Poetry

 

Maya Angelou | George Gordon Byron | Po Chu-I | Leonard Cohen | Goethe | Hafiz | H.D | Langton Hughes | Robinson Jeffers | Melina Meza | Pablo Neruda | Mary Oliver | Li Po | Rainer Marie Rilke | Theodore Roethke | Rumi | Shakespeare | Shel Silverstein | Wallace Stevens | Rabindranath Tagore | David Whyte

 

#Maya Angelou

TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

#George Gordon Byron

THERE IS PLEASURE IN THE PATHLESS WOODS
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

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#Po Chu-I

A DREAM OF MOUNTAINEERING
At night, in my dream, I stoutly climbed a mountain,
Going out alone with my staff of holly-wood.
A thousand crags, a hundred hundred valleys-
In my dream-journey none were unexplored
And all the while my feet never grew tired
And my step was as strong as in my young days.
Can it be that when the mind travels backward
The body also returns to its old state?
And can it be, as between body and soul,
That the body may languish, while the soul is still strong?
Soul and body-both are vanities;
Dreaming and waking-both alike unreal.
In the day my feet are palsied and tottering;
In the night my steps go striding over the hills.
As day and night are divided in equal parts-
Between the two, I get as much as I lose.

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#Leonard Cohen

AS THE MIST LEAVES NO SCAR
As the mist leaves no scar
On the dark green hill,
So my body leaves no scar
On you, nor ever will.
When wind and hawk encounter,
What remains to keep?
So you and I encounter,
Then turn, then fall asleep.
As many nights endure
Without a moon or star,
So will we endure
When one is gone and far.

THE WAY BACK
But I am not lost
any more than leaves are lost
or buried vases
This is not my time
I would only give you second thoughts
I know you must call me traitor
because I have wasted my blood
in aimless love
and you are right
Blood like that
never won an inch of star
You know how to call me
although such a noise now
would only confuse the air
Neither of us can forget
the steps we danced
the words you stretched
to call me out of dust
Yes I long for you
not just as a leaf for weather
or vase for hands
but with a narrow human longing
that makes a man refuse
any fields but his own
I wait for you at an
unexpected place in your journey
like the rusted key
or the feather you do not pick up
until the way back
after it is clear
the remote and painful destination
changed nothing in your life

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#Goethe

THE HOLY LONGING
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and, finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

UNTIL ONE IS COMMITTED
Until one is committed,
there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation)
there is one elementary truth,
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
that the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then Providence moves too.
All sort of things occur
to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor
all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance,
which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it.

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#Hafiz

WITH THAT MOON LANGUAGE
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise,
Someone would call the cops.
Still though, think about this,
This great pull in us
To connect.
Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,
With that sweet moon
Language,
What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
Hear.

BUTTERING THE SKY
Slipping
On my shoes,
Boiling water,
Toasting bread,
Buttering the sky;
That should be enough contact
With God in one day
To make anyone
Crazy.

WE HAVE NOT COME TO TAKE PRISONERS
We have not come here to take prisoners,
but to surrender ever more deeply
to freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear, from anything
that may not strengthen
your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
from anyone likely
to put a sharp knife
into the sacred, tender vision
of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
those aspects of obedience
that stand outside of our house
and shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners
or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom, and
light!

MY EYES SO SOFT
Don’t surrender
your loneliness so quickly.
let it cut more
deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human
or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft,
my voice so
tender,
my need of God
absolutely
clear.

