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Do You Have a Favorite Poem?

Do You Have a Favorite Poem?

When I was 10, my best friend was 82…

Her name was Charlotte, and she was part of my mom’s book club. When I complimented her straw hat one afternoon, she invited me over for “tea and a poem.” My mom, of course, made me go. At first, I dreaded it. All my friends were selling Girl Scout cookies, and I was hanging out with Chaaaaarlotte.

But after a while, I started enjoying the (very caffeinated) English Breakfast tea she served. Even the poems she would choose felt welcoming and fun. They were always by Billy Collins, her favorite writer. “Delighted, overwhelmed and mystified,” she would exclaim after every reading, plopping three more sugar cubes into her already-sugared tea.

Here’s the first one Charlotte shared with me:

Introduction to Poetry
by Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

So great, right? (I also love how Billy Collins described his writing process, “I have one reader in mind, someone who is in the room with me, and who I’m talking to, and I want to make sure I don’t talk too fast, or too glibly. Usually I try to create a hospitable tone at the beginning of a poem. Stepping from the title to the first lines is like stepping into a canoe. A lot of things can go wrong.”)

After Charlotte worked her way through Billy Collins’s entire collection, she simply started again. “It’s never the same poem, because you are never the same person you were when you first read it,” she told me. Delighted, overwhelmed and mystified, indeed.

What about you? If you have a favorite poem or a book you enjoyed lately, I’d love to hear…

P.S. On memorizing a poem, and seven great new books.

(Photo by Lena Corwin for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Laura says...

    Growing up my Dad told the BEST stories, and would recite poetry he had learned as a child. My constant favorite was “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service. The way he told stories and recited poetry made me feel it. He is now in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and although he doesn’t remember my name … there have been days where I get a piece of my Dad back through reciting Robert Service.

    • Kim says...

      That’s so beautiful, Laura. I’m sorry about your dad.

  2. Emma says...

    Billy Collins was totally my gateway poetry drug. The first time I read his “Litany” I finally understood what everyone had been talking about. And then I heard this little guy read it and it sealed a place in my heart forever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVu4Me_n91Y&t=7s. I’m probably responsible for about 1000 of those views.

    You are the bread and the knife,
    The crystal goblet and the wine…
    -Jacques Crickillon

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

    • Lindsey says...

      This is one of my favorites as well, and I’ve never seen that video. AMAZING!

  3. Tab says...

    “Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”

    Hafez

    • Claire says...

      SO GOOD!! That’s a heart-piercer.

  4. Emily says...

    A Room in the Past
    BY TED KOOSER

    It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
    with a morning light so bright
    you can’t see beyond its windows
    into the afternoon. A kitchen
    falling through time with its things
    in their places, the dishes jingling
    up in the cupboard, the bucket
    of drinking water rippled as if
    a truck had just gone past, but that truck
    was thirty years. No one’s at home
    in this room. Its counter is wiped,
    and the dishrag hangs from its nail,
    a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,
    blue aprons of rain, my grandmother
    moved through this life like a ghost,
    and when she had finished her years,
    she put them all back in their places
    and wiped out the sink, turning her back
    on the rest of us, forever.

  5. Lauren says...

    I have two favorites. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by Yeats for my happy-place-poem. My other is by Cavafy, and has stayed with me since I first read it as a teen. This poem terrifies me, in a very good way.

    An Old Man by Constantine Cavafy – (trans. by Manolis Aligizakis)
    In the inner room of the noisy café
    an old man sits bent over a table;
    a newspaper before him, no companion beside him.

    And in the scorn of his miserable old age,
    he meditates how little he enjoyed the years
    when he had strength, the art of the word, and good looks.

    He knows he has aged much; he is aware of it, he sees it,
    and yet the time when he was young seems like
    yesterday. How short a time, how short a time.

    And he ponders how Wisdom had deceived him;
    and how he always trusted her—what folly!—
    the liar who would say, “Tomorrow. You have ample time.”

    He recalls impulses he curbed; and how much
    joy he sacrificed. Every lost chance
    now mocks his senseless prudence.

    …But with so much thinking and remembering
    the old man reels. And he dozes off
    bent over the table of the café.

    • Katelyn H says...

      I love Cavafy! His “Ithaka” poem is like a prayer for any journey—acrossed borders, oversees or through life.

  6. Kristin says...

    Wow–so many wonderful poems in the comments! I’ve just spent the last hour reading all of them. Thank you all so much for sharing! Here are two of my favorite poems. The poem by e. e. cummings has always resonated with me, and we had it read at our wedding.

    [i carry your heart with me (i carry it in]
    BY E. E. CUMMINGS
    i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
    my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)
    i fear
    no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
    no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

    AND

    Refusal by Maya Angelou
    Beloved,
    In what other lives or lands
    Have I known your lips
    Your Hands
    Your Laughter brave
    Irreverent.
    Those sweet excesses that
    I do adore.
    What surety is there
    That we will meet again,
    On other worlds some
    Future time undated.
    I defy my body’s haste.
    Without the promise
    Of one more sweet encounter
    I will not deign to die.

  7. Niharika says...

    So much love for all these poems and this post.
    A few that I have always loved (& there are so many more!)

    Failing and Falling- Jack Gilbert
    Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew..(this opener just stopped me in my tracks) https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/failing-and-flying

    For Jane- Charles Bukowski (I feel this poem howls in pain)
    https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/for-jane/

    Flowers- Wendy Cope (lovely, light, makes me think of my husband)
    https://www.poetryarchive.org/poem/flowers

  8. christine says...

    i bleed
    every month.
    but
    do not die.
    how am i
    not
    magic.

    — Nayyirah Waheed

  9. Jenna says...

    A couple years ago, I was reading an article about how WWI POWs used to recite poetry to each other as they sat in dark cells awaiting release. What beautiful imagery! And I thought, “If some day for some reason I am confined in dark place I cannot escape, I will have no poetry to recite to lighten the dark.” So I made it a goal to start memorizing a poem a month. One of my favorites is “Psalm” by C Dylan Bassett:

    We wrestle, gentle
    Jehovah, gentle
    blade, or rather ring
    bearer, keeper
    of dirt and sleet under
    streetlights. A kingdom,
    weightless, entrusted
    to the small palms
    of a child. A garden
    with a certain desert
    distance, an angel’s
    interference, this
    late-night duel. I know
    the sound of wind
    as well as I know
    the shape of your
    footprint. Or
    is it the mark
    of my knees in the dirt?

  10. My favourite poem was written by Gerda Mayer – I found it in a cinema on a postcard and took it home with me. I’ve often thought of it from first reading (aged 12) to now (aged 28). It’s helped me come to terms with the passing of time, losing family members and the youthful vanity of begrudgingly accepting your features. A journey indeed!

    Well Caught

    These days I’m in love with my face.
    It has grown round and genial as I’ve become older.
    In it I see my grandfather’s face, and that
    of my mother. Yes – like a ball it has been thrown
    from one generation to the next.

    • Claire says...

      wow, great story, and wonderful poem.

  11. KT says...

    It’s been my practice to offer Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” as a benediction of sorts as I part ways with my college writing students at the end of each quarter. As I display the poem on the projector, I play the recording of Oliver reading it aloud for the On Being podcast so they can hear the conviction in her voice. Every quarter, I feel the poem’s meanings anew, as I look out at my students seated in their desks, listening to the poem — sometimes closing their eyes to take it in better, sometimes blinking back tears, sometimes scribbling in their notebooks, sometimes raising their camera phone so they can take a photo and return to the poem later — and I think about all that they have shared with me and with each other through their poems and stories and essays. I think about what it might mean for this particular group of students to hear Oliver’s words and to feel freedom in their bodies, to feel heard even in their despair, to feel a sense of connection to the world and to each other, and to know that they belong.

    https://onbeing.org/blog/mary-oliver-reads-wild-geese

    • Marlena says...

      I always gravitate to Mary Oliver’s work, especially when my heart needs a bit of comforting. It’s neat that you described your students feeling “freedom in their bodies” listening to her poems because that is exactly how she makes me feel. My absolute favorite poem of hers is “A Meeting”. The imagery is almost too much for me each and every time I read it. So beautiful.

  12. kate says...

    I read this at my sister’s wedding two weeks ago. it was both her and her husband’s second marriage and they have both had a tough year, but they are so so happy together. i think it’s perfect.

    “I am not the first person you loved.
    You are not the first person I looked at
    with a mouthful of forevers. We
    have both known loss like the sharp edges
    of a knife. We have both lived with lips
    more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
    unannounced in the middle of the night.
    Our love came when we’d given up
    on asking love to come. I think
    that has to be part
    of its miracle.
    This is how we heal.
    I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
    will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
    will bandage and we will press promises
    between us like flowers in a book.
    I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
    on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
    of your nose. I will write a dictionary
    of all the words I have used trying
    to describe the way it feels to have finally,
    finally found you.

    And I will not be afraid
    of your scars.

    I know sometimes
    it’s still hard to let me see you
    in all your cracked perfection,
    but please know:
    whether it’s the days you burn
    more brilliant than the sun
    or the nights you collapse into my lap
    your body broken into a thousand questions,
    you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
    I will love you when you are a still day.
    I will love you when you are a hurricane.”
    ― Clementine von Radics

    • Fran says...

      Wow. Just wow.

    • Joanna says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been looking for the perfect poem to be read at my own wedding, and this is it. So moving—I literally just cried at my desk.

    • Hannah says...

      Oh gosh, I am planning my second marriage and this is EXACTLY the reading I am looking for. A thousand thank yous for sharing this.

      Nope, not crying into my cofffee, must be something in my eye…

    • this is ducking awesome. I don’t know that I’ve read Radics before. I read lots of poetry so thanks for the double play of joy.

  13. harmony says...

    I love this post and so many of these poems. During dark times, when anxiety is high and fear very present, poetry can open a door, offer communion. Here is one of my recent favorites, by Keetje Kuipers:

    PRAYER

    Perhaps as a child you had the chicken pox
    and your mother, to soothe you in your fever
    or to help you fall asleep, came into your room
    and read to you from some favorite book,
    Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie,
    a long story that she quietly took you through
    until your eyes became magnets for your shuttering
    lids and she saw your breathing go slow. And then
    she read on, this time silently and to herself,
    not because she didn’t know the story,
    it seemed to her that there had never been a time
    when she didn’t know this story—the young girl
    and her benevolence, the young girl in her sod house—
    but because she did not yet want to leave your side
    though she knew there was nothing more
    she could do for you. And you, not asleep but simply weak,
    listened to her turn the pages, still feeling
    the lamp warm against one cheek, knowing the shape
    of the rocking chair’s shadow as it slid across
    your chest. So that now, these many years later,
    when you are clenched in the damp fist of a hospital bed,
    or signing the papers that say you won’t love him anymore,
    when you are bent at your son’s gravesite or haunted
    by a war that makes you wake with the gun
    cocked in your hand, you would like to believe
    that such generosity comes from God, too,
    who now, when you have the strength to ask, might begin
    the story again, just as your mother would,
    from the place where you have both left off.

    • Jessica says...

      I’m printing this right now. In tears. Thank you for sharing.

    • Cora says...

      That was so beautiful.

    • Camille says...

      Oh, wow. That took my breath away.

    • Rebecca says...

      I am sobbing at this. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  14. Emily says...

    Antilamentation by Dorianne Laux

    Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
    to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
    Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
    in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
    Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
    the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
    who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
    that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
    Not the nights you called god names and cursed
    your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
    chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
    You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
    over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
    across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
    coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
    You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
    you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
    of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
    when the lights from the carnival rides
    were the only stars you believed in, loving them
    for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
    You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
    ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
    after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
    window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
    of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
    any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
    on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      Gosh this is so exquisite. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Nessa says...

    This poem hung on my aunt’s kitchen wall. It brings so much memories of simplicity and I even added a tune to make it a song. 15 years and I still remember it.

    Bless this little Kitchen Lord
    Bless me as I work
    Guide me in my daily chores
    That I may never shirk

    May I keep my keep my kitchen cheery
    No matter what I cook
    My family and my guests
    Will love it’s every nook.

    No matter where I serve my family
    No Matter where I several my guests
    They all agree in one accord
    They like my kitchen best

    So thank there Lord for all of us
    And all the food we eat
    And thank there Lord from all of us for the kitchen where we meet.

  16. I just love this one:

    Follow your destiny,
    Water your plants,
    Love your roses.
    The rest is the shadow
    Of foreign trees…

    Reality is
    Always more or less
    Than what we want.
    Only we are always
    Equal to ourselves.

    Living alone is smooth,
    Grand and noble is always
    Living simply.
    Leave the pain on the altar
    Like a votive offering to gods.

    See life from afar.
    Never question it.
    It can tell you
    Nothing. The answer
    Is beyond the gods.

    But serenely
    Imitate Olympus
    In your heart.
    The gods are gods
    For they don’t think themselves.

    It´s an Ode by Ricardo Reis, an heteronymous of Fernando Pessoa.

  17. Sara L. says...

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    — Jellaludin Rumi,
    translation by Coleman Barks

    • Claire says...

      so wonderful. I love Rumi.

  18. Alice says...

    Ughh I have SO MANY saved in a specific google doc folder that I can peruse whenever I’m feeling a bit blah. My current favourites are Patagonia, by Kate Clanchy (“I thought of us in breathless cold, facing/
    a horizon round as a coin”); Marblehead, by Rebecca Lindenburg (totally heartbreaking, but also just beautiful: “you gulp/ purple wine, your pinky sticking out,/ and the round olives are the green/ all green things aspire to be” ); and Philip Larkin’s High Windows:

    When I see a couple of kids
    And guess he’s fucking her and she’s
    Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,
    I know this is paradise

    Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—
    Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
    Like an outdated combine harvester,
    And everyone young going down the long slide

    To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if
    Anyone looked at me, forty years back,
    And thought, That’ll be the life;
    No God any more, or sweating in the dark

    About hell and that, or having to hide
    What you think of the priest. He
    And his lot will all go down the long slide
    Like free bloody birds. And immediately

    Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
    The sun-comprehending glass,
    And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
    Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

  19. Lucy Haynes says...

    My go to for 2018.

