of the loop, undermining their self-proclaimed status as the sole conduit to God. For obvious reasons, they worked hard to demonize sex and recast it as a disgusting and sinful act. Other major religions did the same. … Is it surprising we feel conflicted about sex? Our ancient heritage and our very physiologies tell us sex is natural—a cherished route to spiritual fulfillment—and yet modern religion decries it as shameful, teaching us to fear our sexual desire as the hand of the devil. –ditto

When you fall in love, it is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake, and then it subsides. And when it subsides, you have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. –John Hurt, in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

… for the girl the first experience of intercourse is regarded as a “once in a lifetime event,” and, as Douglas and Slinger point out in Sexual Secrets, “the man should be aware of this and treat her as a goddess. … he should initiate her into sex gently and in the spirit of service. ... It is especially important to make the First Time a memorable and joyous occasion.” –Robert Goldenson and Kenneth Anderson, Dictionary of Sex

They’re at that stage where so much desire streams between them,
so much frank need and want,
so much absorption in the other and the self and the self-admiring
entity and unity they make—
her mouth so full, breast so lifted, head thrown back so far in her
laughter at his laughter,
he so solid, planted, oaky, firm, so resonantly factual in the headiness
of being craved so,
she almost wreathed upon him as they intertwine again, touch again,
cheek, lip, shoulder, brow,
every glance moving toward the sexual, every glance away soaring
back in flame into the sexual—
that just to watch them is to feel again that hitching in the groin, that
filling of the heart,
the old, sore heart, the battered, foundered, faithful heart, snorting
again, stamping in its stall.
–CK Williams, “Love: Beginnings”

Deep down inside me is a place which is lifeless and empty, dead and calcified, a place which would have been absolutely necessary for love. I cannot love, but I know I must, I know it is the most important thing of all, so I try. –Christer Kihlman, The Blue Mother

… if our sex life were determined by our first youthful experiments, most of the world would be doomed to celibacy. –PD James, The Children of Men

I vow to stop fantasizing that just because other people are married they are automatically happier, less lonely, and having better sex than me (or even having sex at all, at least with each other). –Emily Listfield, “Sex and the Single Mom: Love Lessons”

I do believe that fate can put people together who are meant to be together. I do think there’s destiny in your life. –Annette Bening

I’ve never really dated. That’s not the way you find somebody. Anyway, I’m not trying to find somebody. I trust that if I’m meant to be in a relationship, that person will come into my life. –Gillian Anderson

I’m a really, really awful dater, and that’s the truth. I’m just not good at small talk. I feel like people go on dates and they have this kind of fake good behavior—and that’s just not really who they are. I don’t know the best way to meet a guy—I think it’s best if you don’t look and just do what makes you feel happy every day. –Kristin Davis, in an interview in Reveal magazine, May 24-30, 2008

Imagine you have a similar sense of humor and a similar enough concept of the world...then add that you like the way he dresses and the way he kisses and then, oh my God, you make love to this person and it’s fabulous. This is all a girl could ever ask for. –Julia Roberts

I’m amazed that anyone gets along! When you think of idiosyncracies, unconscious projections, restimulations from the past, and the relationship history of your partner, it’s stunning that love works. –Sark, Succulent Wild Woman

Human contact seemed to her so frail a thing that the hope that two people might want each other in the same way, at the same time, and with the possibility of doing something about it, seemed infinitely remote. –Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall

Love (understood as the desire of good for another) is in fact so unnatural a phenomenon that it can scarcely repeat itself, the soul being unable to become virgin again and not having energy enough to cast itself out again into the ocean of another’s soul. –James Joyce, notes to the play Exiles

A meeting between two people who complete each other, who are made for each other, borders already, in my opinion, on a miracle. –(?)

From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being. –Baal Shem Tov


If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,
Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,
Like this?

If anyone wants to know what “spirit” is,
or what “God’s fragrance” means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.
Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.
Like this?

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
Don’t try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.
Like this. Like this/

When someone asks what it means
To “die for love,” point:
–Rumi, “Like This”


Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love I can: all of them make me laugh. –WH Auden, The Dryer’s Hand

I cannot breathe without you. –John Keats, in a letter to Fanny Brawne

My need for you is near addiction. –Rod McKuen, Alone

I let you sleep because I love to watch you
all disheveled and unwound
dressed up in your undress like a careless animal
your hair uncovered
unmanned by no one but me.
Forgive me if I love you while you sleep.
I forgive you for not knowing.

