First Poem for You Poem by Kim Addonizio Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “First Poem for You” is written by the poet Kim Addonizio. The poem was first published in the poetry collection “The Philosopher’s Club” in 1994. The poem talks about the love and intimacy between two partners and explores the themes of permanence and impermanence. The poet talks about how impermanent our physical bodies are and how permanent the love that the poet feels for her partner is. The lines give us a glimpse of what goes on in the minds of the poet after having an intimate time with their lover.

About the poet

Kim Addonizio was born in Maryland, USA. She is an American writer and a poet. Her poems are characterized by her street-wise use of language and the themes of sexuality and substance abuse. She has published multiple poetry collections including, “The Philospher’s Club” in 1944 and “Jimmy and Rita” in 1997.


The poem is written in the sonnet form but does not follow it entirely. The poem has a total of 2 stanzas, consisting of 7 lines each. The poem does not follow the form but follows the rhyme scheme, it has 3 rhyming quatrains and 1 rhyming couplet.

Stanza 1

I like to touch your tattoos in complete

darkness, when I can’t see them. I’m sure of

where they are, know by heart the neat

lines of lightning pulsing just above

your nipple, can find, as if by instinct, the blue

swirls of water on your shoulder where a serpent

twists, facing a dragon. When I pull you


The speaker talks about how she loves the experience of tracing her lover’s tattoos even in the absolute darkness. She can not see them but is confident in her ability to locate them by heart. She intimately knows the precise details, like the neat lightning lines above the nipple. She says that it is instinct that allows her the discovery of blue water swirls on the shoulder, where a serpent confronts a dragon. When she pulls her lover close, this tactile connection deepens their intimate bond.


In this stanza, the poet expresses a deep fondness for touching her lover’s tattoos, even when they’re in complete darkness. This suggests a strong, intimate connection between them. She knows the tattoos so well that she can feel the fine details, like the lightning lines above the nipple and the swirling water with a serpent and a dragon on the shoulder. The poet uses vivid imagery to describe the tattoos, creating a clear picture in the reader’s mind. For example, the “neat lines of lightning” and the “blue swirls of water” evoke strong visual imagery.

The poet also uses metaphors to describe the tattoos as “keys” to the lover’s heart, suggesting that through this physical connection, the speaker gains a deeper understanding of her partner. The serpent and dragon imagery may symbolize different aspects of the lover’s personality or experiences.

Stanza 2

to me, taking you until we’re spent

and quiet on the sheets, I love to kiss

the pictures in your skin. They’ll last until

you’re seared to ashes; whatever persists

or turns to pain between us, they will still

be there. Such permanence is terrifying.

So I touch them in the dark; but touch them, trying.


The speaker finds great joy in being with her lover until they’re both exhausted and lying peacefully on the sheets. She expresses a deep affection for kissing the tattoos on her lover’s skin, believing that these images will remain till the body is turned to ashes. This idea of endurance is both comforting and frightening for her. In the face of potential pain or challenges between them, the tattoos serve as a reminder of their connection. The speaker, even in darkness, continues to touch them, trying to hold onto that sense of permanence and connection.


The poet describes the pleasure she takes in being with her lover until they are both exhausted and lying together on the sheets. She expresses a strong fondness for kissing the tattoos on her lover’s skin. She uses imagery to paint a clear picture of the intimate moment. Phrases like “spent and quiet on the sheets” and “kiss the pictures in your skin” create a strong visual image of the intimate moments between them.

The poet also uses metaphors to convey a deeper meaning. She describes the tattoos as “pictures in your skin,” emphasizing their visual significance. The poet expresses a mix of emotions, including comfort and fear, which adds depth to the poem. The permanence of the tattoos brings comfort, knowing that they will remain as a testament to their love. However, this idea is also frightening, as it forces the speaker to confront the inevitable impermanence of life.