Poems by Theme


Gibran, Khalil

Song of Fortune

Man and I are sweethearts
He craves me and I long for him,
But alas! Between us has appeared
A rival who brings us misery.
She is cruel and demanding,
Possessing empty lure.
Her name is Substance.
She follows wherever we go
And watches like a sentinel, bringing
Restlessness to my lover.

I ask for my beloved in the forest,
Under the trees, by the lakes.
I cannot find him, for Substance
Has spirited him to the clamorous
City and placed him on the throne
Of quaking, metal riches.

I call for him with the voice of
Knowledge and the song of Wisdom.
He does not hearken, for Substance
Has enticed him into the dungeon
Of selfishness, where avarice dwells.

I seek him in the field of Contentment,
But I am alone, for my rival has
Imprisoned him in the cave of gluttony
And greed, and locked him there
With painful chains of gold.

I call to him at dawn, when Nature smiles,
But he does not hear, for excess has
Laden his drugged eyes with sick slumber.

I beguile him at eventide, when Silence rules
And the flowers sleep. But he responds not,
For his fear over what the morrow will Bring,
shadows his thoughts.

He yearns to love me;
He asks for me in this own acts. But he
Will find me not except in God's acts.
He seeks me in the edifices of his glory
Which he has built upon the bones of others;
He whispers to me from among
His heaps of gold and silver;
But he will find me only by coming to
The house of Simplicity which God has built
At the brink of the stream of affection.

He desires to kiss me before his coffers,
But his lips will never touch mine except
In the richness of the pure breeze.

He asks me to share with him his
Fabulous wealth, but I will not forsake God's
Fortune; I will not cast off my cloak of beauty.

He seeks deceit for medium; I seek only
The medium of his heart.
He bruises his heart in his narrow cell;
I would enrich his heart with all my love.

My beloved has learned how to shriek and
Cry for my enemy, Substance; I would
Teach him how to shed tears of affection
And mercy from the eyes of his soul
For all things,
And utter sighs of contentment through
Those tears.

Man is my sweetheart;
I want to belong to him



To laugh is to risk appearing a fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To expose your feelings is to risk
exposing your true self
To place your ideal, your dreams before a crowd
is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return

To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure

Yet risks must be taken
Because the greatest hazard in life is risking

The person who risks nothing
Does nothing
Has nothing
Is nothing

Self-realisation is harder than
Self Sacrifice

Chinmoy, Sri

A Philosopher Poet

By blaming the world for my failure-life
What do I gain?
I am a fool! I just strengthen
My bondage-chain.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

What Is Life?

Resembles Life what once was held of Light,
Too ample in itself for human sight ?

An absolute Self--an element ungrounded--
All, that we see, all colours of all shade

By encroach of darkness made ?--

Is very life by consciousness unbounded ?
And all the thoughts, pains, joys of mortal breath,
A war-embrace of wrestling Life and Death ?

Fane, Violet

Let me arise

Let me arise and open the gate,
to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,
To let in Life, and to let out Death.

Keats, John

To Hope

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
When no fair dreams before my mind’s eye flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Angelou, Maya


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Barrett Browning, Elizabeth

My Heart and I

Enough! we're tired, my heart and I.
We sit beside the headstone thus,
And wish that name were carved for us.
The moss reprints more tenderly
The hard types of the mason's knife,
As Heaven's sweet life renews earth's life
With which we're tired, my heart and I.

You see we're tired, my heart and I.
We dealt with books, we trusted men,
And in our own blood drenched the pen,
As if such colors could not fly.
We walked too straight for fortune's end,
We loved too true to keep a friend;
At last we're tired, my heart and I.

How tired we feel, my heart and I
We seem of no use in the world;
Our fancies hang gray and uncurled
About men's eyes indifferently;
Our voice which thrilled you so, will let
You sleep; our tears are only wet:
What do we here, my heart and I?

So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
It was not thus in that old time
When Ralph sat with me 'neath the lime
To watch the sunset from the sky.
"Dear love, you're looking tired," he said:
I, smiling at him, shook my head.
'Tis now we're tired, my heart and I.

So tired, so tired, my heart and I!
Though now none takes me on his arm
To fold me close and kiss me warm
Till each quick breath end in a sigh
Of happy languor. Now, alone,
We lean upon this graveyard stone,
Uncheered, unkissed, my heart and I.

