For Desire Poem by Kim Addonizio Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English for Students


The poem “for Desire” is one of the most well known poems of Kim Addonizio. The poem was first published in her poetry collection “Tell Me” in 2000. The poem talks about the physical aspect of love and desire. The poet focuses on her primal desire of physical connection with her lover. She wishes to embrace this and heighten her physicality in every way that she can. She wants to lose her senses and enjoy moments of extreme pleasure. The poem also pays attention to the erotic themes expressed by the peot and her relationship with her body.

About the poet

Kim Addonizio was born in 1954 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. Some of her famous poems are “What Do Women Want?” And “What Is This Thing Called Love”.


The poem is written in the free-verse form. It is written in one big stanza with 33 lines in total. The length of the lines in the poem vary and are irregular.

Lines 1-8

Give me the strongest cheese, the one that stinks best;

and I want the good wine, the swirl in crystal

surrendering the bruised scent of blackberries,

or cherries, the rich spurt in the back

of the throat, the holding it there before swallowing.

Give me the lover who yanks open the door

of his house and presses me to the wall

in the dim hallway, and keeps me there until I’m drenched


The speaker begins by expressing a strong desire for potent cheese and fragrant wine, emphasizing the rich, fruity scents. She wants the good wine to smell of the crushed blackberries and cherries and then hurt the back of her throat as she swallows it. Beyond the culinary, she longs for a lover who is assertive. She wants him to open the door and pull her into a dim hallway for an intense encounter. The vivid imagery of being drenched and shaky after a cascade of kisses paints a picture of a profound yearning for passionate intimacy. It’s a celebration of abundance in both taste and emotional connection.


The poet makes use of rich sensory language, with a focus on potent cheese and fragrant wine, utilizing olfactory and gustatory imagery to evoke a vivid experience for the reader. The repetition of the word “longs” underscores a deep, unfulfilled romantic desire of the poet. The mention of the assertive lover in the dim hallway serves as a metaphor for the poet’s passion and intensity.

The vivid imagery of being “drenched and shaky” after a “cascade of kisses” is employed by the poet to highlight the tactile and kinesthetic sensations, intensifying the emotional impact. This creates a powerful and memorable depiction of the poet’s yearning for a profound connection. The celebration of abundance in taste and emotional connection suggests a theme of desire and fulfillment present in the poet’s mind. She seeks richness not only in flavors but also in romantic experiences.

Lines 9-16

and shaking, whose kisses arrive by the boatload

and begin their delicious diaspora

through the cities and small towns of my body.

To hell with the saints, with martyrs

of my childhood meant to instruct me

in the power of endurance and faith,

to hell with the next world and its pallid angels

swooning and sighing like Victorian girls.


The speaker rejects conventional virtues in these lines and expresses a desire for a passionate lover whose abundant kisses create a delightful dispersion throughout her body. She wants the lover to kiss her and through the kisses she wants him to explore the cities and small towns of her body. Dismissing the teachings of saints and martyrs, she dismisses the idea of endurance and faith, and rejects the image of ethereal angels in favor of immediate, visceral experiences. She no longer wants to keep in mind the teaching of patience and modesty taught to her as a child. Rather she wants to give into her desires immediately.


In these lines the poet talks about how she wants her lover to kiss her and explore her body. She uses the metaphor of kisses as a “delicious diaspora” to vividly illustrates the dispersal of sensations throughout her body, emphasizing the physical and emotional impact of the lover’s touch. In the next lines, the poet makes use of the imagery of exploring “the cities and small towns” of her body through kisses. This suggests a journey of intimate exploration.

The poet rejects the teachings from saints and martyrs, as well as of endurance and faith taught to her as a child. This rejection reflects a defiance of societal or religious norms. The poet wants immediate pleasures over abstract virtues. The dismissal of the “pallid angels swooning and sighing like Victorian girls” further emphasizes the rejection of traditional, idealized representations.

Lines 17-24

I want this world. I want to walk into

the ocean and feel it trying to drag me along

like I’m nothing but a broken bit of scratched glass,

and I want to resist it. I want to go

staggering and flailing my way

through the bars and back rooms,

through the gleaming hotels and weedy

lots of abandoned sunflowers and the parks


The speaker expresses a longing for the tangible experience of this world. She wants to walk into the ocean and feel its attempt to pull her in like a broken piece of scratched glass. Despite the ocean’s pull, the speaker desires to resist it. This emphasises a determination to confront challenges and overcome them. She also expresses a wish to stagger and flail through various environments. She wants to experience the physicality of her relationship in every place, including bars, back rooms, hotels, and abandoned sunflower lots in parks. The desire for a varied experience encompasses a raw and diverse journey through different stages of her life.


In these lines, the poet makes use of vivid and sensory language to convey a profound desire for a tangible and challenging existence. She uses the metaphor of walking into the ocean and feeling its pull, comapring it to a “broken piece of scratched glass”. This creates a vivid image of the speaker’s desire for an adventurous experience. She also uses repetition of the desire to resist the ocean’s pull to emphasize a determination to confront challenges and assert her control and power in the face of adversity.

The poet makes use of verbs like “stagger” and “flail” to enhance the physicality of the her experience and an active engagement with various environments. These environments, ranging from bars and back rooms to hotels and abandoned sunflower lots in parks, symbolize a diverse and raw journey through different stages and facets of life.

Lines 25-33

where dogs are let off their leashes

in spite of the signs, where they sniff each

other and roll together in the grass, I want to

lie down somewhere and suffer for love until

it nearly kills me, and then I want to get up again

and put on that little black dress and wait

for you, yes you, to come over here

and get down on your knees and tell me

just how fu-king good I look.


The speaker desires a place where dogs roam freely, defying signs, engaging in playful interactions. In this setting, she expresses a longing to lie down and experience the intensity of love until it nearly overwhelms her. Just like a dog off its leash, the speaker too wants to have unrestricted experiences. Despite the suffering, she envisions getting up, putting on a black dress, and eagerly anticipating someone, specifically her lover, to acknowledge her beauty with explicit admiration. She wants to be revered by her lover like a goddess.


In these lines the poet makes use of the metaphor of a place where dogs roam freely to symbolize a longing for unrestrained experiences and the playful interactions associated with freedom. She wants to lie down and “suffer for love”. She has the willingness to embrace intense emotions and experiences, mirroring the passionate and sometimes challenging nature of love. The comparison to a dog off its leash reinforces the theme of seeking unrestricted, unbridled encounters. The act of putting on a black dress after experiencing the intensity of love adds a layer of symbolism. The longing to be revered like a goddess by her lover tells us about the theme of seeking elevated status and adoration in romantic relationships.