Inspiration: Poems

POEM: “Unison Benediction,” by May Sarton

Return to the most human, nothing less will nourish the torn spirit, the bewildered heart, the angry mind: and from the ultimate duress, pierced with the breath of anguish, speak of love. Return, return to the deep sources, nothing less will teach the stiff hands a...

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Poem: “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...

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POEM: “Bear in Mind,” by John Martin

A bear is chasing me through a meadow and I’m running as fast as I can but he’s gaining on me—it seems he’s always gaining on me. I’m running and running but also thinking I should just turn around and say, “Stop it! Stop chasing me. We both know you aren’t going to...

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POEM: “Singularity,” by Marie Howe

(after Stephen Hawking) Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity we once were? so compact nobody needed a bed, or food or money — nobody hiding in the school bathroom or home alone pulling open the drawer where the pills are kept. For every atom belonging...

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POEM: “The Layers,” by Stanley Kunitz

In my darkest night, when the moon was covered and I roamed through wreckage, a nimbus-clouded voice directed me: “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” Though I lack the art to decipher it, no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written....

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Poem: “Statement,” by Robert Francis

I follow Plato only with my mind. Pure beauty strikes me as a little thin, A little cold, however beautiful. I am in love with what is mixed, impure, doubtful and dark and hard to disencumber. I want a beauty I must dig for, search for. Pure beauty is beginning and...

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Poem: “Man Eating,” by Jane Kenyon

The man at the table across from mine is eating yogurt. His eyes, following the progress of the spoon, cross briefly each time it nears his face. Time, and the world with all its principalities, might come to an end as prophesied by the Apostle John, but what about...

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Poem: “Cockroach,” by Anne Sexton

Roach, foulest of creatures, who attacks with yellow teeth and an army of cousins big as shoes, you are lumps of coal that are mechanized and when I turn on the light you scuttle into the corners and there is this hiss upon the land. Yet I know you are only the common...

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Poem: “True or False,” by John Ciardi

Real emeralds are worth more than synthetics but the only way to tell one from the other is to heat them to a stated temperature, then tap. When it’s done properly the real one shatters. I have no emeralds. I was told this about them by a woman who said someone had...

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Poem: “Ethics,” by Linda Pastan

In ethics class so many years ago our teacher asked this question every fall: if there were a fire in a museum which would you save, a Rembrandt painting or an old woman who hadn’t many years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs caring little for pictures or old age...

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Poem: “On Living,” by Nazim Hikmet

I Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel, for example— I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation. Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so...

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