Tired out we are, my heart and I.
Suppose the world brought diadems
To tempt us, crusted with loose gems
Of powers and pleasures? Let it try.
We scarcely care to look at even
A pretty child, or God's blue heaven,
We feel so tired, my heart and I.

Yet who complains? My heart and I?
In this abundant earth no doubt
Is little room for things worn out:
Disdain them, break them, throw them by!
And if before the days grew rough
We once were loved, used, - well enough,
I think, we've fared, my heart and I.

Custance, Olive

The Parting Hour

Not yet, dear love, not yet: the sun is high;
You said last night, "At sunset I will go."
Come to the garden, where when blossoms die
No word is spoken; it is better so:
Ah! bitter word "Farewell."

Hark! how the birds sing sunny songs of spring!
Soon they will build, and work will silence them;
So we grow less light-hearted as years bring
Life's grave responsibilities - and then
The bitter word "Farewell."

The violets fret to fragrance 'neath your feet,
Heaven's gold sunlight dreams aslant your hair:
No flower for me! your mouth is far more sweet.
O, let my lips forget, while lingering there,
Love's bitter word "Farewell."

Sunset already! have we sat so long?
The parting hour, and so much left unsaid!
The garden has grown silent - void of song,
Our sorrow shakes us with a sudden dread!
Ah! bitter word "Farewell."

Stearns Davis, Fannie

The Narrow Doors

The Wide Door into Sorrow
Stands open night and day.
With head held high and dancing feet
I pass it on my way.

I never tread within it,
I never turn to see
The Wide Door into Sorrow.
It cannot frighten me.

The Narrow Doors to Sorrow
Are secret, still, and low:
Swift tongues of dusk that spoil the sun
Before I even know.

My dancing feet are frozen.
I stare. I can but see.
The Narrow Doors to Sorrow
They stop the heart in me.

Oh, stranger than my midnights
Of loneliness and strife
The Doors that let the dark leap in
Across my sunny life!

Lippman, Julie Mathilde

Love and Life

"Give me a fillet, Love," quoth I,
"To bind my Sweeting's heart to me,
So ne'er a chance of earth or sky
Shall part us ruthlessly:
A fillet, Love, but not to chafe
My Sweeting's soul, to cause her pain;
But just to bind her close and safe
Through snow and blossom and sun and rain:
A fillet, boy!"
Love said, "Here's joy."

"Give me a fetter, Life," quoth I,
"To bind to mine my Sweeting's heart,
So Death himself must fail to pry
With Time the two apart:
A fetter, Life, that each shall wear,
Whose precious bondage each shall know.
I prithee, Life, no more forbear -
Why dost thou wait and falter so?
Haste, Life - be brief!"
Said Life: - "Here's grief."

Rossetti, Christina Georgina


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Marr Spalding, Susan


Two shall be born, the whole wide world apart,
And speak in different tongues and have no thought
Each of the other's being, and no heed.
And these, o'er unknown seas, to unknown lands
Shall cross, escaping wreck, defying death;
And all unconsciously shape every act
And bend each wandering step to this one end
That, one day, out of darkness they shall meet
And read life's meaning in each other's eyes.

And two shall walk some narrow way of life
So nearly side by side that, should one turn
Ever so little space to left or right,
They needs must stand acknowledged, face to face.
And, yet, with wistful eyes that never meet
And groping hands that never clasp and lips
Calling in vain to ears that never hear,
They seek each other all their weary days
And die unsatisfied - and this is Fate!

Talbot, Ethel

Give Love To-day

When the lean, gray grasses
Cover me, bury me deep,
No sea wind that passes
Shall break my sleep.

When you come, my lover,
Sorrowful-eyed to me,
Earth mine eyes will cover;
I shall not see.

Though with sad words splendid,
Praising, you call me dear,
It will be all ended;
I shall not hear.

You may live love's riot
Laughingly over my head,
But I shall lie quiet
With the gray dead.

Love, you will not wake me
With all your singing carouse.
Nor your dancing shake me
In my dark house.

Though you should go weeping,
Sorrowful for my sake,
Fain to break my sleeping,
I could not wake.