Please suggest a remedy to stop me trembling with joy like a lunatic when I receive and read your letters …You have given me a gift such as I never even dreamt of finding in this life. –Franz Kafka

Sensual pleasure passes and vanishes in the twinkling of an eye, but the friendship between us, the mutual confidence, the delights of the heart, the enchantment of the soul, these things do not perish and can never be destroyed. I shall love you until I die. –Voltaire

Having tasted all the pleasures of our separate lives, let us enjoy the happiness of discovering that none of them is comparable to that which we once experienced together, and shall again—to find it more delicious than before. –Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Our love is like the misty rain that falls softly, but floods the river. –African proverb

Your love is comfort in sadness, quietness in tumult, rest in weariness, hope in despair. –Marion Garretty

Where there is love there is no sin. –Montenegrin proverb

And this eternal longing
can turn a heart to dust.
–Li Po, “Longing for Someone”

I long for him most
During these long moonless nights.
I lie awake, hot,
The growing fires of passion
Bursting, blazing in my heart.
–Ono No Komachi

Everything’s uncertain.
Except that my soul is burning.

When I think of you,
fireflies in the marsh rise
like the soul’s jewels,
lost to eternal longing,
abandoning my body
–Izumi Shikibu

I think love is like a prayer … something you do even though you don’t have proof it will work. –Goldberry Long, Juniper Tree Burning

Soul meets soul on lovers’ lips. –Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

The human being ... naturally places sexual intercourse far and away above all other joys—yet he has left it out of his heaven. –Mark Twain, Letters From the Earth

My own belief is that there is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror. –W. Somerset Maugham

As an all-around fabulous liberated woman, and also as a tall, flat-chested, bespectacled intellectual, I knew that true love was a meeting of ideas and interests, a search for compatibility that transcended mere looks. –Jane Smiley

When authorities warn you of the sinfulness of sex, there is an important lesson to be learned: Do not have sex with the authorities. –Matt Groening, Life is Hell

… blindly and fiercely he kissed me. …When I was in bed I could not sleep, but lay trembling half with fear, half with wonder, at what I had awakened in him. –Helen Thomas

As we were sitting together, suddenly there came into her eyes a look that I had never seen there before. My lips moved towards hers. We kissed each other. I can’t describe to you what I felt at that moment. It seemed to me that all my life had been narrowed to one perfect moment of rose-colored joy. –Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

He is almost a god, a man beside you,
enthralled by your talk, by your laughter.
Watching makes my heart beat fast
because, seeing little, I imagine much.
You put a fire in my cheeks.
Speech won’t come. My ears ring.
Blind to all others, I sweat and I stammer.
I am a trembling thing, like grass,
an inch from dying.
So poor I’ve nothing to lose, I must gamble…


Cheek by cheek on our pillows,
we promised to love until green mountains fall,

and iron floats on the river,
and the Yellow River itself runs dry;

to love until Orion rises in the day
and the north star wanders south.

We promised undying love until the sun
at midnight burns the sky.
–anonymous Chinese poet, “Lament”


As a gale on the mountainside bends the oak tree
I am rocked by my love

Love holds me captive again
and I tremble with bittersweet longing.
–Sappho, “Two Fragments”


Let’s face it, I am in danger of wanting my personal absolute to be a demigod of a man, and as there aren’t many around, I often unconsciously manufacture my own. And then, I retreat and revel in poetry and literature where the reward value is tangible and accepted. I really do not think deeply, really deeply. I want a romantic nonexistent hero. –Sylvia Plath, journal, April 23, 1953

Love is an illusion, but I would willingly fall for it if I could believe in it. –Sylvia Plath, journal, May 14, 1953

Love is a desperate artifice to take the place of those two original parents who turned out not to be omnisciently right gods, but a rather pedestrian pair of muddled suburbanites who, no matter how bumblingly they tried, never could quite understand how or why you grew up to your 21st birthday. Love is not this if you make it something creatively other. But most of you are not very good at making things. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What a pat speech. Why do my beheld beauties vanish and deform themselves as soon as I look twice? I want to love somebody because I want to be loved. –ditto

In the loving calm of your arms: “the gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being”—Besides intercourse, there is that other embrace, which is a motionless cradling: we are enchanted, bewitched; we are in the realm of sleep, without sleeping; everything is suspended: time, law, prohibition; nothing is exhausted, nothing is wanted; all desires are abolished for they seem definitively fulfilled. –Roland Barthes