    The World I Live In – Mary Oliver
    I have refused to live
    locked in the orderly house of
    reasons and proofs.
    The world I live in and believe in
    is wider than that. And anyway,
    what’s wrong with Maybe?

    You wouldn’t believe what once or
    twice I have seen. I’ll just
    tell you this:
    only if there are angels in your head will
    you ever, possibly, see one.

  20. Aideen says...

    PS Well there is a poetry book in this for you, Cup of Jo – I’ll buy at least three copies for Christmas presents, probably more..

  21. Aideen says...

    First up: love this, going to print out the comments and read the poems at bedtime. The first poem that came to my mind was The Old Woman of the Roads, by Padraic Colum. We learned it at speech and drama class in school when I was about 10, at a time when I was becoming aware of social injustice and basic human rights. It reminds me of how little we really need in life.

    The Old Woman of the Roads

    O, to have a little house!
    To own the hearth and stool and all!
    The heaped up sods against the fire,
    The pile of turf against the wall!
    To have a clock with weights and chains
    And pendulum swinging up and down!
    A dresser filled with shining delph,
    Speckled and white and blue and brown!
    I could be busy all the day
    Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
    And fixing on their shelf again
    My white and blue and speckled store!
    I could be quiet there at night
    Beside the fire and by myself,
    Sure of a bed and loth to leave
    The ticking clock and the shining delph!
    Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
    And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
    And tired I am of bog and road,
    And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
    And I am praying to God on high,
    And I am praying Him night and day,
    For a little house – a house of my own
    Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.

  22. Meg says...

    My husband and I dated long distance for several months. As introverts, keeping our connection over the phone was sometimes hard. So we would often call to read each other poetry – that way we could hear each other’s voices without having to manufacture conversation.

    A year later I was about to walk down the aisle, but was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was about to do I could scarcely move my feet. This poem bubbled up and I let the cadence of it carry me forward. My husband watched me approach, whispering it to myself under my breath; when I finally reached him, he grabbed my hand and quietly recited the last line with me. I love that guy.

    The Windhover
    To Christ Our Lord
    (Gerard Manly Hopkins)

    I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
    dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
    High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
    In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
    Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.

    Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
    Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

    No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
    Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

    • Mona says...

      Lovely!

  23. Wendy says...

    My favorite poem is Compassion, written by Miller Williams. It speaks to me differently every time I ready it (which is every day when I am at my desk since I posted it there).

    Compassion, by Miller Williams

    Have compassion for everyone you meet,
    even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit,
    bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
    of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
    You do not know what wars are going on
    down there where the spirit meets the bone.

    • JennP says...

      Thank you for this, Wendy.

    • Belle says...

      This too is one of my favorite poems. His daughter Lucinda Williams took this poem and created her own musical version of it. If you have never heard, you need to take a listen.

  24. Nigerian Girl says...

    Lately the poem I haven’t been able to stop reading is “Dear Eros” by Traci Brimhall:

    I have found you where I shouldn’t—in the wrong bodies,
    at the wrong time, and once on a subway platform
    with my feet stuck to a pool of dried soda taking gum
    from a near-stranger’s mouth. That night you were spearmint
    and the 6 train. I have been woken by you, put to bed by you.
    Had you serve me coffee in my favorite mug with milk
    and just enough sweetness. An easy gift. A debt of pleasure.
    My therapist said: Sometimes it’s better to be understood than it is
    to be loved. I believed her because I am better at understanding
    than I am at feeling. I have said I love you to men whose names
    I can’t remember now. And who’s to say it wasn’t true?
    Who’s to say I couldn’t have tried forever with any of them?
    Couldn’t have tried learning to sail and opened a sanctuary
    for elephants, or perfected the tambourine and followed the band
    on their bluegrass tour? I don’t know why anyone stays in their marriage,
    my therapist said. Love is illogical. A man I loved once raped me.
    I did not leave him. At least not then. But the next time I loved,
    I chose someone kinder. I thought it would make a difference.
    I stopped looking people in the eyes when talking to them.
    I kept wanting to kiss them, the intimacy of language turning
    into metaphor and urge. Everyone. I wanted to kiss the cashier
    handling my poblanos with such gentleness and curiosity.
    To kiss the person next to me on the bus with bad taste
    in music and vanilla and bergamot in his cologne. Kiss
    the woman holding the door, saying: Have a good day.
    Her smile so goddamn bright and real and meant for me.
    You’re trapped, my therapist tells me. Only you can break this cycle.
    But I want exactly this kind of trouble. I have sweat between
    my breasts that needs licking. I have an iamb in my chest that keeps
    skipping. I have stockings on my thighs. Oh, I’ve got stockings
    on my thighs that need ripping. I read my way through all
    the paperback romances and need a more adequate fiction.
    I need my hair pulled, mean and gentle. I dressed you up in
    every excuse and black gloves past the elbow. You open
    the silk in me with zippers and buttons sewed on with breakable
    thread. I have pulled tinsel from your hair and called it mistletoe,
    led you into the woods wearing cheap underwear and handed you
    the switchblade from my boot. I worshiped the myth I made of you,
    but I’m off my knees now. I want your hands to become language
    and make me offer you one thigh at a time. Let it sting loud
    and sweetly. Let bruise be proof. Let the smell of your hands.

    Link: https://www.vqronline.org/poetry/2018/06/dear-eros

  25. Peter Sussman says...

    Another that I return to again and again, as the current world situation demands, is Auden’s “September 1, 1939” — too long to include here verbatim.

  26. Peter Sussman says...

    Every day I have another favorite, but here’s a rather obscure poem I return to again and again, whenever I think about art or photography — another of my passions.

    Leaving the Tate

    Coming out with your clutch of postcards
    in a Tate Gallery bag and another clutch
    of images packed into your head you pause
    on the steps to look across the river

    and there’s a new one: light bright buildings,
    a streak of brown water, and such a sky
    you wonder who painted it–Constable? No:
    too brilliant. Crome? No: Too ecstatic–

    a madly pure Pre-Raphaelite sky,
    perhaps, sheer blue apart from the white plumes
    rushing up to it (today, that is,
    April. Another day would be different

    but it wouldn’t matter. All skies work.)
    Cut to the lower right for a detail:
    seagulls pecking on mud, below
    two office blocks and a Georgian terrace.

    Now swing to the left, and take in plane trees
    bobbled with seeds, and that brick building,
    and a red bus…Cut it off just there,
    by the lamp post. Leave the scaffolding in.

    That’s your next one. Curious how
    these outdoor pictures didn’t exist
    before you’d looked at the indoor pictures,
    the ones on the walls. But here they are now,

    marching out of their panorama
    and queuing up for the viewfinder
    your eye’s become. You can isolate them
    by holding your optic muscles still.

    You can zoom in on figure studies
    (that boy with the rucksack,) or still lives,
    abstracts, townscapes. No one made them.
    The light painted them. You’re in charge

    of the hanging committee. Put what space
    you like around the ones you fix on,
    and gloat. Art multiplies itself.
    Art’s whatever you choose to frame.

    — Fleur Adcock

  27. I saved this to my desktop one day and haven’t been able to delete it. I wouldn’t say it’s my *favorite,* but it’s very moving. It’s by Michael Mark and was published March 2017 in The Sun:

    For the fourth time my mother
    asks, “How many children
    do you have?” I’m beginning

    to believe my answer,
    “Two, Mom,” is wrong. Maybe
    the lesson is they are not mine,

    not owned by me, and
    she is teaching me about
    my relationship with her.

    I wash my dish and hers.
    She washes them again. I ask why.
    She asks why I care.

    Before bed she unlocks and opens
    the front door. While she sleeps,
    I close and lock it. She gets up. Unlocks it.

    “What I have, no one wants,” she says.
    I nod. She nods.
    Are we agreeing?

    My shrunken guru says she was up all night
    preparing a salad for my breakfast.
    She serves me an onion.

    I want her to make French toast
    for me like she used to.
    I want to tell her about my pain,

    and I want her to make it go away.
    I want the present to be as good as
    the past she does not remember.

    I toast white bread for her, butter it,
    cut it in half. I eat a piece of onion.
    She asks me why I’m crying.

    • Nicole says...

      This is a doozy!

    • Cora says...

      Ugh. The one hits so close as my mother is in the process of being diagnosed with dementia.

  28. Nicole C says...

    Oh my fave is Eternity by William Blake –
    He who binds to himself a joy
    Does the winged life destroy
    He who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity’s sunrise

  29. Jasna says...

    I have a lot of favorite poems, but one that strikes a cord the most currently is “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. I have discovered it couple of months ago here on CoJ through a reader’s comment (so grateful for your website and this community!). I cry EVERY time I read this song, it is incredible, it just touches me so deeply, especially now that I am a mom. And even more so in the light of the current happenings…

    Good Bones
    by Maggie Smith

    Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
    Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
    in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
    a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
    I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
    fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
    estimate, though I keep this from my children.
    For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
    For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
    sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
    is at least half terrible, and for every kind
    stranger, there is one who would break you,
    though I keep this from my children. I am trying
    to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
    walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
    about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
    right? You could make this place beautiful.

  30. Ruchi says...

    I am a long time reader of CoJ and have loved so many posts but never posted a comment. The comments on this post are amazing and I feel compelled to share what I love. I am from India and speak Hindi and English. While I have read a lot in both languages, especially when it comes to poems, I feel that the poems in your mother tongue strangely tug at your heart. Here’s an English translation of my favorite poem from a Hindi poet called Bharat Bhushan Agarwal.

    Epitaph
    The nectar flowed freely, yet I tasted only a drop
    Spring flourished in my heart, yet there bloomed only a flower

    On this day of departure it occurs to me
    It was time for such greatness
    And yet, I led such a trivial life.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is so beautiful, ruchi. really glad to have you here. xoxo

  31. Taylor says...

    Stella, I’d love to share poems with my daughter in a similar way. Could I ask you how Charlotte shared each poem? Did she just read it aloud, give it to you on a sheet of paper, or both? When in the meeting would the poem be introduced?

    These are such detailed questions and I hope I don’t sound ocd but I find the pacing and presentation so vital! I so appreciate you sharing this moment and idea.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Taylor, love that idea so much. Also love that you are nailing the presentation! The cutest.

      She just read the poems aloud, but she would gift me a book after we finished reading them (after months and months). She would read the poem as soon as I settled in.

      Makes me want to continue the ritual. xoxoxoxo

  32. Hannah says...

    “Beannacht” by John O’Donohue

    On the day when
    The weight deadens
    On your shoulders
    And you stumble,
    May the clay dance
    To balance you.

    And when your eyes
    Freeze behind
    The grey window
    And the ghost of loss
    Gets into you,
    May a flock of colours
    Indigo, red, green
    And azure blue,
    Come to awaken in you
    A meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    In the currach of thought
    And a stain of ocean
    Blackens beneath you,
    May there come across the waters
    A path of yellow moonlight
    To bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And so may a slow
    Wind work these words
    Of love around you,
    An invisible cloak
    To mind your life.

  33. Christy says...

    Doubletake
    by Seamus Heaney

    Human beings suffer,
    they torture one another,
    they get hurt and get hard.
    No poem or play or song
    can fully right a wrong
    inflicted and endured.

    The innocent in gaols
    beat on their bars together.
    A hunger-striker’s father
    stands in the graveyard dumb.
    The police widow in veils
    faints at the funeral home

    History says, Don’t hope
    on this side of the grave.
    But then, once in a lifetime
    the longed for tidal wave
    of justice can rise up,
    and hope and history rhyme.

    So hope for a great sea-change
    on the far side of revenge.
    Believe that a further shore
    is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    and cures and healing wells.

    Call the miracle self-healing:
    The utter self-revealing
    double-take of feeling.
    if there’s fire on the mountain
    or lightning and storm
    and a god speaks from the sky.

    That means someone is hearing
    the outcry and the birth-cry
    of new life at its term.

  34. Jeannie says...

    Okay, forget the poems, I want to hear about Charlotte and this sweet friendship!!!!! Anyone else!? Anybody?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, how sweet are they together??

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Awww, Jeannie!!!!! <3

      She was the truly the best, and made me look forward to getting older. We continued this tradition for 10 more years. She was a genius at making friends and creating rituals. Really miss her. You can see her here, in the red coat, carrying an Abercrombie bag (hahaha)

      http://flakphoto.com/photo/julie-blackmon-olive-and-market-st

      Isn’t she great?

    • Jeannie says...

      Fantastic, thank you for sharing that photograph of her, Stella. I bet she had a great sense of humor (that bag, ripped abs!). I love hearing stories and encouraging friendships that span decades in age :-) <3 CoJ team has posted others before, if I remember correctly.

  35. Holly says...

    When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the poems of Sylvia Plath. The local University radio station was trying to fill air time so I somehow ended up doing the poetry show at age 16 which consisted of me passionately reading poems from Ariel every week. Years later I embarrassingly discovered that her son was a professor at this same University. I’ve cringingly wondered if he ever heard my teenage angst filled interpretation of his mother’s work over the college airwaves. I reread her poems lately and they are still so beautiful but different now 25 years later, as Stella’s friend Charlotte stated so perfectly.

