Inspiration: Poems

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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Prayer to Practice the Golden Rule

May I be no man’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy...

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Poem: “Dangerous Coats” by Sharon Owens

Someone clever once said Women were not allowed pockets In case they carried leaflets To spread sedition Which means unrest To you & me A grandiose word For commonsense Fairness Kindness Equality So ladies, start sewing Dangerous coats Made of pockets &...

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Poem: “Taking Turns, by Jeanie Greensfelder

I pass a woman on the beach. We both wear graying hair, feel sand between our toes, hear surf, and see blue sky. I came with a smile. She came to get one. No. I'm wrong. She sits on a boulder by a cairn of stacked rocks. Hands over her heart, she stares out to sea....

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Poem: “Passive Voice,” by Laura Da’

I use a trick to teach students how to avoid passive voice. Circle the verbs. Imagine inserting “by zombies” after each one. Have the words been claimed by the flesh-hungry undead? If so, passive voice. I wonder if these sixth graders will recollect, on summer...

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Poem: ” About Suffering,” by Elisa Gabbert

Part of suffering is the useless urge to announce that you’re suffering. There is no other way to say it: I’m suffering. Just to say “I suffer” helps. I read somewhere, “we become lyrical when we suffer.” Happiness is suffering for the right reasons. First-order...

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Poem: ” Words,” by Pauli Murray

We are spendthrifts with words, We squander them, Toss them like pennies in the air– Arrogant words, Angry words, Cruel words, Comradely words, Shy words tiptoeing from mouth to ear. But the slowly wrought words of love and the thunderous words of heartbreak– Those we...

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