Poems to Live By

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come when, with elation
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine, give bread, give back you heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit.  Feast on your life.

 

Found etched into a wall in a Jewish Ghetto after the Allies liberated Berlin:

I believe in the sun when it’s not shining,

I believe in love even when I feel it not,

I believe in God even when God is silent.

 

Yes, We Can Talk by Mark Nepo

Having loved enough and lost enough,
I am no longer searching,
just opening.
No longer trying to make sense of pain,
but trying to be a soft and sturdy home
in which real things can land.
These are the irritations that rub into a pearl
So we can talk awhile
but then we must listen,
the way rocks listen to the sea
And we can churn at all that goes wrong
but then we must lay all distractions down,
and water every living seed.
And yes, on nights like tonight
I too feel alone. but seldom do I
face it squarely enough
to see that it is a door
into the endless breath
that has no breather
into the surf that human shells
call god.

The Way Under the Way by Mark Nepo

For all that has been written,
for all that has been read, we
are led to this instant where one
of us will speak and one of us will
listen, as if no one has ever placed
an oar into that water.

It doesn’t matter how we come
to this. We may jump to it or be
worn to it. Because of great pain.
Or a sudden raw feeling that this
is all very real. It may happen in a
parking lot when we break the eggs
in the rain. Or watching each other
in our grief.

But here we will come. With very
little left in the way.

When we meet like this, I may not
have the words, so let me say it now:
Nothing compares to the sensation
of being alive in the company of
another. It is God breathing on
the embers of our soul.

Stripped of causes and plans
and things to strive for,
I have discovered everything
I could need or ask for
is right here—
in flawed abundance.

We cannot eliminate hunger,
but we can feed each other.
We cannot eliminate loneliness,
but we can hold each other.
We cannot eliminate pain,
but we can live a life
of compassion.

Ultimately,
we are small living things
awakened in the stream,
not gods who carve out rivers.

Like human fish,
we are asked to experience
meaning in the life that moves
through the gill of our heart.

There is nothing to do
and nowhere to go.
Accepting this,
we can do everything
and go anywhere.

 

 

Sweet Darkness by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

 

 

Unconditional by Jennifer Welwood
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;

Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;

Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;

Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,

Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.

I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game.

To play it is purest delight;
To honor its form–true devotion.

 

 

In Blackwater Woods   by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting open and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.

To live in this world you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

 

 

School Prayer by Diane Ackerman

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs.

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
–wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell–on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.

 

 

The Dakini Speaks by Jennifer Welwood

My friends, let’s grow up.
Let’s stop pretending we don’t know the deal here.

Or if we truly haven’t noticed, let’s wake up and notice.
Look: Everything that can be lost, will be lost.

It’s simple — how could we have missed it for so long?
Let’s grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,

But please, let’s not be so shocked by them.
Let’s not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.

Impermanence is life’s only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,

And her compassion exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,

She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride — let’s give ourselves to it!

Let’s stop making deals for a safe passage:

There isn’t one anyway, and the cost is too high.

We are not children anymore.

The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.

Let’s dance the wild dance of no hope!

 

 

All This and More

by Toko-Pa
I want to be guided by older-ups. I want babies to be born where old people die. I want to be sandwiched in the middle of a messy togetherness. I want to be warned before I do something stupid. I want to be forgiven when I do it anyway. I want wisdoms to be tapped out on my eardrums and not Googled. I want transitions to be recognized by fire. I want gifts to be educed from children. And teenagers and adults and I want to mean something to my community. I want to get drunk on substance morning and night. I want to hear your dreams. I want to raise a revolution for gentleness. I want to call out the bullshit on consensus reality. I want to get rich so I can billboard the highways with validations.
I don’t want to be another faker. I don’t want to show you my good side and hide my humanity. I don’t want to dole you out my Self in digestible status-chunks. I want to challenge you in long, drawn-out rituals and still find you interested. I want to feed you seventeen course meals made with spices I crushed. I want to recite you circular poems, each beginning cutting a deeper grasp. I want to make you feel something, even if it’s awkward. I want to sing you songs which are ancient and new. I want to carve stories in trees with tools my elders fashioned. I want to keep sharpening them. I want to find places we’ve never been. And then, I want to return there, but backwards.
I want to shuffle up words so we don’t sleep through them. I want to learn things and then be splashed into never forgetting. I want to make you feel seen. I want to hold your pounding heart in my gentlest of hands. I want to make your thing feel like my thing. I don’t want to miss a moment. I want to dig at the bottom and find it false. I want to turn up unknown depths. I want to stand in this hurricane and sing the sweetest, most naked song you can bear. I want to be alive with you.

 

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