    Lady Lazarus

    I have done it again.
    One year in every ten
    I manage it——

    A sort of walking miracle, my skin
    Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
    My right foot

    A paperweight,
    My face a featureless, fine
    Jew linen.

    Peel off the napkin
    O my enemy.
    Do I terrify?——

    The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
    The sour breath
    Will vanish in a day.

    Soon, soon the flesh
    The grave cave ate will be
    At home on me

    And I a smiling woman.
    I am only thirty.
    And like the cat I have nine times to die.

    This is Number Three.
    What a trash
    To annihilate each decade.

    What a million filaments.
    The peanut-crunching crowd
    Shoves in to see

    Them unwrap me hand and foot——
    The big strip tease.
    Gentlemen, ladies

    These are my hands
    My knees.
    I may be skin and bone,

    Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
    The first time it happened I was ten.
    It was an accident.

    The second time I meant
    To last it out and not come back at all.
    I rocked shut

    As a seashell.
    They had to call and call
    And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

    Dying
    Is an art, like everything else.
    I do it exceptionally well.

    I do it so it feels like hell.
    I do it so it feels real.
    I guess you could say I’ve a call.

    It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
    It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
    It’s the theatrical

    Comeback in broad day
    To the same place, the same face, the same brute
    Amused shout:

    ‘A miracle!’
    That knocks me out.
    There is a charge

    For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
    For the hearing of my heart——
    It really goes.

    And there is a charge, a very large charge
    For a word or a touch
    Or a bit of blood

    Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
    So, so, Herr Doktor.
    So, Herr Enemy.

    I am your opus,
    I am your valuable,
    The pure gold baby

    That melts to a shriek.
    I turn and burn.
    Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

    Ash, ash—
    You poke and stir.
    Flesh, bone, there is nothing there——

    A cake of soap,
    A wedding ring,
    A gold filling.

    Herr God, Herr Lucifer
    Beware
    Beware.

    Out of the ash
    I rise with my red hair
    And I eat men like air.

  36. Traci Mann says...

    Keeping Things Whole, by Mark Strand

    In a field
    I am the absence
    of field.
    This is
    always the case.
    Wherever I am
    I am what is missing.

    When I walk
    I part the air
    and always
    the air moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

    We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.

  37. reganp says...

    Two quick ones…
    Shel Silverstein, 1973.
    She had blue skin,
    And so did he.
    He kept it hid
    And so did she.
    They searched for blue
    Their whole life through,
    Then passed right by-
    And never knew.

    and this one by Nikki Giovanni
    I wrote a good omelet…and ate a hot poem… after loving you
    Buttoned my car…and drove my coat home…in the rain… after loving you

  38. Abbe says...

    I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when I was growing up the Washington Post had a “Poet’s Corner” in the Book section. I used to cut out my favorites and tape them to the wall. One of my favorites was and still is by Tryfron Tolides, a Greek-American poet:

    Calling
    Come to the point where, finally, you are lost,
    wayside-sitting, wind-gazing, train-whistle-listening,
    if you want to converse with the invisible presence,
    continual, sustained, indwelling, be lost,
    be abandoned, so that the heart, the mind, as big
    as God, come to the place where you are lost,
    so that all your days and the shuttering of each day’s
    light and the blue magnetic incomprehensible
    jumping and motionless blue of twilight and the fine
    blackening after, around the incomprehensible
    waiting and breathing of trees with their delight-inducing
    cloud-depths and freedom-shapes and darting birds,
    happen in pure glory, in ineffable joy of consciousness,
    so that your senses overfill to muteness,
    so that mere being becomes the form of your praise.

    • gorgeous. thank you. never heard of Tolides

  39. Anne says...

    We Wear The Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar is still one of my favorites. The first four lines always brings out an emotion I can’t explain…
    “We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,”

  40. Robert C. Sances says...

    So many beautiful poems
    Thank you everyone

    Three more-

    A Green Crab’s Shell
    by Mark Doty

    Not, exactly, green: 
    closer to bronze 
    preserved in kind brine, 

    something retrieved 
    from a Greco-Roman wreck, 
    patinated and oddly 

    muscular. We cannot 
    know what his fantastic 
    legs were like– 

    though evidence 
    suggests eight 
    complexly folded 

    scuttling works 
    of armament, crowned 
    by the foreclaws’ 

    gesture of menace 
    and power. A gull’s 
    gobbled the center, 

    leaving this chamber 
    –size of a demitasse– 
    open to reveal 

    a shocking, Giotto blue. 
    Though it smells 
    of seaweed and ruin, 

    this little traveling case 
    comes with such lavish lining! 
    Imagine breathing 

    surrounded by 
    the brilliant rinse 
    of summer’s firmament. 

    What color is 
    the underside of skin? 
    Not so bad, to die, 

    if we could be opened 
    into this– 
    if the smallest chambers 

    of ourselves, 
    similarly, 
    revealed some sky.

    :::::

    Beannacht
    by John O’Donohue

    On the day when
    The weight deadens
    On your shoulders
    And you stumble,
    May the clay dance
    To balance you.

    And when your eyes
    Freeze behind
    The grey window
    And the ghost of loss
    Gets into you,
    May a flock of colours,
    Indigo, red, green
    And azure blue,
    Come to awaken in you
    A meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    In the currach of thought
    And a stain of ocean
    Blackens beneath you,
    May there come across the waters
    A path of yellow moonlight
    To bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    May the clarity of light be yours,
    May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

    And so may a slow
    Wind work these words
    Of love around you,
    An invisible cloak
    To mind your life.

    :::::

    Poem
    by Joe Brainard

    Sometimes
    everything
    seems
    so
    oh, I don’t know.

  41. Caitlin says...

    I bookmarked this poem in 2009 when I first heard it that January day. I often think of the last few stanzas;
    ‘Praise Song for the Day.’ by Elizabeth Alexander’
    A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

    Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
    Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
    the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

    Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
    others by first do no harm or take no more
    than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

    Love beyond marital, filial, national,
    love that casts a widening pool of light,
    love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

    In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
    any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
    On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

    praise song for walking forward in that light.

  42. Jenn says...

    Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

  43. Jillian Tijerina says...

    This post, and its comments, have given me such immense joy.

    I love this quote from Cheryl Strayed in the book Tiny Beautiful Things (which I recommend to any living soul), a compilation of her advice column letters when she wrote for the column Dear Sugar.

    “Q: If you had to give one piece of advice to people in their twenties, what would it be?
    A: To go to a bookstore and buy ten books of poetry and read them each five times.
    Q: Why?
    A: Because the truth is inside.
    Q: Anything else?
    A: To be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it. This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties.
    Q: Why?
    A: Because in your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an a-hole. Also, because it’s harder to be magnanimous when you’re in your twenties, I think, and so that’s why I’d like to remind you of it. You’re generally less humble in that decade than you’ll ever be and this lack of humility is oddly mixed with insecurity and uncertainty and fear. You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”

    Sounds like a good direction to stretch in to me, and I love that– particularly in light of today’s and yesterday’s posts– reading poetry and Cup of Jo alike feel like a daily stretch towards goodness, kindness, forgiveness, and being a warrior for love each day. Immensely thankful xoxo

  44. Jillian says...

    Amanda, so happy you posted this! I LOVE Nayyirah Waheed, and particularly this one. I stumbled upon her– on COJ, in fact!–one day in the middle (literally, the same day) of a horrible breakup and have felt ever since that finding her poetry was a gift from the universe given to me exactly in my moment of need. Both of her books, Salt and Nejma, are wonderful for anyone curious, but follow her on Instagram for nearly a poem a day! Her words feel like the ocean to me.

    • yes! her writing it so moving and I love following her on instagram

  45. Julee says...

    Humpbacks

    by Mary Oliver

    There is, all around us,
    this country
    of original fire.
    You know what I mean.
    The sky, after all, stops at nothing, so something
    has to be holding
    our bodies
    in its rich and timeless stables or else
    we would fly away.

    Off Stellwagen
    off the Cape,
    the humpbacks rise. Carrying their tonnage
    of barnacles and joy
    they leap through the water, they nuzzle back under it
    like children
    at play.

    They sing, too.
    And not for any reason
    you can’t imagine.

    Three of them
    rise to the surface near the bow of the boat,
    then dive
    deeply, their huge scarred flukes
    tipped to the air.
    We wait, not knowing
    just where it will happen; suddenly
    they smash through the surface, someone begins
    shouting for joy and you realize
    it is yourself as they surge
    upward and you see for the first time
    how huge they are, as they breach,
    and dive, and breach again
    through the shining blue flowers
    of the split water and you see them
    for some unbelievable
    part of a moment against the sky–
    like nothing you’ve ever imagined–
    like the myth of the fifth morning galloping
    out of darkness, pouring
    heavenward, spinning; then

    they crash back under those black silks
    and we all fall back
    together into that wet fire, you
    know what I mean.

    I know a captain who has seen them
    playing with seaweed, swimming
    through the green islands, tossing
    the slippery branches into the air.
    I know a whale that will come to the boat whenever
    she can, and nudge it gently along the bow
    with her long flipper.
    I know several lives worth living.

    Listen, whatever it is you try
    to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
    like the dreams of your body,
    its spirit
    longing to fly while the dead-weight bones
    toss their dark mane and hurry
    back into the fields of glittering fire
    where everything,
    even the great whale,
    throbs with song.

  46. Blair says...

    I was an 8th grade English teacher before law school, so this post and all of these comments made my day!

    I had “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes posted on my classroom wall when I was teaching and it will always be a favorite. I love everything by Naomi Shihab Nye, especially “A Valentine for Ernest Mann.” The opening line of “Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto is so gut-wrenching – “I was hoping to be happy by seventeen.” Choosing a favorite poem is an impossible task, but “Bay Poem from Berkeley” by Sandra Cisneros gives me the same emotional thud every time I read and reread it.

    Bay Poem from Berkeley
    By Sandra Cisneros

    Mornings I still
    reach for you before
    opening my eyes.
    An antique habit from
    last summer when we pulled
    each other into the heat of groin
    and belly, slept with an arm
    around the other.
    The Texas sun was like that.
    Like a body asleep beside you.
    But when I open my eyes
    to the flannel and down,
    mist at the window and blue
    light from the bay, I remember
    where I am.
    This weight
    on the other side of the bed
    is only books, not you. What
    I said I loved more than you.
    True.
    Though these mornings
    I wish books loved back.

  47. Kate says...

    I’m not a religious person, but I’m sure a timid and insecure person, and when I need it most this often pops into my head:

    God Says Yes To Me
    I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
    and she said yes
    I asked her if it was okay to be short
    and she said it sure is
    I asked her if I could wear nail polish
    or not wear nail polish
    and she said honey
    she calls me that sometimes
    she said you can do just exactly
    what you want to
    Thanks God I said
    And is it even okay if I don’t paragraph
    my letters
    Sweetcakes God said
    who knows where she picked that up
    what I’m telling you is
    Yes Yes Yes
    —Kaylin Haught

    • Nicole says...

      Love this! Now, this is a God I could believe in.

    • tracy says...

      I love this. Thank you.

  48. Noa says...

    Leah Goldberg, “Pine”
    Here I will not hear the cuckoo’s voice.
    Here the tree will not don a turban of snow,
    But in the shade of these pines
    My entire childhood comes back to life.

    The chiming of the needles: Once upon a time—
    I will call the distance of snow a homeland,
    The greenish ice that fetters the brook,
    The poem’s language in a foreign land.

    Perhaps only birds of travel know—
    when they hang between land and sky—
    This pain of the two homelands.

    With you I was planted twice,
    With you I grew, pines,
    And my roots are in two different landscapes

  49. Annie says...

    Mina Loy’s “Parturition” is gorgeous–required reading if you have given birth.
    “I am climbing a distorted mountain of agony
    Incidentally with the exhaustion of control
    I reach the summit
    And gradually subside into anticipation of
    Repose
    Which never comes.
    For another mountain is growing up
    Which goaded by the unavoidable
    I must traverse
    Traversing myself”

  50. Joanie says...

    The True Love
    By David Whyte

    There’s a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
    especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
    out to you this way.

    I am thinking of faith now and the testaments of loneliness and what we feel we are worthy of in this world.
    Years ago in the Hebrides I remember an old man who would walk every morning on the gray stones to the shore of baying seals, who would press his
    hat to his chest in the blustering salt wind and say his prayer to the turbulent Jesus hidden in the waters.

    And I think of the story of the storm and the people
    waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure, far across the water calling to them.
    And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
    and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
    Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
    but more subtly, and intimately in the face
    of the one you know you have to love.
    So that when we finally step out of the boat
    toward them we find, everything holds us,
    and everything confirms our courage.

    And if you wanted to drown, you could,
    But you don’t, because finally, after all this struggle and all these years, you don’t want to anymore.
    You’ve simply had enough of drowning
    and you want to live, and you want to love.
    And you’ll walk across any territory,
    and any darkness, however fluid,
    and however dangerous to take the one
    hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.

  51. Alyssa says...

    fall aparat.
    please
    just, fall apart.
    open your moth.
    and
    hurt. hurt the size of everything it is.

    – dam

  52. Shannon says...

    “Although the wind …”
    By Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield

    Although the wind
    blows terribly here,
    the moonlight also leaks
    between the roof planks
    of this ruined house.

    • RT says...

      That’s so beautiful!

    • Elizabeth says...

      A poem for the ages, always relevant.

  53. Jordan says...

    Reading through all of these beautiful comments and poems made me think of a line from Taylor Mali’s poem, “Sliver-Lined Heart.”