I admit that I am shy.
More so with those faces
and those forms
that I start to love
with but one look only.
–Rod McKuen, Alone

What a happy and holy fashion it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow. –Nathaniel Hawthorne

Love is powerfully helpful when the roof falls in—loving other people with a high and hopeful heart and as a kind of prayer. –Edward Hoagland, “Heaven and Nature”

We two form a multitude. –Ovid

The simplest words, we do not know what they mean except when we love and aspire. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Do not plan long journeys because whatever you believe in you have already seen. When a thing is everywhere, then the only way to find it is not to travel but to love. –St. Augustine, City of God

Nothing new here, except my marrying, which to me is a matter of profound wonder. –Abraham Lincoln

We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. –(?)

You would not believe it; I sat
at the table with my family,
with my father saying grace, then
solemnly passing the bowls of
corn, of beans, the heavy
platter of turkey and dressing.
I filled my plate and lifted
my fork to my mouth,
but no matter what I put in,
it wasn’t what I tasted,
not the creamed potatoes,
not the smooth brown crust
of bread. It was you my mouth
remembered, the familiar musk
of your sex, its smooth heat,
its quick fullness. My mind was
a reel flashing pictures inside
my skull, and there was no detail
missing. I sat like a drunk
trying to act sober. I chewed
and swallowed while in my thoughts
I knelt; I gave thanks for you.
–Anne K. Smith, “Giving Thanks”

My sexuality stems from an emotional connection so someone’s soul. You don’t have to make a gender choice and stick with it. –Sophie B. Hawkins

Why is being gay an insult? If you dated some of the people I dated, you’d think being straight was an insult! –Sharon Stone

Her lips on his could tell him better than all her stumbling words. –Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

The naked promise in a glance, the electricity in a touch, the delicious heat in a kiss … –Trudy Culross

Self-transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. –Rainer Maria Rilke, “Rilke’s Letters On Love,” in John JL Mood’s Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties


I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear.

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow

you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment

only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that unnecessary.
–Margaret Atwood, “Variation on the Word Sleep

Like the shadow of a cypress tree in the meadow,
like the shadow of a rose, I live
close to the rose.

If I separated myself from you,
I would turn entirely thorn.

Every second, I drink another cup of my own blood-wine.
Every instant, I break an empty cup against your door.

I reach out, wanting you to tear me open.
–Rumi, “Saladin’s Begging Bowl”

I loved him most
when he came home from work,
his fingers still curled from fitting pipe,
his denim shirt ringed with sweat,
smelling of salt, the drying weeds
of the ocean. I’d go to where he sat
on the edge of the bed, his forehead
anointed with grease, his cracked hands
jammed between his thighs, and unlace
the steel-toed boots, stroke his ankles
and calves, the pads and bones of his feet.
Then I’d open his clothes and take
the whole day inside me—the ship’s
gray sides, the miles of copper pipe,
the voice of the foreman clanging
off the hull’s silver ribs. Spark of lead
kissing metal. The clamp, the winch,
the white fire of the torch, the whistle,
and the long drive home.
–Dorianne Laux, “The Shipfitter’s Wife”

Why don’t we say goodbye right now
in the fallacy of perfect health
before whatever is going to happen
happens. We could perfect our parting,
like those characters in On the Beach
who said farewell in the shadow
of the bomb as we sat watching,
young and holding hands at the movies.
We could use the loving words
we otherwise might not have time to say.
We could hold each other for hours
in a quintessential dress rehearsal.
Then we could just continue
for however many years were left.
The ragged things that are coming next—
arteries closing like rivers silting over,
or rampant cells stampeding us to the exit—
would be like postscripts to our lives
and wouldn’t matter. And we would bask
in an early afterlife of ordinary days,
impervious to the inclement weather
already in our long-range forecast.
Nothing could touch us. We’d
never have to say goodbye again.

–Linda Pastan, “An Early Afterlife”

Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly. –Rose Franken

The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of. –Blaise Pascal, Pensées

When a match has equal partners, then I fear not. –Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound

Civilized people cannot fully satisfy their sexual instinct without love. –Bertrand Russell, “Marriage and Morals”

Love teaches even asses to dance. –French proverb

It is impossible to love and be wise. –Francis Bacon, Of Love

Love knows nothing of order. –St. Jerome, letter 7


the only one I want
to caress is you

You watch the changing
light across the sky
I watch your eyes.
–Olga Broumas, “Privacy”

Ten years of fitting our bodies together
and still they sing wild songs in new keys.
It is more and less than love: timing,
chemistry, magic and will and luck.

