Sometimes…

…the only thing that helps is poetry. These are some of my favorite poems that I’ve read so far this year, the ones that I find quoting to myself under my breath over and over:

A Prayer

Let me do my work each day;
and if the darkened hours
of despair overcome me, may I
not forget the strength
that comforted me in the
desolation of other times.

May I still remember the bright
hours that found me walking
over the silent hills of my
childhood, or dreaming on the
margin of a quiet river,
when a light glowed within me,
and I promised my early God
to have courage amid the
tempests of the changing years.

Spare me from bitterness
and from the sharp passions of
unguarded moments. May
I not forget that poverty and
riches are of the spirit.

Though the world knows me not,
may my thoughts and actions
be such as shall keep me friendly
with myself.

Lift up my eyes
from the earth, and let me not
forget the uses of the stars.
Forbid that I should judge others
lest I condemn myself.

Let me not follow the clamor of
the world, but walk calmly
in my path.

Give me a few friends
who will love me for what
I am; and keep ever burning
before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope.

And though age and infirmity
overtake me, and I come not within
sight of the castle of my dreams,
teach me still to be thankful
for life, and for time’s olden
memories that are good and
sweet; and may the evening’s
twilight find me gentle still.

~ Max Ehrmann ~

from Neruda’s “Ode to my Socks“:

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.

As I Walked Out One Evening (W.H. Auden)

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

Risk & Love
To love at all is to be vulnerable.
Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung
and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact,
You must give it to no one, not even an animal.
Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries;
avoid all entanglements; lock it up in a casket safe,
dark, motionless, airless, but there it will change.
It will not become broken but unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe
From all the dangers of love is hell.

C.S. Lewis

from “Sunrise” by Mary Oliver:

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter fire.

Sometimes A Man (Rilke)

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

I also enjoyed “Lust for Life,” a trippy ditty from the New Yorker, “Preachers Warn” from the same publication, and “Invictus” from the movie with the same name (“I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul”).

Other things I currently like:
– chamomile tea, lots and lots of it
– reading non-fiction (currently Killing Pablo: the Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw)
– hanging out with people
– yoga, my friends

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