Now, ere time destroy us
Shadows beneath and above;
Death has no song joyous,
Nor dead men love

Now, while deep-eyed, golden,
Love on the mountain sings,
Let him be close holden;
Fetter his wings.

Love, nor joy nor sorrow
Troubles the end of day.
Leave the Fates to-morrow;
Give Love to-day.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

The Creed to Be

Our thoughts are molding unmade spheres,
And, like a blessing or a curse,
They thunder down the formless years,
And ring throughout the universe.

We build our futures, by the shape
Of our desires, and not by acts.
There is no pathway of escape;
No priest-made creeds can alter facts.

Salvation is not begged or bought;
Too long this selfish hope sufficed;
Too long man reeked with lawless thought,
And leaned upon a tortured Christ.

Like shriveled leaves, these worn out creeds
Are dropping from Religion's tree;
The world begins to know its needs,
And souls are crying to be free.

Free from the load of fear and grief,
Man fashioned in an ignorant age;
Free from the ache of unbelief
He fled to in rebellious rage.

No church can bind him to the things
That fed the first crude souls, evolved;
For, mounting up on daring wings,
He questions mysteries all unsolved.

Above the chant of priests, above
The blatant voice of braying doubt,
He hears the still, small voice of Love,
Which sends its simple message out.

And clearer, sweeter, day by day,
Its mandate echoes from the skies,
"Go roll the stone of self away,
And let the Christ within thee rise.'

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

Does It Pay

If one poor burdened toiler o'er life's road,
Who meets us by the way,
Goes on less conscious of his galling load,
Then life indeed, does pay.

If we can show one troubled heart the gain,
That lies alway in loss,
Why, then, we too, are paid for all the pain
Of bearing life's hard cross.

If some despondent soul to hope is stirred,
Some sad lip made to smile,
By any act of ours, or any word,
Then, life has been worth while.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

Wishing -- or Fate and I

Wise men tell me thou, O Fate,
Art invincible and great.

Well, I own thy prowess; still
Dare I flount thee, with my will.

Thou canst shatter in a span
All the earthly pride of man.

Outward things thou canst control
But stand back - I rule my soul!

Death? 'Tis such a little thing
Scarcely worth the mentioning.

What has death to do with me,
Save to set my spirit free?

Something in me dwells, O Fate,
That can rise and dominate.

Loss, and sorrow, and disaster,
How, then, Fate, art thou my master?

In the great primeval morn
My immortal will was born.

Part of the stupendous Cause
Which conceived the Solar Laws.

Lit the suns and filled the seas,
Royalest of pedigrees.

That great Cause was Love, the Source,
Who most loves has most of Force.

He who harbors hate one hour
Saps the soul of Peace and Power.

He who will not hate his foe
Need not dread life's hardest blow.

In the realm of brotherhood
Wishing no man aught but good.

Naught but good can come to me.
This is love's supreme decree.

Since I bar my door to hate,
What have I to fear, O Fate?

Since I fear not - Fate, I vow,
I the ruler am, not thou!

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

Here and Now

Here, in the heart of the world,
Here, in the noise and the din,
Here, where our spirits were hurled
To battle with sorrow and sin,
This is the place and the spot
For knowledge of infinite things;
This is the kingdom where Thought
Can conquer the prowess of kings.

Wait for no heavenly life,
Seek for no temple alone;
Here, in the midst of the strife,
Know what the sages have known.
See what the Perfect Ones saw
God in the depth of each soul,
God as the light and the law,
God as beginning and goal.

Earth is one chamber of Heaven,
Death is no grander than birth.
Joy in the life that was given,
Strive for perfection on earth.

Here, in the turmoil and roar,
Show what it is to be calm;
Show how the spirit can soar
And bring back its healing and balm.

Stand not aloof nor apart,
Plunge in the thick of the fight
. There in the street and the mart,
That is the place to do right.
Not in some cloister or cave,
Not in some kingdom above,
Here, on this side of the grave,
Here, should we labor and love.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

High Noon

Time's finger on the dial of my life
Points to high noon! and yet the half-spent day
Leaves less than half remaining, for the dark,
Bleak shadows of the grave engulf the end.
To those who burn the candle to the stick,
The sputtering socket yields but little light.
Long life is sadder than an early death.
We cannot count on raveled threads of age
Whereof to weave a fabric. We must use
The warp and woof the ready present yields
And toil while daylight lasts. When I bethink
How brief the past, the future still more brief,
Calls on to action, action! Not for me
Is time for retrospection or for dreams,
Not time for self-laudation or remorse.
Have I done nobly? Then I must not let
Dead yesterday unborn to-morrow shame.
Have I done wrong? Well, let the bitter taste
Of fruit that turned to ashes on my lip
Be my reminder in temptation's hour,
And keep me silent when I would condemn.
Sometimes it takes the acid of a sin
To cleanse the clouded windows of our souls
So pity may shine through them.