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#H.D

ADONIS
Each of us like you has died once,
has passed through drift of wood-leaves,
cracked and bent and tortured and unbent
in the winter-frost,
the burnt into gold points, lighted afresh,
crisp amber, scales of gold-leaf,
gold turned and re-welded in the sun;
each of us like you has died once,
each of us has crossed an old wood-path
and found the winter-leaves
so golden in the sun-fire
that even the live wood-flowers
were dark.
2.
Not the gold on the temple-front
where you stand is as gold as this,
not the gold that fastens your sandals,
nor thee gold reft
through your chiselled locks,
is as gold as this last year’s leaf,
not all the gold hammered and wrought
and beaten on your lover’s face.
brow and bare breast is as golden as this:
each of us like you
has died once, each of us like you
stands apart, like you fit to be worshipped

THE MYSTERY REMAIN
The mysteries remain,
I keep the same
Cycle of seed-time
And of sun and rain;
Demeter in the grass,
I multiply,
Renew and bless
Iacchus in the vine;
I hold the law,
I keep the mysteries true,
The first of these
To name the living, dead;
I am red wine and bread;
I keep the law,
I hold the mysteries true,
I am the vine,
The branches, you
And you.

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#Langston Hughes

DREAMS
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

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#Robinson Jeffers

THE EXCESS OF GOD
It is not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humanness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

RETURN
A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again,
It is time to let the leaves rain from the skies,
Let the rich life run to the roots again.
I will go to the lovely Sur Rivers
And dip my arms in them up to the shoulders.
I will find my accounting where the alder leaf quivers
In the ocean wind over the river boulders.
I will touch things and things and no more thoughts,
That breed like mouthless May-flies darkening the sky,
The insect clouds that blind our passionate hawks
So that they cannot strike, hardly can fly.
Things are the hawk’s food and noble is the mountain, Oh noble
Pico Blanco, steep sea-wave of marble.

NATURAL MUSIC
The old voice of the ocean, the bird-chatter of little rivers,
(Winter has given them gold for silver
To stain their water and bladed green for brown to line their banks)
From different throats intone one language.
So I believe if we were strong enough to listen without
Divisions of desire and terror
To the storm of the sick nations, the rage of the hunger smitten cities,
Those voices also would be found
Clean as a child’s; or like some girl’s breathing who dances alone
By the ocean-shore, dreaming of lovers.

CARMEL POINT
The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses-
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads-
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty
Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.- As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our view a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

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#Melina Meza

NEW POET
A Day in Amed, Bali
A tropical breeze caresses the whispering tide
As the distant echoes from an unfamiliar bird
Invites me to wake from the night
Where the sky stirred my imagination.
As grass grows still stiffened by the sun
Plumeria fall each morning
Drunk with heavenly perfume
Finding their way to a family altar.
In today’s Garden of Eden surrounded by strangers
Adorned with white rice and royal sarongs
We share a simple phrase
A universal smile.
But behind these doors of paradise
Ambition burns deep from each pore
Spreading a galaxy of crimson stars
Over my snow white skin.
Perhaps it is time to retreat
Embrace the shelter of trees
Dream a landscape beneath the sea
And make way for the adventure.

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#Pablo Neruda

POETRY
And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

LEAVE ME A PLACE UNDERGROUND
Leave me a place underground, a labyrinth,
where I can go, when I wish to turn,
without eyes, without touch,
in the void, to dumb stone,
or the finger of shadow.
I know that you cannot, no one, no thing
can deliver up that place, or that path,
but what can I do with my pitiful passions,
if they are no use, on the surface
of everyday life,
if I cannot look to survive,
except by dying, going beyond, entering
into the state, metallic and slumbering,
of primeval flame?

PHILOSOPHY
The truth of the green tree
in spring and of Earth’s crust
is proven beyond a doubt:
the planets nourish us
despite eruptions
and the sea offers us fish
despite her quaking:
we are slaves of the earth
that is also governess of air.
Walking around an orange
I spent more than one life
echoing the earth’s sphere:
geography and ambrosia:
juices the color of hyacinth
and the white scent of woman
like blossoms of flour.
Nothing is gained by flying
to escape this globe
that trapped you at birth.
And we need to confess our hope
that understanding and love
come from below, climb
and grow inside us
like onions, like oak trees,
like tortoises or flowers,
like countries, like races,
like roads and destinations.

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#Mary Oliver

A DREAM OF TREES
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little away from every troubling town,
A little away from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile, I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?

