Skip to main content
By Marge Piercy

Learning to love differently is hard,

love with the hands wide open, love

with the doors banging on their hinges,

the cupboard unlocked, the wind

roaring and whimpering in the rooms

rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds

that thwack like rubber bands

in an open palm.


It hurts to love wide open

stretching the muscles that feel

as if they are made of wet plaster,

then of blunt knives, then

of sharp knives.


It hurts to thwart the reflexes

of grab, of clutch ; to love and let

go again and again. It pesters to remember

the lover who is not in the bed,

to hold back what is owed to the work

that gutters like a candle in a cave

without air, to love consciously,

conscientiously, concretely, constructively.


I can’t do it, you say it’s killing

me, but you thrive, you glow

on the street like a neon raspberry,

You float and sail, a helium balloon

bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing

on the cold and hot winds of our breath,

as we make and unmake in passionate

diastole and systole the rhythm

of our unbound bonding, to have

and not to hold, to love

with minimized malice, hunger

and anger moment by moment balanced.


Marge Piercy, "To have without holding" from The Moon is Always Female. Copyright © 1980 by Marge Piercy.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: The Moon is Always Female (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980)

Poet Bio

Marge Piercy was born in Detroit, Michigan. An extremely prolific writer, Piercy has published 17 volumes of poetry and 17 novels. She has also written plays, several volumes of nonfiction, a memoir, and has edited the anthology Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now. Much of her work addresses themes of feminism, Marxism, and environmentalism. Piercy has also played an active role in a number of political causes, including the anti-Vietnam war movement, the women's movement, and the resistance to the war in Iraq.

More By This Poet

More Poems about Love

Browse poems about Love