Looking back,
My faults and errors seem like stepping-stones
That led the way to knowledge of the truth
And made me value virtue; sorrows shine
In rainbow colors o'er the gulf of years,
Where lie forgotten pleasures.

Looking forth,
Out to the westers sky still bright with noon,
I feel well spurred and booted for the strife
That ends not till Nirvana is attained.
Battling with fate, with men and with myself,
Up the steep summit of my life's forenoon,
Three things I learned, three things of precious worth
To guide and help me down the western slope.
I have learned how to pray, and toil, and save.
To pray for courage to receive what comes,
Knowing what comes to be divinely sent.
To toil for universal good, since thus
And only thus can good come unto me.
To save, by giving whatsoe'er I have
To those who have not, this alone is gain.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

I Am

I know not whence I came,
I know not whither I go
But the fact stands clear that I am here
In this world of pleasure and woe.
And out of the mist and murk,
Another truth shines plain.
It is in my power each day and hour
To add to its joy or its pain.

I know that the earth exists,
It is none of my business why.
I cannot find out what it's all about,
I would but waste time to try.
My life is a brief, brief thing,
I am here for a little space.
And while I stay I would like, if I may,
To brighten and better the place.

The trouble, I think, with us all
Is the lack of a high conceit.
If each man thought he was sent to this spot
To make it a bit more sweet,
How soon we could gladden the world,
How easily right all wrong.
If nobody shirked, and each one worked
To help his fellows along.

Cease wondering why you came
Stop looking for faults and flaws.
Rise up to day in your pride and say,
"I am part of the First Great Cause!
However full the world
There is room for an earnest man.
It had need of me or I would not be,
I am here to strengthen the plan."

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

Life's Harmonies

Let no man pray that he know not sorrow,
Let no soul ask to be free from pain,
For the gall of to-day is the sweet of to-morrow,
And the moment's loss is the lifetime's gain.

Through want of a thing does its worth redouble,
Through hunger's pangs does the feast content,
And only the heart that has harbored trouble,
Can fully rejoice when joy is sent.

Let no man shrink from the bitter tonics
Of grief, and yearning, and need, and strife,
For the rarest chords in the soul's harmonies,
Are found in the minor strains of life.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

The Meeting of Centuries

A curious vision, on mine eyes unfurled
In the deep night. I saw, or seemed to see,
Two Centuries meet, and sit down vis-a-vis,
Across the great round table of the world.
One with suggested sorrows in his mien
And on his brow the furrowed lines of thought.
And one whose glad expectant presence brought
A glow and radiance from the realms unseen.

Hand clasped with hand, in silence for a space,
The Centuries sat; the sad old eyes of one
(As grave paternal eyes regard a son)
Gazing upon that other eager face.
And then a voice, as cadenceless and gray
As the sea's monody in winter time,
Mingled with tones melodious, as the chime
Of bird choirs, singing in the dawns of May.


By you, Hope stands. With me, Experience walks.
Like a fair jewel in a faded box,
In my tear-rusted heart, sweet pity lies.
For all the dreams that look forth from your eyes,
And those bright-hued ambitions, which I know
Must fall like leaves and perish in Time's snow,
(Even as my soul's garden stands bereft,)
I give you pity! 'tis the one gift left.


Nay, nay, good friend! not pity, but Godspeed,
Here in the morning of my life I need.
Counsel, and not condolence; smiles, not tears,
To guide me through the channels of the years.
Oh, I am blinded by the blaze of light
That shines upon me from the Infinite.
Blurred is my vision by the close approach
To unseen shores, whereon the times encroach.


