What Is a Metaphor? 17 Definitions [a poem]

Metaphors Be With You
To read more about metaphors, check out my lesson series on the topic. If you’re looking for a more concrete (and less demonstrative) definition of metaphor, check out Metaphor Basics: The Definition and Structure of a Metaphor.

17 Definitions of Metaphor

I. A metaphor is a figure of speech
that directly compares two objects
that don’t match until the objects are matches
striking in strong winds, dancing their white-orange
beacons on the top of their two-inch lighthouses as
the wind catches fire.

II. A metaphor climbs to the cliffside,
sends a stone sailing through the air,
carefully watching it soar so
it can understand the ways birds
don’t fly.

III. A metaphor is a feint that forces
your opponent to look the other way
so you can deck them.

IV. Metaphors are rubber bullets
that drop crowds of innocent onlookers
to their knees because they feel
they’ve been penetrated.

V. A metaphor is letting yourself be penetrated
without protection.

VI. A metaphor is a disease
you catch that twists you genetic code
in balloon-animal patterns until
you’re sick and dying and finally
understand what it means
to be human.

VII. A metaphor is dying
so you can learn what clouds
taste like.

VIII. A metaphor is a bridge
that crumbles as you cross it,
toppling you to the hidden kingdoms
between your destinations.

IX. A metaphor is a fire
that catches in the trees
you loved when you were young
enough to believe the stars
were nested in the highest branches.

X. A metaphor is memory
of the time you told your mother
you loved her because she was
willing to lie and tell you
you were not an accident.

XI. A metaphor is an accident
that happens because your father
cared about your mother too much
to keep himself protected
as he loved her.

XII. A metaphor is your father’s beard
kissing you with scratches.

XIII. A metaphor is losing
the girl you love because you quit
the same drug you once carefully injected
into the lush vineyards of her veins.

XIV. A metaphor is a drug
you injected into the lush vineyards
of her veins.

XV. A metaphor is quitting
because you don’t want the story to end
like a needle.

XVI. A metaphor is a broken pen
that spills ink all across your description
of Scotland, but pools in the shape
of a map of Scotland that looks just like
how Scotland smelled on that rainy Thursday
when you kissed a girl in a graveyard
while the castle watched you from the cliffisde,
ready to throw stones that showed you
just how birds
don’t fly.

XVII. A metaphor is a figure of speech
that directly compares two objects
that don’t match until the objects are matches
striking in strong winds, as the air catches
in the throat of the boy who looks on
and suddenly understands that when his mother said,
“I am so tired of you I could break,”
she really meant the weight of how much
he mattered to her was so great that her shoulders
buckled, the way seat-belts buckle, going taut,
teaching her that the world of her heart was too small
for a love as big as the ocean of her son,
and that oceans can never be accidents,
that you can never love and keep yourself protected,
that every kiss would scratch her until she threw
her hands toward the too-big sky
and the winds caught fire.