    For therapy when you need it,
    and poetry when you need it.
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    I love the whole poem (and the rest of Mali’s work), but I thank you all for combining poetry and therapy tonight.
    https://taylormali.com/poems/silver%C2%AD%E2%80%90lined-heart/

  54. I have a number of favorites (TS Eliot, “Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock”; “Sleepers” by Walt Whitman, “To be of use” by Marge Piercy, “Mint Snowball” by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Fishing in the Keep of Silence” by Linda Gregg. . . I could GO ON) but I dearly love the Fireside Poets of the 1880s whose poems were meant for reading aloud together, to be easily understood. Here’s one.
    The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
    The day is done, and the darkness
    Falls from the wings of Night,
    As a feather is wafted downward
    From an eagle in his flight.

    I see the lights of the village
    Gleam through the rain and the mist,
    And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
    That my soul cannot resist:

    A feeling of sadness and longing,
    That is not akin to pain,
    And resembles sorrow only
    As the mist resembles the rain.

    Come, read to me some poem,
    Some simple and heartfelt lay,
    That shall soothe this restless feeling,
    And banish the thoughts of day.

    Not from the grand old masters,
    Not from the bards sublime,
    Whose distant footsteps echo
    Through the corridors of Time.

    For, like strains of martial music,
    Their mighty thoughts suggest
    Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
    And to-night I long for rest.

    Read from some humbler poet,
    Whose songs gushed from his heart,
    As showers from the clouds of summer,
    Or tears from the eyelids start;

    Who, through long days of labor,
    And nights devoid of ease,
    Still heard in his soul the music
    Of wonderful melodies.

    Such songs have power to quiet
    The restless pulse of care,
    And come like the benediction
    That follows after prayer.

    Then read from the treasured volume
    The poem of thy choice,
    And lend to the rhyme of the poet
    The beauty of thy voice.

    And the night shall be filled with music,
    And the cares, that infest the day,
    Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
    And as silently steal away.

  55. Angel says...

    For a while I was on a kick to read/have my 7 year old daughter read poetry. I got Shel Silverstein, Edward Lear, and Emily Dickinson from the library. Her favorite poem and one that she memorized was I’m nobody from Emily Dickinson.

    I’m nobody! Who are you?
    Are you nobody, too?
    Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
    They’d banish us, you know.

    How dreary to be a somebody!
    How public, like a frog
    To tell your name the livelong day
    To an admiring bog!

  56. Sarah Lovinger says...

    I’m bilingual in French and English. This one is a masterpiece.
    “Demain dès l’aube” de Victor Hugo

    Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
    Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
    J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
    Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

    Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
    Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
    Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
    Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

    Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
    Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
    Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
    Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

    • Abbe says...

      This is one of my favorites! I had to memorize it for school. :)

    • Jackie says...

      i’m not quite bilingual and there are a few words I don’t know but I understood enough of it to be touched by the end. French lends itself beautifully to poetry, it’s cliché but I really feel it’s a romantic language.

    • Klara Hermans says...

      Oooh, I read this in French class more than 15 years ago! Reading the first line, it all comes back. Thank you for breinging it back, Sarah!

  57. Meg says...

    This poem has stayed with me since I first read it decades ago:

    Could Have

    It could have happened.
    It had to happen.
    It happened earlier. Later.
    Nearer. Farther off.
    It happened, but not to you.

    You were saved because you were the first.
    You were saved because you were the last.
    Alone. With others.
    On the right. The left.
    Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
    Because the day was sunny.

    You were in luck—there was a forest.
    You were in luck—there were no trees.
    You were in luck—a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
    a jamb, a turn, a quarter inch, an instant.
    You were in luck—just then a straw went floating by.

    As a result, because, although, despite.
    What would have happened if a hand, a foot,
    within an inch, a hairsbreadth from
    an unfortunate coincidence.

    So you’re here? Still dizzy from another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
    One hole in the net and you slipped through?
    I couldn’t be more shocked or speechless.
    Listen,
    how your heart pounds inside me.

    -Wislawa Szymborska
    (a Polish poet who lived through WWII)

    Also this one:

    From Blossoms
    BY LI-YOUNG LEE
    From blossoms comes
    this brown paper bag of peaches
    we bought from the boy
    at the bend in the road where we turned toward
    signs painted Peaches.

    From laden boughs, from hands,
    from sweet fellowship in the bins,
    comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
    peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
    comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

    O, to take what we love inside,
    to carry within us an orchard, to eat
    not only the skin, but the shade,
    not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
    the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
    the round jubilance of peach.

    There are days we live
    as if death were nowhere
    in the background; from joy
    to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
    from blossom to blossom to
    impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

    • linda says...

      that li-young lee poem has been my favorite for a long time! so happy to see it loved by another! :)

    • Kate says...

      Oh good, I was hoping someone had posted From Blossoms, as I adore it too. A great reminder to savor summer before it (we) pass.

  58. Danya Lang says...

    Taylor Mali is amazing. He is actually a slam poet and writes spoken word poetry.
    One of my favorites is ‘What Teachers Make’ (https://taylormali.com/poems/what-teachers-make/).
    ‘how Falling in Love is a lot like owning dog’ is amazing too.

  59. Kelly says...

    the mississippi river empties into the gulf

    and the golf enters the sea and so forth,
    none of them emptying anything
    all of them carrying yesterday
    forever on their white tipped packs,
    all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
    it is the great circulation
    of the earth’s body, like the blood
    of the gods, this river in which the past
    is always flowing, every water
    is the same water coming round.
    everyday someone is standing on the edge
    of this river staring into time,
    whispering mistakenly;
    only here. only now.

    lucille clifton

  60. Maryann says...

    My son and I have been reading Sarah Kay poems recently and “Boom” is our favorite so far. It’s so aptly named.

  61. Lauren says...

    I have two. (And as an aside, I LOVE this post.) My first is Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou (or actually almost anything by her…) and the second I discovered in the comments section of CoJ awhile back:

    Good Bones
    By Maggie Smith

    Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
    Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
    in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
    a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
    I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
    fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
    estimate, though I keep this from my children.
    For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
    For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
    sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
    is at least half terrible, and for every kind
    stranger, there is one who would break you,
    though I keep this from my children. I am trying
    to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
    walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
    about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
    right? You could make this place beautiful.

    I have this fantasy of displaying it in my children’s nursery (when they finally come…), curse word and all.

    • Jasna says...

      Lauren , I just posted almost the similar comment about Good Bones. I too discovered it here and it stayed with me. Such a powerful poem!

    • Anne says...

      I love this poem. Took me a while to find the curse word though – different standards I guess:-)

  62. E says...

    I never felt like I understood poetry, so in college I took a class called “strange bedfellows” all about poetry. I still don’t feel like I know anything about poetry, but it was one of my most memorable classes in college and still something that comes to mind often, and I think about being 19 and choosing to challenge myself and broaden my horizons. It felt so brave and bold, to do something I was bad at to see what I could discover. That’s what poetry will always be to me, taking a risk, diving in to see what would happen.

  63. Rita says...

    Dreaming Of Hair
    by Li-Young Lee

    Ivy ties the cellar door
    in autumn, in summer morning glory
    wraps the ribs of a mouse.
    Love binds me to the one
    whose hair I’ve found in my mouth,
    whose sleeping head I kiss,
    wondering is it death?
    beauty? this dark
    star spreading in every direction from the crown of her head.

    My love’s hair is autumn hair, there
    the sun ripens.
    My fingers harvest the dark
    vegtable of her body.
    In the morning I remove it
    from my tongue and
    sleep again.

    Hair spills
    through my dream, sprouts
    from my stomach, thickens my heart,
    and tangles from the brain. Hair ties the tongue dumb.
    Hair ascends the tree
    of my childhood–the willow
    I climbed
    one bare foot and hand at a time,
    feeling the knuckles of the gnarled tree, hearing
    my father plead from his window, _Don’t fall!_

    In my dream I fly
    past summers and moths,
    to the thistle
    caught in my mother’s hair, the purple one
    I touched and bled for,
    to myself at three, sleeping
    beside her, waking with her hair in my mouth.

    Along a slippery twine of her black hair
    my mother ties ko-tze knots for me:
    fish and lion heads, chrysanthemum buds, the heads
    of Chinamen, black-haired and frowning.

    Li-En, my brother, frowns when he sleeps.
    I push back his hair, stroke his brow.
    His hairline is our father’s, three peaks pointing down.

    What sprouts from the body
    and touches the body?
    What filters sunlight
    and drinks moonlight?
    Where have I misplaced my heart?
    What stops wheels and great machines?
    What tangles in the bough
    and snaps the loom?

    Out of the grave
    my father’s hair
    bursts. A strand
    pierces my left sole, shoots
    up bone, past ribs,
    to the broken heart it stiches,
    then down,
    swirling in the stomach, in the groin, and down,
    through the right foot.

    What binds me to this earth?
    What remembers the dead
    and grows towards them?

    I’m tired of thinking.
    I long to taste the world with a kiss.
    I long to fly into hair with kisses and weeping,
    remembering an afternoon
    when, kissing my sleeping father, I saw for the first time
    behind the thick swirl of his black hair,
    the mole of wisdom,
    a lone planet spinning slowly.

    Sometimes my love is melancholy
    and I hold her head in my hands.
    Sometimes I recall our hair grows after death.
    Then, I must grab handfuls
    of her hair, and, I tell you, there
    are apples, walnuts, ships sailing, ships docking, and men
    taking off their boots, their hearts breaking,
    not knowing
    which they love more, the water, or
    their women’s hair, sprouting from the head, rushing toward the feet.

  64. Ashby says...

    so many good ones in the comments! mine would probably have to be “Desiderata,” by Max Ehrmann. I repeat my favorite line to myself almost daily: “Be gentle with yourself.”

    DESIDERATA

    Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
    they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs;
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love;
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful.
    Strive to be happy.

    • Kaelin says...

      I love this! So beautiful, and just what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing. <3

  65. Lindsay says...

    Oh, gosh. This made my day. I was a creative writing major in college and switched from a concentration in fiction to poetry after taking a class with a wonderful professor who changed my life. I have loved reading the comments and found some gems! Thank you so much to everyone for sharing. Here are some favorites of mine (I couldn’t pick just one):

    “Variation on the Word ‘Sleep'” by Margaret Atwood (she is a phenomenal poet as well!)

    I would like to watch you sleeping,
    which may not happen.
    I would like to watch you,
    sleeping. I would like to sleep
    with you, to enter
    your sleep as its smooth dark wave
    slides over my head

    and walk with you through that lucent
    wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
    with its watery sun & three moons
    towards the cave where you must descend,
    towards your worst fear

    I would like to give you the silver
    branch, the small white flower, the one
    word that will protect you
    from the grief at the center
    of your dream, from the grief
    at the center. I would like to follow
    you up the long stairway
    again & become
    the boat that would row you back
    carefully, a flame
    in two cupped hands
    to where your body lies
    beside me, and you enter
    it as easily as breathing in

    I would like to be the air
    that inhabits you for a moment
    only. I would like to be that unnoticed
    & that necessary.
    ****

    “Where You Go When She Sleeps” by TR Hummer:
    What is it when a woman sleeps, her head bright
    In your lap, in your hands, her breath easy now as though it had never been
    Anything else, and you know she is dreaming, her eyelids
    Jerk, but she is not troubled, it is a dream
    That does not include you, but you are not troubled either,
    It is too good to hold her while she sleeps, her hair falling
    Richly on your hands, shining like metal, a color
    That when you think of it you cannot name, as though it has just
    Come into existence, dragging you into the world in the wake
    Of its creation, out of whatever vacuum you were in before,
    And you are like the boy you heard of once who fell
    Into a silo full of oats, the silo emptying from below, oats
    At the top swirling in a gold whirlpool, a bright eddy of grain, the boy
    You imagine, leaning over the edge to see it, the noon sun breaking
    Into the center of the circle he watches, hot on his back, burning
    And he forgets his father’s warning, stands on the edge, looks down,
    The grain spinning, dizzy, and when he falls his arms go out, too thin
    For wings, and he hears his father’s cry somewhere, but is gone
    Already, down in a gold sea, spun deep in the heart of the silo,
    And when they find him, he lies still, not seeing the world
    Through his body but through the deep rush of grain
    Where he has gone and can never come back, though they drag him
    Out, his father’s tears bright on both their faces, the farmhands
    Standing by blank and amazed—you touch that unnamable
    Color in her hair and you are gone into what is not fear or joy
    But a whirling of sunlight and water and air full of shining dust
    That takes you, a dream that is not of you but will let you
    Into itself if you love enough, and will not, will never let you go.
    ****

    “Here” – Paul Monette (written as his partner, Roger, was dying)
    everything extraneous has burned away
    this is how burning feels in the fall
    of the final year not like leaves in a blue
    October but as if the skin were a paper lantern
    full of trapped moths beating their fired wings
    and yet I can lie on this hill just above you
    a foot beside where I will lie myself
    soon soon and for all the wrack and blubber
    feel still how we were warriors when the
    merest morning sun in the garden was a
    kingdom after Room 1010 war is not all
    death it turns out war is what little
    thing you hold on to refugeed and far from home
    oh sweetie will you please forgive me this
    that every time I opened a box of anything
    Glad Bags One-A-Days KINGSIZE was
    the worst I’d think will you still be here
    when the box is empty Rog Rog who will
    play boy with me now that I bucket with tears
    through it all when I’d cling beside you sobbing
    you’d shrug it off with the quietest I’m still
    here I have your watch in the top drawer
    which I don’t dare wear yet help me please
    the boxes grocery home day after day
    the junk that keeps men spotless but it doesn’t
    matter now how long they last or I
    the day has taken you with it and all
    there is now is burning dark that only green
    is up by the grave and this little thing
    of telling the hill I’m here oh I’m here

    “I Go Back to May 1937” – Sharon Olds
    I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
    I see my father strolling out
    under the ochre sandstone arch, the
    red tiles glinting like bent
    plates of blood behind his head, I
    see my mother with a few light books at her hip
    standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the
    wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
    sword-tips black in the May air,
    they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
    they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
    innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
    I want to go up to them and say Stop,
    don’t do it–she’s the wrong woman,
    he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
    you cannot imagine you would ever do,
    you are going to do bad things to children,
    you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,
    you are going to want to die. I want to go
    up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
    her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
    her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
    his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,
    his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
    but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
    take them up like the male and female
    paper dolls and bang them together
    at the hips like chips of flint as if to
    strike sparks from them, I say
    Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

  66. I have so many!! (English lit majors unite!) Have a top five:
    1. Because I could not stop for Death, by Emily Dickinson
    2. The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost
    3. First Fig, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
    4. Listen to the Mustn’ts, by Shel Silverstein
    5. Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath

    • Ashley says...