One plus one equal one, unknowable except
in the moment, not convertible into words,
not explicable or philosophically interesting.
But it is. And it is. And it is. Amen.
–Marge Piercy, “Implications of One Plus One”

I watch her silhouette
in the green glow
of alarm clock light,
imagine the lace of freckles
draped across her back,
inhale the tumble of hair,
cataracting over shoulders.
I reach around,
feel her fullness,
slowly enter.
She molds to me
gentler than any cloud
has ever drifted
across a starlit sky,
and I am a prayer,
a ghost, a vapor,
nebulous as the night.
–Ed Stever, “Her Back to Me”

The mysterious thrum
that science can’t yet explain awakes a hum
in me, the sound something numb come alive makes.
–Molly Peacock, “The Purr”

There is no disguise which can hide love for long where it exists, or simulate it where it does not. –François de la Rochefoucauld, Maxims

It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death. –Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

You know, when sex is good, when it’s really, really good, I feel as though I’m disappearing, being pulverized, being fucked into oblivion, so that I’m nothing, just particles of air pollution, debris, smog, particles of soot and skin floating through the air and settling on the city. –Geoff Nicholson, Bleeding London

Nobody makes love. Love either happens or it doesn’t. And if it’s just a euphemism for fucking the arse off someone, then what’s that all about? Why can’t we be more honest, more graphic about our animal urges? Let’s drop all the crap, we thought. We all fuck, we all like it, so why wrap it up in tissue paper and call it making love? –Alan Cumming, Tommy’s Tale

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable. –Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, Malleus Maleficarum

Calling it a simple schoolgirl crush was like saying a Rolls-Royce was a vehicle with four wheels, something like a hay wagon. She did not giggle wildly and blush when she saw him, nor did he chalk his name on trees or write it on the walls of the Kissing Bridge. She simply lived with his face in her heart all the time, a kind of sweet, hurtful ache. She would have died for him. –Stephen King, It

When love is not madness, it is not love. –Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Love is merely a madness … –William Shakespeare, As You Like It

He that is not jealous is not in love. –St. Augustine

Is not general incivility the very essence of love? –Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The whole idea of settling remains depressing—and offensive, especially if you imagine people might be settling for you. –Julia Baird, “Girls Gone Mild”

Real love always has something hidden—some loss or boredom or tiny hate that we would never tell a soul. Those among you who have been rejected or ignored, you’ll know what I mean. Because when she comes to you at last, though joy may burst in wet seeds inside you, still there’s a bitterness that it took so long. Why did she wait? You can never quite forgive. –Andrew Sean Greer, The Confessions of Max Tivoli

For me, the weirder a guy is, the less you have to worry about fighting off other girls for his affections. –Kathy Griffin

How can you deny yourself something that was absolute and passionate and gigantic? We fell in love. It happens, thank God. –Russell Crowe, on his relationship with Meg Ryan

The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. –GK Chesterton

Don’t think that I belong to that vulgar race of men who feel disgust after pleasure, and for whom love exists only as lust. No: in me, what rises doesn’t subside so quickly. Moss grows on the castles of my heart as soon as they are built; but it takes some time for them to fall into ruin, if they ever completely do. –Gustave Flaubert

Talking about the chemical changes
that make a body in love shine,
or even, for months, immune to illness,
you pick a grub from the lawn
and let it lie on your palm-glowing
like the emerald-burning butt
of a cigarette. (We still haven’t touched,
only lain side by side
the half stories of our half lives.)
–Vicki Feaver, “Glow Worm”

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out. –Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Well, what is a relationship? It’s about two people having tremendous weaknesses and vulnerabilities, like we all do, and one person being able to strengthen the other in their areas of vulnerability. And vice versa. You need each other. You bolster each other. –Jane Fonda

Love begets love. This torment is my joy. –Theodore Roethke

Love is an attempt at penetrating another being, but it can only succeed if the surrender is mutual. –Octavio Paz

What you think is the heart may well be another organ. –Jeanette Winterson

Marriage should always combat the monster that devours everything: habit. –Honoré de Balzac, Physiologie du Mariage

