National Poetry Month, Day 19: Kenneth Koch

My copy, still dog-eared from my wedding

My copy, still dog-eared from my wedding


Today’s poem is a favorite of mine. It’s the poem my brother read at my wedding, in fact. A good love poem is a difficult thing to do well–love, it turns out, is not unique, and often poems that are truly about love–and not about, say, the loss of love–can sound trite very quickly.

But Kenneth Koch’s “To You,” wow–“I am crazier than shirttails/In the wind, when you’re near” and “I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields/Always, to be near you….”

Via this link, you can hear this poem being read, and I advise listening, since, read aloud, this poem takes on an entirely new quality, very conversational, intimate, confessional. Enjoy.

To You
I love you as a sheriff searches for a walnut
That will solve a murder case unsolved for years
Because the murderer left it in the snow beside a window
Through which he saw her head, connecting with
Her shoulders by a neck, and laid a red
Roof in her heart. For this we live a thousand years;
For this we love, and we live because we love, we are not
Inside a bottle, thank goodness! I love you as a
Kid searches for a goat; I am crazier than shirttails
In the wind, when you?re near, a wind that blows from
The big blue sea, so shiny so deep and so unlike us;
I think I am bicycling across an Africa of green and white fields
Always, to be near you, even in my heart
When I?m awake, which swims, and also I believe that you
Are trustworthy as the sidewalk which leads me to
The place where I again think of you, a new
Harmony of thoughts! I love you as the sunlight leads the prow
Of a ship which sails
From Hartford to Miami, and I love you
Best at dawn, when even before I am awake the sun
Receives me in the questions which you always pose.
? Kenneth Koch, from Modern American Poets: Their Voices and Visions (Random House, 1987)