70 Favorite Poems: 2. You Don’t Know What Love Is by Kim Addonizio
[I fell in love with this poem because of the way it begins. The first line, the poem's title, just strikes directly at your heart. And then she goes on to compare love to our life/growth process: from the first time we sit up and blink to the time of our death.]
You don’t know what love is
but you know how to raise it in me
like a dead girl winched up from a river. How to
wash off the sludge, the stench of our past.
How to start clean. This love even sits up
and blinks; amazed, she takes a few shaky steps.
Any day now she’ll try to eat solid food. She’ll want
to get into a fast car, one low to the ground, and drive
to some cinderblock shithole in the desert
where she can drink and get sick and then
dance in nothing but her underwear. You know
where she’s headed, you know she’ll wake up
with an ache she can’t locate and no money
and a terrible thirst. So to hell
with your warm hands sliding inside my shirt
and your tongue down my throat
like an oxygen tube. Cover me
in black plastic. Let the mourners through.