      Jill, I second your top 4! I was just reading Listen to the Mustn’ts to my 5 year old last night, and explaining to him what that poem means (in my opinion) – it was an awesome to discuss with him what it means to think independently and to be confident in yourself!

  67. Katie says...

    Charlotte’s words are so great with the whole “you’re never the same person” thing. That’s something that feels very real to me in my current growth and development, and I love it.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Katie, thank you so much for this comment. <3

  68. ellen says...

    The Invitation
    Oriah Mountain Dreamer
    home page

    It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

    I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

    I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

    It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

    It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
    I had this taped to my kitchen cabinet years ago- a friend came over and read it…. she said I want to meet the man in this poem. The next day, a friend came over for brunch and he said ” I want to meet the woman in this poem”….. days later they were fixed up, a year or so later, they wed. Poetry is magic….
    Oriah mountain dreamer- the invitation…
    It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

    I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

  69. Holly says...

    My favorite poem is “Mother to Son”, by Langston Hughes. I had it hanging in my room as a kid and it got me through many tough times. I still have it hanging in my room (I am 39) and I plan on sharing it with my two boys someday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX9tHuI7zVo

  70. Daniela says...

    Oh, I love poetry. One of my favorite literary genres! Here’s one I love:

    I want you to know
    one thing.

    You know how this is:
    if I look
    at the crystal moon, at the red branch
    of the slow autumn at my window,
    if I touch
    near the fire
    the impalpable ash
    or the wrinkled body of the log,
    everything carries me to you,
    as if everything that exists,
    aromas, light, metals,
    were little boats
    that sail
    toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

    Well, now,
    if little by little you stop loving me
    I shall stop loving you little by little.

    If suddenly
    you forget me
    do not look for me,
    for I shall already have forgotten you.

    If you think it long and mad,
    the wind of banners
    that passes through my life,
    and you decide
    to leave me at the shore
    of the heart where I have roots,
    remember
    that on that day,
    at that hour,
    I shall lift my arms
    and my roots will set off
    to seek another land.

    But
    if each day,
    each hour,
    you feel that you are destined for me
    with implacable sweetness,
    if each day a flower
    climbs up to your lips to seek me,
    ah my love, ah my own,
    in me all that fire is repeated,
    in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
    my love feeds on your love, beloved,
    and as long as you live it will be in your arms
    without leaving mine.

  71. Jessica says...

    This reminds me of one spring and summer, when I was asked by my mother to help out with my long-time widowed piano teachers gardening. Arthritis had advanced too far in her knees and she enlisted the help of 10 year old me to keep her flower beds weed free and tidy. What I now remember is a series of warm days accompanied by the strains of her piano playing filtering through the window, always followed by a tea, a chat, and a serving of her beloved Dutch stroopwafels. I am grateful for that season of shared classical music, tales of her childhood in Holland, and for the touching way she took an interest in my little troubles too.

  72. Erin says...

    As a teacher, I’m delighted to read this post and have a look at lots of the poems I could share with my students.

    I love Mary Oliver. “Wild Geese” is a favourite. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/24/mary-oliver-reads-wild-geese/ “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.”

    Wendell Berry is another favourite. His poem “The Peace of Wild Things” is good advice these days. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-peace-of-wild-things/
    “When despair grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting for their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ”

    • Claire says...

      I love “The Peace of Wild Things”- it brings a calm to me when I read it.

  73. Belinda King says...

    Charlotte Mew, i adore her. She was a tortured soul but wrote so beautifully. I can’t pick a favourite but here is a taster –

    FROM A WINDOW
    Up here, with June, the sycamore throws
    Across the window a whispering screen;
    I shall miss the sycamore more, I suppose,
    Than anything else on this earth that is out in green.
    But I mean to go through the door without fear,
    Not caring much what happens here
    When I’m away:—
    How green the screen is across the panes
    Or who goes laughing along the lanes
    With my old lover all summer day.

  74. Claire Brindley says...

    since feeling is first – e.e. cummings

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;
    wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
    —the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says

    we are for each other: then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    and death i think is no parenthesis

    • Peter Sussman says...

      Yes, nice, but how can you beat cummings’ “O sweet spontaneous earth”?

      O sweet spontaneous
      earth how often have
      the
      doting

      fingers of
      purient philosophers pinched
      and
      poked

      thee
      ,has the naughty thumb
      of science prodded
      thy

      beauty .how
      oftn have religions taken
      thee upon their scraggy knees
      squeezing and

      buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
      gods
      (but
      true

      to the incomparable
      couch of death thy
      rhythmic
      lover

      thou answerest

      them only with

      spring)

  75. Anita says...

    Margaret Atwood, “Tricks With Mirrors”

    i.

    It’s no coincidence
    this is a used
    furniture warehouse.

    I enter with you
    and become a mirror.

    Mirrors
    are the perfect lovers,

    that’s it, carry me up the stairs
    by the edges, don’t drop me,

    that would be back luck,
    throw me on the bed

    reflecting side up,
    fall into me,

    it will be your own
    mouth you hit, firm and glassy,

    your own eyes you find you
    are up against closed closed

    ii

    There is more to a mirror
    than you looking at

    your full-length body
    flawless but reversed,

    there is more than this dead blue
    oblong eye turned outwards to you.

    Think about the frame.
    The frame is carved, it is important,

    it exists, it does not reflect you,
    it does not recede and recede, it has limits

    and reflections of its own.
    There’s a nail in the back

    to hang it with; there are several nails,
    think about the nails,

    pay attention to the nail
    marks in the wood,

    they are important too.

    iii

    Don’t assume it is passive
    or easy, this clarity

    with which I give you yourself.
    Consider what restraint it

    takes: breath withheld, no anger
    or joy disturbing the surface

    of the ice.
    You are suspended in me

    beautiful and frozen, I
    preserve you, in me you are safe.

    It is not a trick either,
    it is a craft:

    mirrors are crafty.

    iv

    I wanted to stop this,
    this life flattened against the wall,

    mute and devoid of colour,
    built of pure light,

    this life of vision only, split
    and remote, a lucid impasse.

    I confess: this is not a mirror,
    it is a door

    I am trapped behind.
    I wanted you to see me here,

    say the releasing word, whatever
    that may be, open the wall.

    Instead you stand in front of me
    combing your hair.

    v

    You don’t like these metaphors.
    All right:

    Perhaps I am not a mirror.
    Perhaps I am a pool.

    Think about pools.

  76. Claire says...

    All these poems are like a balm to me. Thanks for sharing, everyone. I have so many favorites it’s hard to pick one, but this one is at the top of the list for sure.

    Gift, by Czeslaw Milosz

    
A day so happy.
    Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
    Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
    There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
    I knew no one worth my envying him.
    Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
    To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
    In my body I felt no pain.
    When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

  77. Joy says...

    I’m saving this come back and read everyone’s favorite poems after the kids are in bed! I read a poem years ago, also by Billy Collins, that has stuck with me all this time, and here is my favorite part – which for me is the sweetness of motherhood with the affectionate ruefulness of looking back on your own childhood, all in one:

    “Here are thousands of meals’ she said,
    ‘and here is clothing and a good education.’
    ‘And here is your lanyard,’ I replied,
    ‘which I made with a little help from a counselor.’
    ‘Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
    strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.’ she whispered.
    ‘And here,’ I said, ‘is the lanyard I made at camp.’ “

    • Claire says...

      Thanks for sharing this- I had forgotten about it, and I love it. Billy Collins is so excellent. Some of his poems make me laugh.

  78. Caitlin says...

    Love this one.

    I want your Monday morning
    sleep soaked eyes
    dream drenched voice
    lazy bones
    ‘five more minutes please babe’.

    I want your Tuesday afternoon
    coffee break ,
    glasses off, laughter on
    ‘just hold me for a while
    it’s been a hard day’.

    I want your Wednesday evening
    fingers through hair
    teeth nibbling nails,
    neck craning, eyes glazing
    ‘this paperwork never ends’.

    I want your Thursday night
    drinks for two
    bones unbind
    muscles let loose
    flats, slacks,
    ‘just me and you’.

    I want your finally Friday
    stretch soul smile
    sun sipping light
    from the glaciers in your eyes
    fingers unfurl, hand extends,
    ‘C’mon babe, let’s go wild’.

    I want your weekend.
    Your movie marathon Saturday,
    reading by the fireplace,
    kissing in the blankets.

    I want your Sunday morning
    orange juice and pancakes,
    white sheets, tender skin,
    hair like Fourth of July,
    ‘let’s not get out of bed today.’

    I want your ordinary
    and your stress, rest, release.
    I want your bad day and that
    terrible night.
    I want you drunk in my arms,
    forgetting the place but never my
    name.
    I want your lazy and your lonely
    and your first full of fight.
    I want you every day
    in every way
    for the rest of my life
    – On Both Knees

    • Tori says...

      I love this! Who is the poet?

  79. Nancy says...

    Emily, always, and particularly this one, which I read to my father, a high school English teacher and Emily Dickinson “scholar,” after he had gone blind, and we had just lost my mother, and he was about to follow her after a courageous battle against cancer:

    We grow accustomed to the Dark —
    When light is put away —
    As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
    To witness her Goodbye —

    A Moment — We uncertain step
    For newness of the night —
    Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
    And meet the Road — erect —

    And so of larger — Darknesses —
    Those Evenings of the Brain —
    When not a Moon disclose a sign —
    Or Star — come out — within —

    The Bravest — grope a little —
    And sometimes hit a Tree —
    Directly in the Forehead —
    But as they learn to see —

    Either the Darkness alters —
    Or something in the sight
    Adjusts itself to Midnight —
    And Life steps almost straight.

  80. Tenley says...

    My favorite poem is Are We There Yet? By Dobby Gibson, which begins, “You only have to make her one grilled cheese
    in the suffocating heat of summer
    while still wearing your wet swim trunks
    to know what it’s like to be in love.”

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54020/are-we-there-yet

    The opening lines just transport me to lazy summer days full of earnest feeling, but the line that sticks with me is this: “We’re all struggling to say the same old things in new and different ways
    And so we must praise the new and different ways.”

    • Claire says...

      wow, that’s a good one.

  81. Ananda says...

    I identify with this poem by Eunice de Souza:

    “It’s time to find a place”

    It’s time to find a place
    to be silent with each other.
    I have prattled endlessly
    in staff-rooms, corridors, restaurants.
    When you’re not around
    I carry on conversations in my head.
    Even this poem
    has forty-eight words too many.

  82. Francine says...

    Nothing gold can stay
    Robert Frost
    Nature’s first green is gold
    Her hardest hue to hold
    Her early leaf’s a flower
    But only so an hour
    Then leaf subsides to leaf
    So Eden sank to grief
    So dawn goes down to day
    Nothing gold can stay

    • Emily says...

      One of my favorites too.

  83. Liz says...

    ‘Leave it all up to me’, by Major Jackson. I read this on the New York subway and think it is perfect.

    All we want is to succumb to a single kiss
    that will contain us like a marathon
    with no finish line, and if so, that we land
    like newspapers before sunrise, halcyon
    mornings arrived like blue martinis. I am
    learning the steps to a foreign song: her mind
    was torpedo, and her body was storm,
    a kind of Wow. All we want is a metropolis
    of Sundays, an empire of hand-holding
    and park benches? She says, “Leave it all up to me.”

  84. LJ says...

    I am always moved by Those Winter Sundays, by Robert Hayden:
    Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
    from labor in the weekday weather made
    banked fired blaze. No one ever thanked him.

    I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
    When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
    and slowly I would rise and dress,
    fearing the chronic angers of that house,

    Speaking indifferently to him,
    who had driven out the cold
    and polished my good shoes as well.
    What did I know, what did I know
    of love’s austere and lonely offices?

    • Julia says...

      I LOVE THIS POEM!!!

    • Irene says...

      I was going to post this one, too.
      So beautiful and painful.
      Listen to the sounds: the blueblack cold and the heartbreaking repetition of “What did I know, what did I know.”

  85. kate says...

    I keep coming back to this one lately, by Emily Dickinson:

    It’s all I have to bring today—
    This, and my heart beside—
    This, and my heart, and all the fields—
    And all the meadows wide—
    Be sure you count—should I forget
    Some one the sum could tell—
    This, and my heart, and all the Bees
    Which in the Clover dwell.

  86. I love this post and all the comments! I feel very moved by Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry, especially because she has beautifully shown me a world very different from my own experience. I particularly love these two poems:

    as you are, from Nejma

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘after…’ you answer.
    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘before…’ you answer.
    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘when…’ you answer.
    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘how…’ you answer.
    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘why…’ you answer.
    ‘because
    you are happening now.
    right now.
    right at this moment
    and
    your happening
    is beautiful.
    the thing that both keeps me alive
    and
    brings me to my knees.
    you don’t even know how breathtaking you
    are.
    as you are.’ says the universe through tears.

    lighthouse, from Salt

    i am your friend.
    a soul for your soul.
    a place for your life.
    home.
    know this.
    sun or water.
    here
    or away.
    we are a lighthouse.
    we leave.
    and
    we stay.