… falling in love is a trick that our genes pull on our otherwise perceptive mind to hoodwink or trap us into marriage. …[without it] many of us who are happily or unhappily married today would have retreated in wholehearted terror from the realism of the marriage vows. –M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve the continuation of the species. –W. Somerset Maugham

Love made him feel helpless and stupid. –Arved Virrlaid, Graves without Crosses

We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.
They say there’s no future for us. They’re right.
Which is fine with us.
–Rumi, an untitled piece in Coleman Barks’s The Essential Rumi

It was the first time in as long as I could remember that hunger wasn’t a punishment or a crime or a weapon or a mode of self-destruction. It was simply a way of being in love. –Meg Rosoff, How I Live Now

We have hearts within,
Warm, live, improvident, indecent hearts.
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Why … do we so crave romantic love as if it were our destiny—our private, secret, individual fate? As if romantic love, yes let’s be candid and call it sexual love, the real thing, might define us in a way nothing else (our families, our hard-won careers) can define us. –Joyce Carol Oates, “The Stalker”

I don’t know when the boys
began to walk away with parts of myself
in their sticky hands; when loving
became a process of subtraction. Or why,
having given up what seems so much,
I’m willing to lose even more—erasing
all this body’s known, relearning it with you.
–Melissa Stein, from “Love Letter”

Love ... We want nothing more. –Vallier’s mother, in Lilies

The hours I spend with you I look upon as a sort of perfumed garden, a dim twilight, and a fountain singing to it…you and you alone make me feel that I am alive… Other men it is said have seen angels, but I have seen thee and thou art enough. –George Moore

I kiss your hands and kneel before you…to assure you that my whole mind, all the breadth of my spirit, all my heart exist only to love you. I adore you… So beautiful, so perfect, so made to be cherished, adored, and loved to death and madness. –Princess Carolyne von Saynwittgenstein

You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover’s arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip. –Jonathan Carroll, Outside the Dog Museum

Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it enkindles the great. –Comte de Bussy-Rabutin

I am against sex ed in schools because sex is more fun when it’s dirty and sinful. –Florence King

Love is like epidemic diseases. The more one fears it, the more likely one is to contract it. –Nicholas Chamfort

Ah—love—the walks over soft grass, the smiles over candlelight, the arguments over just about everything else. –Max Headroom

Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke. –Lynda Barry

People in love, it is well known, suffer extreme conceptual delusions; the most common of these being that other people find your condition as thrilling and eye-watering as you do yourselves. –Julian Barnes

Fools in love, gently hold each other’s hands forever,
Fools in love, gently tear each other limb from limb ...
–Inara George, “Fools in Love”

I wanted to escape from love, but didn’t know how. –Ding Ling

Love can’t always do work. Sometimes it just has to look into the darkness. –Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good

There is someone for everyone—even if you need a pickaxe, a compass, and night goggles to find them. –Steve Martin, in LA Story

A boyfriend in a straitjacket is better than no boyfriend at all. –Robert Rodi, Closet Case

Love and religion! ... How detestable, how detestable they are! ... The cruelest things in the and religion. –Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

You are always there for me and so you give me the courage to stand alone. –Marion Garretty

Love is simple to understand if you haven’t got a mind soft and full of holes. It’s a crutch, that’s all, and there isn’t one of us doesn’t need a crutch. –Norman Mailer, Barbary Shore

To love is to take the greatest risk of all. It is to give one’s future and one’s happiness into another’s hands. It is to allow oneself to trust without reserve. It is to accept vulnerability. And thus I love you. –Helen Thomson

If sex wasn’t sweaty, sticky, smelly, and slimy, it wouldn’t be fun. –Calanth’s Human Sexuality professor [seen on Isca BBS]

Love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled. –Harlan Ellison

The tragedy is when you’ve got sex in the head instead of down where it belongs. –DH Lawrence

Whatever else can be said about sex, it cannot be called a dignified performance. –Helen Lawrenson

Erotic love. Deep sexual pleasure. Those sensations you can’t speak of without sounding absurd and so you don’t speak of them at all until at last you cease to experience them and in time you can’t believe that others experience them, you can only react with derision. You’re anesthetized.
         Telling yourself, It’s behind me now, I’ve survived. – Joyce Carol Oates, “Summer Sweat”

To me, “sexual freedom” means freedom from having to have sex. –Lily Tomlin

The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable. –Lord Chesterfield, on sex

