Inspiration: Poems

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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Poem: ” Comfort Animal,” by Joy Ladin

From the sequence “Shekhinah Speaks” Comfort, comfort my people ... —Isaiah 40:1 A voice says, “Your punishment has ended.” You never listen to that voice. You really suck at being comforted. Another voice says, “Cry.” That voice always gets your attention, keeps you...

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Poem: ” To be of use,” by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged balls. I love people who...

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Poem: “I worried,” by Mary Oliver

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers flow in the right direction, will the earth turn as it was taught, and if not how shall I correct it? Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, can I do better? Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows...

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Poem: “Arachis Hypogaea,” by Marilyn Nelson

Great Creator, why did you make the peanut? —GWC Arachis Hypogaea may have been smuggled to North America by slaves who hid seeds of survival in their hair. Despite your nakedness, the chains, the stench, if white men did not eat you, you might come to a cruel land...

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Poem: “BLK History Month,” by Nikki Giovanni

If Black History Month is not viable then wind does not carry the seeds and drop them on fertile ground rain does not dampen the land and encourage the seeds to root sun does not warm the earth and kiss the seedlings and tell them plain: You’re As Good As Anybody Else...

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Poem: “Bottled Water,” by Kim Dower

I go to the corner liquor store for a bottle of water, middle of a hectic day, must get out of the office, stop making decisions, quit obsessing does my blue skirt clash with my hot pink flats; should I get my mother a caregiver or just put her in a home, and I pull...

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Poem: “Found,” by Frederick Buechner

Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless. Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful. If you want to know which, pay attention to what it means to be truly human in a world that half the time we’re in love with and half the time scares the hell out of us… The unexpected sound of...

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Poem: “Honey,” by Connie Wanek

Luxury itself, thick as a Persian carpet, honey fills the jar with the concentrated sweetness of countless thefts, the blossoms bereft, the hive destitute. Though my debts are heavy honey would pay them all. Honey heals, honey mends. A spoon takes more than it can...

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Poem: “Relativity,” by D. H. Lawrence

I like relativity and quantum theories because I don't understand them and they make me feel as if space shifted about like a swan that can't settle, refusing to sit still and be measured; and as if the atom were an impulsive thing always changing its mind.

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Poem: “Take Heart,” by Jeanne Murray Walker

Who can grieve for it all? The standard-bearer, seeing his right hand shot off, grabs the flag with his left and shouts God Bless America! as he charges up the hill. An Iraqi child shoos flies from her brother’s corpse. News, they call it. The gospel of atrocities....

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Poem: “Famous,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish. The loud voice is famous to silence, which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so. The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds watching him from the birdhouse. The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek. The...

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