  87. Alice says...

    My Grandad was a poet and wrote a lot of haiku as his wife (my Grandmother) died of cancer. The one that stuck with me:

    Death, it comes quietly.
    like where a river meets sea
    and ceases to flow

    • Gabriela says...

      This is really beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Molly K says...

      Oh wow, Alice! That beautiful poem stopped my scrolling in its tracks and really touched me. My heart is broken for your Grandad losing his love.

  88. Courtney says...

    Mary Oliver speaks right to my soul. She writes about nature, life, love in such a beautiful way, sometimes it takes my breath away.

  89. NB says...

    Scheherazade, Richard Siken

    Tell me about the dream where we pull the bodies out of the lake
    and dress them in warm clothes again.
    How it was late, and no one could sleep, the horses running
    until they forget that they are horses.
    It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere,
    it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio,
    how we rolled up the carpet so we could dance, and the days
    were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple
    to slice into pieces.
    Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means
    we’re inconsolable.
    Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
    These, our bodies, possessed by light.
    Tell me we’ll never get used to it.

  90. Heather says...

    I wish we could publish all of these comments into a book, like a church potluck cook book!!! I can’t wait to read them all.

    The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

    I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
    And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
    Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
    And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

    And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
    Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
    There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
    And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

    I will arise and go now, for always night and day
    I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
    While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
    I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

    • Ellen says...

      THAT’S THE BEST IDEA

    • Claire says...

      oh, I love this one too.

    • Molly says...

      Agreed! Such a great idea!

  91. Emily M. says...

    Thank you so much for telling us about your childhood friendship with Charlotte. Made my heart ache just a bit. What a beautiful collection of memories that must be. I don’t have a favorite poem, but now I want one.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, Emily, thank you so, so much. Lots of love. xoxo

  92. Laura says...

    So hard to choose, but i am running into a new year by Lucille Clifton has long been a favorite of mine:

    i am running into a new year
    and the old years blow back
    like a wind
    that i catch in my hair
    like strong fingers like
    all my old promises and
    it will be hard to let go
    of what i said to myself
    about myself
    when i was sixteen and
    twenty-six and thirty-six
    even thirty-six but
    i am running into a new year
    and i beg what i love and
    i leave to forgive me

  93. Monica Lo says...

    I have four I can’t decide between. John Ashbery’s Paradoxes and Oxymorons, Marie Howe’s What the Living Do, Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, and Jeffrey McDaniel’s Quiet World, but since McDaniel is probably the most obscure of the bunch…

    In an effort to get people to look
    into each other’s eyes more,
    and also to appease the mutes,
    the government has decided
    to allot each person exactly one hundred
    and sixty-seven words, per day.

    When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
    without saying hello. In the restaurant
    I point at chicken noodle soup.
    I am adjusting well to the new way.

    Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
    proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
    I saved the rest for you.

    When she doesn’t respond,
    I know she’s used up all her words,
    so I slowly whisper I love you
    thirty-two and a third times.
    After that, we just sit on the line
    and listen to each other breathe.

    • Natalie says...

      I love this!

    • sugarcactus says...

      I first heard this poem read in a Seattle town hall that hosted Robert Pinsky’s Poetry Project and loved it ever since. It was so fun to hear people from the community share poems they loved. This poem and “What the Living Do” are two of my favorites, too! You are my poetry soul mate!

  94. Lydia says...

    This poem always calms me:

    The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

    When despair grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting for their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

  95. katie says...

    Always my favorite:
    Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith

    Nobody heard him, the dead man,
    But still he lay moaning:
    I was much further out than you thought
    And not waving but drowning.

    Poor chap, he always loved larking
    And now he’s dead
    It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
    They said.

    Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
    (Still the dead one lay moaning)
    I was much too far out all my life
    And not waving but drowning.

    • LJ says...

      I like this one too.

  96. Maggie says...

    No line has ever touched me more than the closing of William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” – “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” When things get tough and circumstances seem unfair or people let me down, I always come back to that line. My outlook and ultimately my future belongs to ME and is a product of the choices I make. Nothing can conquer an unconquerable soul, no trial is insurmountable.

    Here’s the full poem. It’s all beautiful, I’ve thought of it often since I first read it in high school.

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate,
    I am the captain of my soul.

  97. Love this! I hope it’s ok to share two (so hard to choose!).

    Don’t Tell Anyone
    BY TONY HOAGLAND

    We had been married for six or seven years
    when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
    that she screams underwater when she swims—

    that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
    into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
    where she does laps every other day.

    Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
    concealing anything,
    not as if I should consider myself

    personally the cause of her screaming,
    nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
    right that minute on the kitchen table,

    —casually, she told me,
    and I could see her turn her square face up
    to take a gulp of oxygen,

    then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
    For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
    as they go through life, silently,

    politely keeping the big secret
    that it is not all fun
    to be ripped by the crooked beak

    of something called psychology,
    to be dipped down
    again and again into time;

    that the truest, most intimate
    pleasure you can sometimes find
    is the wet kiss

    of your own pain.
    There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps
    back and forth in the community pool;

    —what discipline she has!
    Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
    that will never be read by anyone.

    And the poem I share with all my pregnant friends, by Yrsa Daley-Ward:

    my
    mother
    was
    my first country.
    the first place i ever lived.

    – lands

    • Mac says...

      I ❤️❤️❤️ Tony Hoagland

    • J. Lardizabal says...

      I think the second poem is by Nayyirah Waheed?

  98. Hannah says...

    Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

    Before you know what kindness really is
    you must lose things,
    feel the future dissolve in a moment
    like salt in a weakened broth.
    What you held in your hand,
    what you counted and carefully saved,
    all this must go so you know
    how desolate the landscape can be
    between the regions of kindness.
    How you ride and ride
    thinking the bus will never stop,
    the passengers eating maize and chicken
    will stare out the window forever.

    Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
    you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
    lies dead by the side of the road.
    You must see how this could be you,
    how he too was someone
    who journeyed through the night with plans
    and the simple breath that kept him alive.

    Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
    you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
    You must wake up with sorrow.
    You must speak to it till your voice
    catches the thread of all sorrows
    and you see the size of the cloth.
    Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
    only kindness that ties your shoes
    and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
    only kindness that raises its head
    from the crowd of the world to say
    It is I you have been looking for,
    and then goes with you everywhere
    like a shadow or a friend.

    • stephanie says...

      That’s lovely

    • Deborah Dobbins says...

      Very moving – I loved it! Thank

    • KSM says...

      This poem is so apt for the current political situation when children are being torn apart all some people can say is follow rules blindly and how it is their parent’s fault. This is a perfect example of misplaced pride some grown-ups take in being practical over emotional and sensitive.

  99. Jodi says...

    My absolute favorite is “Stations” by the magnificent Audre Lorde

    Some women love
    to wait
    for life for a ring
    in the June light for a touch
    of the sun to heal them for another
    woman’s voice to make them whole
    to untie their hands
    put words in their mouths
    form to their passages sound
    to their screams for some other sleeper
    to remember their future their past.

    Some women wait for their right
    train in the wrong station
    in the alleys of morning
    for the noon to holler
    the night come down.

    Some women wait for love
    to rise up
    the child of their promise
    to gather from earth
    what they do not plant
    to claim pain for labor
    to become
    the tip of an arrow to aim
    at the heart of now
    but it never stays.

    Some women wait for visions
    That do not return
    Where they were not welcome
    Naked
    For invitations to places
    They always wanted
    To visit
    To be repeated.

    Some women wait for themselves
    Around the next corner
    And call the empty spot peace
    But the opposite of living
    Is only not living
    And the stars do not care.

    Some women wait for something
    To change and nothing
    Does change
    So they change

    Themselves.

  100. sara says...

    This poem feels particularly relevant now….

    “Allowables” by Nikki Giovanni

    I killed a spider
    Not a murderous brown recluse
    Nor even a black widow
    And if the truth were told this
    Was only a small
    Sort of papery spider
    Who should have run
    When I picked up the book
    But she didn’t
    And she scared me
    And I smashed her

    I don’t think
    I’m allowed

    To kill something

    Because I am

    Frightened

    • JennP says...

      YES.

  101. Dawn says...

    In a Station of the Metro

    The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    Ezra Pound, 1885 – 1972

  102. suzy says...

    A favorite from our wedding that I have since read at a friends wedding – “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    saving
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

    • Courtney says...

      This is my favourite, too!

      I’m a English teacher and always use it with 8th graders at the beginning of a poetry unit. It’s fun to hear them debate about whether or not it counts as poetry, and their imitations of it (“I have eaten/ the McDonalds/that I was bringing you/on my way home”) are always adorable.

    • Nicole Wight says...

      The original “Sorry, Not Sorry”

  103. It was Early by Shawn Humphrey – the Blue Collar Professor
    ***

    It was Early

    When I was in high school, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

    It might have been 5 am.

    I’m not sure.

    It was early, though.

    It was earlier than most of the other alarms in the neighborhood.

    My father would leap out of bed, grab his lunch pail, and rush out to the car.

    I would listen to the Oldsmobile turn over, hesitantly, reluctantly.

    But, sooner or later, it would.

    And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

    When I was home from college, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

    It might have been 4:45 am.

    I’m not sure.

    It was early, though.

    He would get out of bed, slowly, and make his way to the kitchen and the coffee pot.

    I would listen to him use the walls of the hall for support along the way.

    But, sooner or later, he would fill his thermos full.

    And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

    When I was visiting home from graduate school, asleep in my childhood bed, I would hear the alarm go off in the room across the hall.

    It might have been 5:05 am.

    I’m not sure.

    It was early, though.

    He would cough.

    He would cough.

    And, he would cough.

    But, sooner or later, he would will himself out of bed.

    I would listen to the banisters moan and the floorboards groan as he took each step down the stairs and out of the house one foot at a time.

    And, he would go to work and stand behind a machine all day long.

    He rarely missed a day of work.

    There were years when he did not miss a day at all.

    Tired?

    Weary?

    Under the weather?

    It did not matter.

    Snow?

    Sleet?

    Freezing rain?

    It did not matter.

    He went to work.

    I’ve been a professor for twelve years and I have had one sick day.

    There’s only one part of that statement that gives me a deep and honest and true sense of pride.

    But, I know, it’s not fair to compare.

    I do not stand behind a machine all day long.

    Some may call that progress.

    I’m not so sure anymore.

    He had these hands.

    They were thick, leathered, and enveloping.

    He had a grip.

    He had a handshake.

    If you get a chance, shake my Uncle Mike’s hand today and you’ll know what I am talking about. Or, shake the hand of another man or woman who forges reality with their two hands.

    This room is full of them.

    I will never have those hands, that grip or that kind of handshake.

    Grandiose gestures…

    They are not what we carry with us as sons and daughters.

    It’s the everyday things – the routines, patterns and habits of our parents.

    These things…they seep into our souls while were asleep.

    Anyways, my family, we didn’t do grandiose.

    We could not afford it.

    And, on those rare occasions when we thought we could – like a vacation to Gatlinburg or a visit to see family in Florida – I learned to never take my shoes off until we arrived at our desired destination. Because, sooner or later, that Oldsmobile would ask us to get out and start pushing.

    My father gave me a work ethic.

    Every.

    Single.

    Day.

    At…

    5 am?

    4:45 am?

    5:05 am?

    I’m not sure.

    But, it was early.

    Postscript: After a brief battle with stage 4 cancer, we buried our father in Ohio on July 8, 2016. These are the words I spoke.

    • Ellay says...

      Wow. This is incredible.

    • Lauren says...

      We had this read at our wedding 20 years ago:

      Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour
      by Wallace Stevens

      Light the first light of evening, as in a room
      In which we rest and, for small reason, think
      The world imagined is the ultimate good.

      This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
      It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
      Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

      Within a single thing, a single shawl
      Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
      A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

      Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
      We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
      A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

      Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
      We say God and the imagination are one …
      How high that highest candle lights the dark.

      Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
      We make a dwelling in the evening air,
      In which being there together is enough.

  104. suzy says...

    A few years ago I bought a wonderful book for the family – “A Poem for Every Night of the Year” by Allie Esiri. It’s become one of our favorite nighttime rituals – laying in bed together reading the days poem. Our favorites are two by Roald Dahl – “The Pig” and “Little Red Riding Hood” – with dark twists that we can’t get enough of.

  105. Koni says...

    Hi there,
    First of all, I’d like to say that this must be one of the best comment sections ever and I’d like to read all of the poems and little things.
    Second of all, I adore poetry. I like many foreign poems and many Polish poems. I like sad poems and happy poems. I’m not very good with picking my favourite things, but I’d like to share one poem by Shel Silverstein. I pretty much love all of his poems.

    MASKS (Every Thing On It)

    She had blue skin.
    And so did he.
    He kept it hid
    And so did she.
    They searched for blue
    Their whole life through,
    Then passed right by—
    And never knew.

    And the Polish one that I’d like to share is by Wislawa Szymborska (original is better, a lot can get lost in translation):

    Nothing can ever happen twice.
    In consequence, the sorry fact is
    that we arrive here improvised
    and leave without the chance to practice.

    Even if there is no one dumber,
    if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
    you can’t repeat the class in summer:
    this course is only offered once.

    No day copies yesterday,
    no two nights will teach what bliss is
    in precisely the same way,
    with precisely the same kisses.

    One day, perhaps some idle tongue
    mentions your name by accident:
    I feel as if a rose were flung
    into the room, all hue and scent.