And when he came into her, with an intensification of relief and consummation that was pure peace to him, still she was waiting. She felt herself a little left out. And she knew, partly it was her own fault. She willed herself into this separateness. Now perhaps she was condemned to it. She lay still, feeling his motion within her, his deep-sunk intentness, the sudden quiver of him at the springing of his seed, then the slow-subsiding thrust. That thrust of the buttocks, surely it was a little ridiculous. If you were a woman, and a part in all the business, surely that thrusting of a man’s buttocks was supremely ridiculous. Surely the man was intensely ridiculous in this posture and this act! –DH Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

And however one might sentimentalize it, this sex business was one of the most ancient, sordid connections and subjections. Poets who glorified it were mostly men. Women had always known there was something better, something higher. And now they knew it more definitely than ever. The beautiful pure freedom of a woman was infinitely more wonderful than any sexual love. The only unfortunate thing was that men lagged so far behind women in the matter. They insisted on the sex thing like dogs.
         And a woman had to yield. A man was like a child with his appetites. A woman had to yield him what he wanted, or like a child he would probably turn nasty and flounce away and spoil what was a very pleasant connection. But a woman could yield to a man without yielding her inner, free self. That the poets and talkers of sex did not seem to have taken sufficiently into account. A woman could take a man without really giving herself into his power. Rather she could use this sex thing to have power over him. –ditto

…and the butting of his haunches seemed ridiculous to her, and the sort of anxiety of his penis to come to its little evacuating crisis seemed farcical. Yes, this was love, this ridiculous bouncing of the buttocks, and the wilting of the poor, insignificant, moist little penis. This was the divine love! After all, the moderns were right when they felt contempt for the performance; for it was a performance. It was quite true, as some poets said, that the God who created man must have had a sinister sense of humor, creating him a reasonable being, yet forcing him to take this ridiculous posture, and driving him with blind craving for this ridiculous performance. –ditto

Both of us have been literally sick to death being apart, wasting all our time and force trying to cope with the huge, fierce sense of absence...It is impossible for us to be whole or healthy apart. –Sylvia Plath, re: being apart from Ted Hughes

I presume that a lot of people just thought I was 100 percent homosexual. That’s not really the case. Nor am I 100 percent heterosexual. Nor do I adhere to or appreciate the label bisexual. I think it’s kind of cheap. It’s confining. It’s putting a male geometric set of rules onto something that I think of as female and very fluid. –Michael Stipe

I am crying about the elusive nature of love, the impossibility of ever having someone so completely that he can fill up the hole, the gaping hole that for me right now is full of depression. I understand why people sometimes want to kill their lovers, eat their lovers, inhale the ashes of their dead lovers. I understand that this is the only way to possess another person with the kind of desperate longing that I have to take [him] inside of me. –Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

He was always too far away. Even when we were having sex, even when he was as deep inside of me as a living person could be, he was still so far away, he was still on Mars, on Jupiter, on Venus, as far as I was concerned. –ditto

There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex … People should be very free with sex; they should draw the line at goats. –Elton John

I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The, like, fact that—that people—had sex. That they just had it, like sex was this thing people had, like a rash. Or a—a Rottweiler. Everything started to seem like, pornographic or something. Like, Mrs. Krysanowski has sex. So does Mr. Katimsky. They both have sex. They could—have sex together. Like right now. [groans] I am, like, the sickest person. –Claire Danes, in My So-Called Life

Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love. –William Shakespeare, As You Like It

There is no virtue in the purity that waits until the fires of passion are burned out. –anonymous

Love is permission is to throw ourselves over the edge. –from the Paradise Beach closing theme song

Come, let us hide closer to each other,
life lies in all our hearts as in coffins.
You! Let us kiss deeply…
–Else Lasker-Schüler, “World’s End”

O but what about love? I forget love
not that I am incapable of love
it’s just that I see love as odd as wearing shoes…
–Gregory Corso, “Marriage”

Between love and madness lies obsession. –(?)

I prefer an ecstatic orgasm to a lot of angst. –David Medalla

Love is a fire. But whether it’s going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell. –Joan Crawford

When you love someone all your saved-up wishes start coming out. –Elizabeth Bowen

To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven. –Karen Sunde

Remember your loves by keeping their spirit alive in you and you will not need sadness. Idolize them only a little. Make peace with their devils, and you will do the same with yours. All will collect dust together. –from an issue of Dark’s Art Parlour

Let the world stop turning
let the song stop burning
let them tell me love’s not worth going though
If it all falls apart
I will know deep in my heart
the only dream that matters has come true
in this life I was loved by you.
–Bette Midler

Being pregnant makes you feel like an adolescent girl. First, you’re constantly embarrassed about your sexuality, because there it is for the world to see: “Ha ha, look at her, she had sex!” Then there’s the raging hormones. You’re crying one day, laughing the next. You feel ugly and worthless and desperate. If you hated adolescence, I’d advise skipping pregnancy. –Cathy Crimmins



(Or what happens when you fall down that long well of passion over a person, a place, a sport, a game, a belief, and your heart goes boom and your mind leaves town.)