CAN YOU IMAGINE?
For example, what trees do
not only in lightening storms
or the water dark of a summer night
or under the white nests of winter
but now, and now, and now…whenever
we’re not looking. Surely you can’t imagine
they just stand there looking the way they look
when we’re looking; surely you can’t imagine
they don’t dance, from the root up, wishing
to travel a little, not cramped so much as wanting
a better view, or more sun, or just as avidly
more shade…surely you can’t imagine they just
stand there loving every minute of it,
the birds or the emptiness, the dark rings of the years slowly and without a sound thickening, and nothing different unless the wind, and then only in its own mood, comes to visit, surely you can’t imagine
patience, and happiness, like that.

WHEN DEATH COMES
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn;
When death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me,
And snaps the purse shut;
When death comes like the measles-pox;
When death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
What is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
And I look upon time as no more than an idea,
And I consider eternity as another possibility,
And I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,
And each name a comfortable music in the mouth tending as all music does, toward silence,
And each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.
When its over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

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#Li Po

THE BIRDS HAVE VANISHED
The birds have vanished into the sky,
And now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.

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#Rainer Marie Rilke

A WALK
My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance—
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are; a gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

XII
Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curves of the body as it turns away.
What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.
Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and with ending, begins.
Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming
a laurel,
Dares you to become the wild.

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#Theodore Roethke

THE WAKING
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

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#Rumi

SOME KISS WE WANT
There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body.
Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell.
And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling!
At night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door and
open the love window.
The moon won’t use the door, only the window.

OUT BEYOND IDEAS
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

THE OCEAN MOVING ALL NIGHT
Stay with us. Don’t sink to the bottom
like a fish going to sleep.
Be with the ocean moving
steadily all night,
not scattered like a rainstorm.
The spring we’re looking for is
somewhere in this murkiness
see the night-lights up there
traveling together
the candle awake in its gold dish.
Don’t slide into the cracks of the
ground like spilled mercury.
when the full moon comes out,
look around.

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#Shel Silverstein

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ ’bout the things
They woulda coulda shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little Did.

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#Shakespeare

SONNET LXV
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! Where, alack!
Shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold this swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

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#Wallace Stevens

OF MERE BEING
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze décor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

FIRST WARMTH
I wonder, have I lived a skeleton’s life,
As a questioner about reality.
A countryman of all the bones of the world?
Now, here, the warmth I had forgotten becomes
Part of the major reality, part of
An appreciation of a reality;
An thus an elevation, as if I lived
With something I could touch, touch every way.

THE PLACES OF SOLITAIRES
Let the place of the solitaires
Be a place of perpetual undulation.
Whether it be in mid-sea
On the dark, green water-wheel,
Or on the beaches,
There must be no cessation
Of motion, or of the noise of motion,
The renewal of noise
And manifold continuation;
And, most, of the motion of thought
And its restless iteration,
In the places of solitaires,
Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.

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#Rabindranath Tagore

WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

JOURNEY HOME
The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.
I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.
The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!’
The question and the cry `Oh, where?’ melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!’

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#David Whyte

For too many days now I have not written of the sea
Nor the rivers, nor the shifting currents we find
between the islands.
For too many nights now I have not imagined
the salmon
Threading the dark streams of reflected stars,
Nor have I dreamt of his longing
Nor the lithe swing of his tail toward dawn.
I have not given myself the depth to which he goes,
To the cargoes of the crystal water, cold with salt,
Nor the enormous plains of ocean swaying beneath
the moon.
I have not felt the lifted arms of the ocean
Opening its white hands onto earth,
Nor the tumult of sound and the satisfaction
Of a thousand miles of ocean
Giving up its strength on the sand.
But now I have spoken of that great sea,
The ocean of longing shifts through me,
the blessed inner star of navigation
Moves in the dark sky above
And I am ready like the young salmon
To leave this river, blessed with hunger
For a great journey on the drawing tide.

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