    The next day, though you’re here with me,
    I can’t help looking at the clock:
    A rose? A rose? What could that be?
    Is it a flower or a rock?

    Why do we treat the fleeting day
    with so much needless fear and sorrow?
    It’s in its nature not to stay:
    Today is always gone tomorrow.

    With smiles and kisses, we prefer
    to seek accord beneath our star,
    although we’re different (we concur)
    just as two drops of water are.

    The last one I’ve discovered recently. It’s by this Italian poem Torquato Tasso.

    Once we were happy, I
    Loving and beloved,
    You loved and loving, sweetly moved.
    Then you became the enemy
    Of love, and I to disdain
    Found youthful passion change.
    Disdain demands I speak,
    Disdain, that in my breast
    Keeps the shame of my neglected offering fresh:
    And from your laurel
    Tears the leaves, now dry, once beautiful.

  106. Amanda Metzler says...

    I love this poem by a Chicago great, Gwendolyn Brooks. Especially the last few lines.

    “That Time, We All Heard It.”
    That time
    cool and clear,
    cutting across the hot grit of the day.
    The major Voice.
    The adult Voice
    forgoing Rolling River,
    forgoing tearful tale of bale and barge
    and other symptoms of an old despond.
    Warning, in music-words
    devout and large,
    that we are each other’s
    harvest:
    we are each other’s
    business:
    we are each other’s
    magnitude and bond.

    —Gwendolyn Brooks

  107. Shee says...

    My counselor in college gave this poem to me when I was struggling with not feeling like I was good enough. When I felt like everything I was doing was leading to failure.

    —-
    “Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that a spring was breaking
    out in my heart.
    I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
    Oh water, are you coming to me,
    water of a new life
    that I have never drunk?

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that I had a beehive
    here inside my heart.
    And the golden bees
    were making white combs
    and sweet honey
    from my old failures.

    Last night as I was sleeping,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that a fiery sun was giving
    light inside my heart.
    It was fiery because I felt
    warmth as from a hearth,
    and sun because it gave light
    and brought tears to my eyes.

    Last night as I slept,
    I dreamt—marvelous error!—
    that it was God I had
    here inside my heart. ”

  108. Chris says...

    Always loved this, especially the last stanza.

    Portrait by a Neighbour
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Before she has her floor swept
    Or her dishes done,
    Any day you’ll find her
    A-sunning in the sun!

    It’s long after midnight
    Her key’s in the lock,
    And you never see her chimney smoke
    Til past ten o’clock!

    She digs in her garden
    With a shovel and a spoon,
    She weeds her lazy lettuce
    By the light of the moon,

    She walks up the walk
    Like a woman in a dream,
    She forgets she borrowed butter
    Any pays you back in cream!

    Her lawn looks like a meadow,
    And if she mows the place
    She leaves the clover standing
    And the Queen Anne’s lace!

  109. Purnima says...

    One of my favorites is by Billy Collins as well. No matter when I read it, the lines seem more relevant and heartbreaking than ever.

    On Turning Ten

    The whole idea of it makes me feel
    like I’m coming down with something,
    something worse than any stomach ache
    or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
    a kind of measles of the spirit,
    a mumps of the psyche,
    a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

    You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
    but that is because you have forgotten
    the perfect simplicity of being one
    and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
    But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
    At four I was an Arabian wizard.
    I could make myself invisible
    by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
    At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

    But now I am mostly at the window
    watching the late afternoon light.
    Back then it never fell so solemnly
    against the side of my tree house,
    and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
    as it does today,
    all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

    This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
    as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
    It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
    time to turn the first big number.

    It seems only yesterday I used to believe
    there was nothing under my skin but light.
    If you cut me I could shine.
    But now when I fall upon the side

    • Purnima says...

      Not sure how it happened, but the final verse got cut off. Here’s the rest of it:

      But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
      I skin my knees. I bleed.

    • Ali says...

      I love this!

    • Simone says...

      I read this at my uncle’s funeral when I was younger and when I met Billy Collins not long afterwards and told him this, he hugged me (life highlight!).

    • Brenna says...

      This is my all-time favorite poem, too! It makes my heart ache in a good sort of way and I feel transported to my childhood bedroom and the way the afternoon light used to come through the window. Ah, childhood malaise. :)

  110. Britta-Karin Engberg says...

    “Instead of going to school
    the strange girl went down to the water
    to learn how to breath with gills”
    Tanslation from “Den underliga flickan” , Werner Aspenström

  111. Kimberly says...

    O snail
    Climb Mount Fuji
    But slowly, slowly!
    -Kobayashi Issa

    I’ve loved this since reading it in “Franny and Zooey” in college. It is life to me. A slow, steady, uphill. I hope there’s a glorious view at the end of the hike, but I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy the wildflowers and the company on the way.

  112. Emily says...

    I come back to this Emily Dickinson poem all the time.

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –

    And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
    And sore must be the storm –
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm –

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
    And on the strangest Sea –
    Yet – never – in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb – of me.

  113. Sarah says...

    My favorite is “Don’t Tell Anyone” by Tony Hoagland:

    Don’t Tell Anyone
    BY TONY HOAGLAND

    We had been married for six or seven years
    when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
    that she screams underwater when she swims—

    that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
    into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
    where she does laps every other day.

    Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
    concealing anything,
    not as if I should consider myself

    personally the cause of her screaming,
    nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
    right that minute on the kitchen table,

    —casually, she told me,
    and I could see her turn her square face up
    to take a gulp of oxygen,

    then down again into the cold wet mask of the unconscious.
    For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
    as they go through life, silently,

    politely keeping the big secret
    that it is not all fun
    to be ripped by the crooked beak

    of something called psychology,
    to be dipped down
    again and again into time;

    that the truest, most intimate
    pleasure you can sometimes find
    is the wet kiss

    of your own pain.
    There goes Kath, at one pm, to swim her twenty-two laps
    back and forth in the community pool;

    —what discipline she has!
    Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
    that will never be read by anyone.

    • Tonje Meland Øverland says...

      I just shared the same one (didn’t see that you had already posted it). It is just so beautiful.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m so happy someone else loves this poem too! Part of the reason I connect with it is because I have an innate love for water and swimming.

  114. Enora says...

    I have always loved Victor Hugo’s poem about his deceased daughter:

    “Tomorrow, at dawn, at the moment when the land whitens,
    I will leave. You see, I know that you wait for me.
    I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
    I cannot stay any longer, far away from you.

    I will walk eyes fixed on my thoughts,
    Seeing nothing outside, not hearing a noise,
    Alone, unknown, back hunched, hands crossed,
    Sorrowed, for the day for me will be like night.

    I will not look at the golden evening that falls,
    Nor the faraway sails descending upon Harfleur.
    And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
    A bouquet of green holly and heather in bloom.”

    But have to say my favourite poet is Dylan Thomas and I think “And death shall have no dominion” the saddest but also the most powerful and beautiful poem to me.

    “And death shall have no dominion.
    Dead man naked they shall be one
    With the man in the wind and the west moon;
    When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
    They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
    Though they go mad they shall be sane,
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
    Though lovers be lost love shall not;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    Under the windings of the sea
    They lying long shall not die windily;
    Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
    Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
    Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
    And the unicorn evils run them through;
    Split all ends up they shan’t crack;
    And death shall have no dominion.

    And death shall have no dominion.
    No more may gulls cry at their ears
    Or waves break loud on the seashores;
    Where blew a flower may a flower no more
    Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
    Though they be mad and dead as nails,
    Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
    Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
    And death shall have no dominion.”

    They’re both quite tragic somehow, don’t know what it says about me.

  115. Jen says...

    Now I become myself. It’s taken
    Time, many years and places;
    I have been dissolved and shaken,
    Worn other people’s faces,
    Run madly, as if Time were there,
    Terribly old, crying a warning,
    ‘Hurry, you will be dead before-‘
    (What? Before you reach the morning?
    Or the end of the poem is clear?
    Or love safe in the walled city?)
    Now to stand still, to be here,
    Feel my own weight and density!
    The black shadow on the paper
    Is my hand; the shadow of a word
    As thought shapes the shaper
    Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
    All fuses now, falls into place
    From wish to action, word to silence,
    My work, my love, my time, my face
    Gathered into one intense
    Gesture of growing like a plant.
    As slowly as the ripening fruit
    Fertile, detached, and always spent,
    Falls but does not exhaust the root,
    So all the poem is, can give,
    Grows in me to become the song,
    Made so and rooted by love.
    Now there is time and Time is young.
    O, in this single hour I live
    All of myself and do not move.
    I, the pursued, who madly ran,
    Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

    by May Sarton

  116. Betsie says...

    Even in darkness, love
    shows the circumference
    of the world, lightning
    quivering on horizons
    in the summer night.
    — Wendell Berry

  117. Mac says...

    Stone
    by Charles Simic

    Go inside a stone
    That would be my way.
    Let somebody else become a dove
    Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
    I am happy to be a stone.

    From the outside the stone is a riddle:
    No one knows how to answer it.
    Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
    Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
    Even though a child throws it in a river,
    The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
    To the river bottom
    Where the fishes come to knock on it
    And listen.

    I have seen sparks fly out
    When two stones are rubbed.
    So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
    Perhaps there is a moon shining
    From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
    Just enough light to make out
    The strange writings, the star charts
    On the inner walls.

    • Sarah says...

      Wow, I love this one so much. I’m not a charismatic person, but I’m strong and fierce in my own way. I identify with the stone :)

      Thanks for sharing this, Mac!

    • Mac says...

      ❤️ from one stone to another, Sarah

  118. Laura says...

    The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
    Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
    Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
    Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

    And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
    Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

    – Gerard Manley Hopkins

    • Beth says...

      This is my favorite poem too :)

  119. Cindy says...

    Thanks cup of jo. This is exactly what I needed today. Here’s mine.

    The peace of wild things
    By Wendell berry

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    • Sarah says...

      Beautiful. I love Wendell Berry. Thanks for sharing.

  120. Impossible to choose, and over the past year I’ve gone from reading little poetry and loving only Pablo Neruda and “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas, to reading it so voraciously I can’t get enough. Three recent favorites:

    The Emperor
    (Matthew Rohrer)

    She sends me a text
    she’s coming home
    the train emerges
    from underground
    I light the fire under
    the pot, I pour her
    a glass of wine
    I fold a napkin under
    a little fork
    the wind blows the rain
    into the windows
    the emperor himself
    is not this happy

    The Horse and Rider
    (Louise Glück)

    Once there was a horse, and on the horse was a rider.
    How handsome they looked in the autumn sunlight, approaching a strange city!
    People thronged the streets or called from the high windows.
    Old women sat among flowerpots.
    But when you looked about for another horse or another rider, you looked in vain.
    My friend, said the animal, why not abandon me? Alone, you can find your way here.
    But to abandon you, said the other, would be to leave a part of myself behind, and how can I do that when I do now know which part you are?

    All I Ever Wanted
    (Katie Ford)

    When I thought it was right to name my desires,
    what I wanted of life, they seemed to turn
    like bleating sheep, not to me, who could have been
    a caring, if unskilled, shepherd, but to the boxed-in hills
    beyond which the blue mountains sloped down
    with poppies orange as crayfish all the way to the Pacific seas
    in which the hulls of whales steered them
    in search of a mate for whom they bellowed
    in a new, highly particular song
    we might call the most ardent articulation of love,
    the pin at the tip of evolution,
    modestly shining.
    In the middle of my life
    it was right to say my desires
    but they went away. I couldn’t even make them out,
    not even as dots
    now in the distance.
    Yet I see the small lights
    of winter campfires in the hills—
    teenagers in love often go there
    for their first nights—and each yellow-white glow
    tells me what I can know and admit to knowing,
    that all I ever wanted
    was to sit by a fire with someone
    who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting.
    To want to make a fire with someone,
    with you,
    was all.

  121. “I saw a man pursuing the horizon” – Stephen Crane
    “I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
    Round and round they sped.
    I was disturbed at this;
    I accosted the man.
    “It is futile,” I said,
    “You can never —”

    “You lie,” he cried,
    And ran on. ”

    I fell in love with this poem in high school. Now, as an ultrarunner, I love it even more. I’m the man pursuing the horizon, and everyone thinks I’m crazy. It makes me laugh every time I read it. If you are going to run 50 miles up and down mountains, you have to be light-hearted about it.

  122. Susan says...

    I really love the poetry of W.H. Auden. Here is one of my favs:

    The More Loving One ~ W.H. Auden

    Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
    That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
    But on earth indifference is the least
    We have to dread from man or beast.

    How should we like it were stars to burn
    With a passion for us we could not return?
    If equal affection cannot be,
    Let the more loving one be me.

    Admirer as I think I am
    Of stars that do not give a damn
    I cannot, now I see them, say
    I missed one terribly all day.

    Were all stars to disappear or die,
    I should learn to look at an empty sky
    And feel its total dark sublime,
    Though this might take me a little time.

    • Abbie says...

      One of my very favorites as well :)

  123. Amy says...

    I didn’t think I liked poetry…..until I read the comments ?

  124. Chelsey N. says...

    – Digging by Seamus Heaney – growing up on a farm and now living in a city, working in the world of academia, it hits home.
    – Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. Or basically anything by Mary Oliver
    – Lastly,

    to hate
    is an easy lazy thing
    but to love
    takes strength
    everyone has
    but not all are
    willing to practice
    – rupi kaur

    • Hillary says...

      Yes! Digging is one of my absolute favourites too. “Snug as a gun”.

    • Liz says...

      Love rupi kaur! So succinct, yet hits me right where it needs to every time.

  125. Rachael says...

    The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Elliot forever and always.