(I think I love you. Who are you anyway?)

Here it is, the big “wow,” the big “gee,” the big “yesyesyes” you’ve been waiting for. This is where you find something or someone and believe they are better, greater, cuter, wiser, more wonderful than anything you have ever known.

Lust isn’t a sin, it’s a necessity, for with lust as our guide we imagine our bodies moving the way our bodies were meant to move: we can do marathons with our feet, lift pounds with our arms, have stars in our eyes and do a nifty tango. And you think:

I have no need of food, I have no need of sleep, I have no needs other than occasionally chewing a breath mint. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, probably because you haven’t happened to me yet. Now I can pass into the next Act, so poetically called:


(Or: Oh Yippee, you’re mine.)

You feel funny inside. You feel funny outside. You feel you could do anything and no one would dare laugh at you.

This love, you will treasure. You will not put it in the basement next to your rowing machine, treadmill, and thermal body sweat wrap. And you will not take this love for granted, because this is the biggest sin of all. And you say:

I feel so good, I feel so strong. I feel actually attractive and I could learn to live with that feeling. Oh let us sing and dance and eat brown mushy foods low in fat! Oh joy! Oh rapture!

Oh but what if I’m no good at this? Oh I am no good at this. I am a dingy spek on the wall of humanity and look how badly painted that wall is! I am becoming very, very afraid. That must be because I’m passing into the Third Act, called:


(Also known as: Uh-oh.)

This is where the doubt begins, where the mind comes back from shopping, yells at the heart, binds and gags it to a nice lounge chair and allows guilt, failure, and remembrances of things past to sit in for a nice game of bridge. This is where you fear what you need most. If it’s a person you love, you fear appearing foolish in front of them. If it’s a sport, you fear being foolish in front of many, many people at the same time. And you begin to think:

Oh no. What if I’m wrong? What if this stinks? What if my heart has blinders on, it’s had blinders on before, in fact it had dark heavy patches taped all over it. How can anyone love me if I don’t love myself? I mean, I love myself, there are just parts between the top of my head and the bottom of my feet that could use some improvement. I’m not demeaning myself, I have relatives who do that.


(And the strange desire to eat everything in sight, hide in your room, and watch old Gidget movies with friends from high school.)

Now comes that unavoidable time when you say to anyone who will listen: What the heck am I doing, anyway? If it’s a person you love, first you hate only their foulest inadequacies, then you start hating their good points as well. If it’s running you love, you start to hate hills, sidewalks, and bad weather, and soon anything that slightly resembles a bump, concrete, or a small breeze.

I can’t believe I ever said I felt this way, I must have been dreaming! Wait, THIS IS NO DREAM, THIS IS A FILM NOIR MOVIE, and one of those really dark ones, too. I mean, this is love? This is what they tell you about when you’re 11 and naïve? Or 32 and more naïve?


(Love is hard work. And, sometimes, hard work can really hurt.)

Love is a game. If they didn’t tell you before, we will tell you now. Love is a game and if you play you either win, lose, or get ejected before the game is over.

There are no ties.

Maybe you’ll lose and learn some great meaningful answer from it all (Like if it looks too good to be true, it is). It’s easy to love something when you don’t have to work at it. It’s harder when it asks something of you, you just might be afraid to give.

Give it anyway.

The heart is the most resilient muscle. It is also the stupidest. So if this love you’ve found is good to you, hold it, keep it, shout about it. If it isn’t, then maybe you should just become very good friends.


(Also known as the big whopperdoodle, or, the most important part of this whole darn thing.)

So this is love, as demanding and nourishing and difficult as it can be, and as strong and wise as it makes you become.

There is something to be gained from commitment. There are rewards for staying when you would rather leave. And there is something to e said for running up that hill when you would rather slide down it. And so you let love come perch upon your shoulder. And you do not turn it away.

You do the tango.

Just do it.