    • Dawn says...

      Yes!!!

  126. Anne says...

    I love all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, but this one will forever be special. It was read by my husband’s sister at our a wedding a couple weeks ago :)

    Mysteries, Yes by Mary Oliver
    Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
    to be understood.
    How grass can be nourishing in the
    mouths of the lambs.
    How rivers and stones are forever
    in allegiance with gravity
    while we ourselves dream of rising.
    How two hands touch and the bonds
    will never be broken.
    How people come, from delight or the
    scars of damage,
    to the comfort of a poem.
    Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.
    Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.”

    • Libbie says...

      What a beautiful poem to have read at your wedding. Congrats, Anne!

  127. Hilde says...

    One of my favorite poems is this:

    The small woman
    Builds cages for everyone
    She
    Knows.
    While the sage,
    Who has to duck her head
    When the moon is low,
    Keeps dropping keys all night long
    For the
    Beautiful
    Rowdy
    Prisoners

    – Hafiz

    • Melanie Gehman says...

      Love this!

  128. My favorite lines of poetry that I have committed to memory are the final lines of The Song of Honour by Ralph Hodgson which read:

    Without a wish, without a will,
    I stood upon that silent hill
    And stared into the sky until
    My eyes were blind with stars and still
    I stared into the sky.

    It reminds me to be still and quiet, to observe and to find time alone in nature feeling small and filled with the wonders of the sky. It has been my favorite piece poetry since high school. I’ve actually been considering getting a tattoo that is some kind of visual representation of what these words mean to me over the past couple years, but I haven’t been able to come up with an idea of what that image would look like yet.

  129. Lilly says...

    I have two:

    The first one is W.H. Auden’s Funeral Blues
    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
    Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

    And this one by Christina Rossetti (Remember), which always gave me comfort when I suffered a loss.

    Remember me when I am gone away,

    Gone far away into the silent land;

    When you can no more hold me by the hand,

    Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

    Remember me when no more day by day

    You tell me of our future that you plann’d:

    Only remember me; you understand

    It will be late to counsel then or pray.

    Yet if you should forget me for a while

    And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

    For if the darkness and corruption leave

    A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

    Better by far you should forget and smile

    Than that you should remember and be sad.

  130. Jane says...

    Favorite poems have been some of the best tools I have for getting through challenging situations in life. My mother used to read me poems before bed when I was growing up, and I’d recite my favorites in my head whenever I felt nervous as a child. In middle school, I found Billy Collins’ “Nightclub” in a collection my father gave me. The final line, which reads “we have become beautiful without even knowing it,” helped assure me that over time, without even realizing it, I’d evolve from an awkward, insecure teenager into a beautiful person inside and out. Today, I have favorite poems to turn to in all sorts of situations. They’re a steady anchor for times when I feel adrift and a bright guide light for times when I feel lost.

    • This is so lovely. I think I need to start this tradition with my daughter.

  131. Ellie says...

    I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying most of these! I’ve never been a big poetry fan but maybe it’s time I start reading some.

  132. TJP says...

    I do! This is my favorite poem about perspective and gratitude.

    Otherwise by Jane Kenyon

    I got out of bed
    on two strong legs.
    It might have been
    otherwise. I ate
    cereal, sweet
    milk, ripe, flawless
    peach. It might
    have been otherwise.
    I took the dog uphill
    to the birch wood.
    All morning I did
    the work I love.
    At noon I lay down
    with my mate. It might
    have been otherwise.
    We ate dinner together
    at a table with silver
    candlesticks. It might
    have been otherwise.
    I slept in a bed
    in a room with paintings
    on the walls, and
    planned another day
    just like this day.
    But one day, I know,
    it will be otherwise.

    • Alycia says...

      Oh, how much I love this poem.
      Another of Jane Kenyon’s that I love is “The Suitor”:
      We lie back to back. Curtains
      lift and fall,
      like the chest of someone sleeping.
      Wind moves the leaves of the box elder;
      they show their light undersides,
      turning all at once
      like a school of fish.
      Suddenly I understand that I am happy.
      For months this feeling
      has been coming closer, stopping
      for short visits, like a timid suitor.

    • Melanie says...

      This is my favorite as well. I read it often.

  133. I think about “Thanks”, by Yusef Komunyakaa a lot. A LOT. It’s not a protest poem, per se; it’s about his tour of duty in Vietnam, and, though I’ve never served in the military, it rings like a bell. I particularly think of this passage:

    Again, thanks for the dud
    hand grenade tossed at my feet
    outside Chu Lai. I’m still
    falling through its silence.

    • L. says...

      Wow, that gave me the shivers!

  134. I remember the marvellous moment
    you appeared before me,
    like a transient vision,
    like pure beauty’s spirit.

    Lost in hopeless sadness,
    lost in the loud world’s turmoil,
    I heard your voice’s echo,
    and often dreamed your features.

    Years passed. The storm winds scattered,
    with turbulent gusts, that dreaming.
    I forgot your voice, its tenderness.
    I forgot your lovely face.

    Remote in my darkened exile,
    the days dragged by so slowly,
    without grace, without inspiration,
    without life, without tears, without love.

    Then my spirit woke
    and you, you appeared again,
    like a transient vision,
    like pure beauty’s spirit.

    And my heart beats with delight,
    and ecstasy, inside me,
    and grace and inspiration,
    and tears, and life, and love.

    Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin

  135. anja says...

    Postscript
    Seamus Heaney, 1939 – 2013

    And some time make the time to drive out west
    Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
    In September or October, when the wind
    And the light are working off each other
    So that the ocean on one side is wild
    With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
    The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
    By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
    Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
    Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
    Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
    Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
    More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
    A hurry through which known and strange things pass
    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
    And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

  136. Jackie says...

    So many favorites (getting a doctorate in poetry, actually), but a fave recently has been John Berryman’s “A Point of Age,” too long to put here in its entirety:

    Slow spent stars wheel and dwindle where I fell.
    Physicians are a constellation where
    The blown brain sits a fascist to the heart.
    Late, it is late, and it is time to start.
    Sanction the civic woe, deal with your dea,
    Convince the stranger: none of us is well.
    We must travel in the direction of our fear.

  137. I’m glad to know I’m not the only Mary Oliver fan (how could I be? She’s *so good*.) I have many favorites among her work, but one I read recently that really struck me was “When Death Comes”:

    When death comes
    like the hungry bear in autumn;
    when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

    to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
    when death comes
    like the measles-pox;

    when death comes
    like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

    I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
    what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

    And therefore I look upon everything
    as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
    and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
    and I consider eternity as another possibility,

    and I think of each life as a flower, as common
    as a field daisy, and as singular,

    and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
    tending as all music does, toward silence,

    and each body a lion of courage, and something
    precious to the earth.

    When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.
    I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

    When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
    if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
    I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
    or full of argument.

    I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
    * * * * * * * *

    I mean… “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement.” WHAT.

    • Rachel says...

      That is so, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

      My cousin read this poem at our Aunt’s funeral, and it has really stuck with me…

      Let Evening Come
      BY JANE KENYON

      Let the light of late afternoon
      shine through chinks in the barn, moving
      up the bales as the sun moves down.

      Let the cricket take up chafing
      as a woman takes up her needles
      and her yarn. Let evening come.

      Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
      in long grass. Let the stars appear
      and the moon disclose her silver horn.

      Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
      Let the wind die down. Let the shed
      go black inside. Let evening come.

      To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
      in the oats, to air in the lung
      let evening come.

      Let it come, as it will, and don’t
      be afraid. God does not leave us
      comfortless, so let evening come.

  138. Aine says...

    Hi Joanna and Team, I was wondering is there any way you could make this post audible or your blog audible. It would be great to ‘play’ it to disabled people as my voice/delivery i don’t think would do this and the poems mentioned justice. I work w sick and old people and some of them would love to ‘hear’this A

    • Dawn says...

      I would happily do the voice work for this. What a lovely, thoughtful idea.

  139. Emily says...

    I love Billy Collins. Richard Brautigan is another favorite. But my all time favorite is Mary Oliver. I love everything she does, but if I had to pick one, it would always be Wild Geese:

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

    • Margaret says...

      This is my favorite too.

  140. Anne says...

    I love all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, but this one will forever be special. My husband’s sister read it at our wedding a couple weeks ago :)

    Mysteries, Yes by Mary Oliver:
    Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
    to be understood.
    How grass can be nourishing in the
    mouths of the lambs.
    How rivers and stones are forever
    in allegiance with gravity
    while we ourselves dream of rising.
    How two hands touch and the bonds
    will never be broken.
    How people come, from delight or the
    scars of damage,
    to the comfort of a poem.
    Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.
    Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.”

  141. Sasha says...

    I just want to say, I am very happy you followed the post on family separation with this post, and not a house tour or some new makeup from Nordstrom, or other usual content (it’s usually fun, don’t get me wrong, but not at the moment). Seeing other bloggers push sponsored outfit posts seems so tone-deaf.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, we are all so devastated by what is happening, it’s hard to focus on other things. xoxo

    • El says...

      BIG agreement here.

    • Laurel Hammond says...

      YES!

    • Lauren says...

      TOTALLY AGREE. This seems like a perfect follow up.

      Last night I actually posted a poem someone else referenced in yesterday’s comments on Facebook – it stopped me in my tracks when I looked it up. I just love this community so much. How can strangers on the internet provide so much comfort? Here it is, if you’re curious:

      “Home” by Warsan Shire

      no one leaves home unless
      home is the mouth of a shark
      you only run for the border
      when you see the whole city running as well

      your neighbors running faster than you
      breath bloody in their throats
      the boy you went to school with
      who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
      is holding a gun bigger than his body
      you only leave home
      when home won’t let you stay.

      no one leaves home unless home chases you
      fire under feet
      hot blood in your belly
      it’s not something you ever thought of doing
      until the blade burnt threats into
      your neck
      and even then you carried the anthem under
      your breath
      only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
      sobbing as each mouthful of paper
      made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

      you have to understand,
      that no one puts their children in a boat
      unless the water is safer than the land
      no one burns their palms
      under trains
      beneath carriages
      no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
      feeding on newspaper unless the miles traveled
      means something more than journey.
      no one crawls under fences
      no one wants to be beaten
      pitied

      no one chooses refugee camps
      or strip searches where your
      body is left aching
      or prison,
      because prison is safer
      than a city of fire
      and one prison guard
      in the night
      is better than a truckload
      of men who look like your father
      no one could take it
      no one could stomach it
      no one skin would be tough enough

      the
      go home blacks
      refugees
      dirty immigrants
      asylum seekers
      sucking our country dry
      niggers with their hands out
      they smell strange
      savage messed up their country and now they want
      to mess ours up
      how do the words
      the dirty looks
      roll off your backs
      maybe because the blow is softer
      than a limb torn off

      or the words are more tender
      than fourteen men between
      your legs
      or the insults are easier
      to swallow
      than rubble
      than bone
      than your child’s body in pieces.
      i want to go home,
      but home is the mouth of a shark
      home is the barrel of the gun
      and no one would leave home
      unless home chased you to the shore
      unless home told you
      to quicken your legs
      leave your clothes behind
      crawl through the desert
      wade through the oceans
      drown
      save
      be hungery
      beg
      forget pride
      your survival is more important

      no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
      saying
      leave,
      run away from me now
      i don’t know what i’ve become
      but i know that anywhere
      is safer than here

  142. Reem says...

    I’m enjoying these poems in the comments. I’ll add the only one I have committed to memory:

    The Sun Never Says
    by Hafez

    Even after all this time
    The Sun never says to the Earth
    “You owe me”
    Look what happens with a
    love like that
    It lights
    the whole sky

    • Stephanie says...

      I love this one too. Sometimes rereading a poem is like revisiting an old friend. Thanks for sharing this one with us again today, Reem!

    • This is truly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Molly K says...

      This is the one I was going to share! When I went to double-check the author’s name, Wikipedia told me it’s actually written by Daniel Ladinsky “inspired by the spirit of Hafez in a dream”.

    • Molly K — I FEEL COMPLETELY VIOLATED. This poem from “Hafiz” has been a favorite for many years — memorized it when I was a teenager and, truthfully, haven’t looked at the source materials since then. I CANNOT believe it was just some dude who wrote poems inspired by Hafiz. I mean… The book is literally called “The Gift: Poems By Hafiz” — what a betrayal! :'(

    • When a writing vibrates with your soul, it doesn’t matter who first said it. It’s a true, living thing.

  143. M says...

    Late Fragment – Raymond Carver

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    • Ellen says...

      My favourite too

    • Susie says...

      My absolute favorite since it was was published!

  144. Marissa says...

    It’s hard to watch
    the game we make of love,
    like everyone’s playing checkers
    with their scars,
    saying checkmate
    whenever they get out
    without a broken heart.
    Just to be clear
    I don’t want to get out
    without a broken heart.
    I intend to leave this life
    so shattered
    there’s gonna have to be
    a thousand separate heavens
    for all of my flying parts.
    -Andrea Gibson

  145. Kat says...

    I am so tired of waiting,
    Aren’t you,
    For the world to become good
    And beautiful and kind?
    Let us take a knife
    And cut the world in two –
    And see what worms are eating
    At the rind.

    – Langston Hughes

    • karen says...

      Beautiful.

  146. Corinne says...

    I love haikus and this one is amazing. So Zen.

    With every gust of wind,
    the butterfly changes its place
    on the willow.

    by Matsuo Basho

  147. Shannon Meers says...

    Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda. It was one the readings at our wedding. It includes a stanza that makes me swoon still after 12 years of marriage
    “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way”

    • Barb says...

      This was read at my wedding four years ago too!

    • Denise says...

      We had this read at our wedding, too. That whole poem kills me :)