Illusion, all illusion. List and hear
The Godless cannons, booming far and near.
Flaunting the flag of Unbelief, with Greed
For pilot, lo! the pirate age in speed
Bears on to ruin. War's most hideous crimes

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

The Question

Beside us in our seeking after pleasures,
Through all our restless striving after fame,
Through all our search for worldly gains and treasures,
There walketh one whom no man likes to name.
Silent he follows, veiled of form and feature,
Indifferent if we sorrow or rejoice,
Yet that day comes when every living creature
Must look upon his face and hear his voice.

When that day comes to you, and Death, unmasking,
Shall bar your path, and say, "Behold the end,"
What are the questions that he will be asking
About your past? Have you considered, friend?
I think he will not chide you for your sinning,
Nor for your creeds or dogmas will he care;
He will but ask, "From your life's first beginning
How many burdens have you helped to bear?"

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella


Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it's mirth,
But has trouble enough of it's own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Hughes, Langston


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.

Plath, Sylvia

I Am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
The trees may touch me for once, and the flowers have time for me.

Whitman, Walt

O Me O Life

O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew'd,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here--that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Service, Robert


No matter how he toil and strive
The fate of every man alive
With luck will be to lie alone,
His empty name cut in a stone.

Grim time the fairest fame will flout,
But though his name be blotted out,
And he forgotten with his peers,
His stone may wear a year of years.

No matter how we sow and reap
The end of all is endless sleep;
From strife a merciful release,
From life the crowning prize of Peace.

Blake, William

A Divine Image

Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And Secrecy the human dress.

The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace sealed,
The human heart its hungry gorge.

Service, Robert


A beggar in the street I saw,
Who held a hand like withered claw,
As cold as clay;
But as I had no silver groat
To give, I buttoned up my coat
And turned away.

And then I watched a working wife
Who bore the bitter load of life
With lagging limb;
A penny from her purse she took,
And with sweet pity in her look
Gave it to him.

Anon I spied a shabby dame
Who fed six sparrows as they came
In famished flight;
She was so poor and frail and old,
Yet crumbs of her last crust she doled
With pure delight.

Then sudden in my heart was born
For my sleek self a savage scorn,
Urge to atone;
So when a starving cur I saw
I bandaged up its bleeding paw
And bought a bone.

For God knows it is good to give;
We may not have so long to live,
So if we can,
Let's do each day a kindly deed,
And stretch a hand to those in need,
Bird, beast or man.

David Ignatow

My skeleton, my rival

Interesting that I have to live with my skeleton.
It stands, prepared to emerge, and I carry it
with me—this other thing I will become at death,
and yet it keeps me erect and limber in my walk,
my rival.

What will the living see of me
if they should open my grave but my bones
that will stare at them through hollow sockets
and bared teeth.

I write this to warn my friends
not to be shocked at my changed attitude
toward them, but to be aware
that I have it in me to be someone
other than I am, and I write to ask forgiveness
that death is not wholesome for friendships,
that bones do not talk, have no quarrel with me,
do not even know I exist.

A machine called skeleton will take my place
in the minds of others when I am dead
among the living, and that machine
will make it obvious that I have died
to be identified by bones
that have no speech, no thought, no mind
to speak of having let themselves be carried
once around in me, as at my service
at the podium or as I lay beside my love
or when I held my child at birth
or embraced a friend or shook a critic's hand
or held a pen to sign a check or book
or wrote a farewell letter to a love
or held my penis at the bowl
or lay my hand upon my face at the mirror
and approved of it.

There is Ignatow, it will be said,
looking down inside the open grave.
I'll be somewhere in my poems, I think,
to be mistaken for my bones, but There's Ignatow
will be said. I say to those who persist,
just read what I have written.
I'll be there, held together by another kind
of structure, of thought and imagery,
mind and matter, love and longing, tensions
opposite, such as the skeleton requires
to stand upright, to move with speed,
to sit with confidence, my friend the skeleton
and I its friend, shielding it from harm.

Berry, Wendell

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Smith, Stevie

The Reason

My life is vile
I hate it so
I’ll wait awhile
And then I’ll go.

Why wait at all?
Hope springs alive,
Good may befall
I yet may thrive.

It is because I can’t make up my mind
If God is good, impotent or unkind.

Leming, Lisa G

Sing A Song

When life backs you against the wall
And this happens to us all
Or when the road has been too long
Stop long enough to write a song
Write a song, sing a song
Keep it humming all day long
No matter what the day is bringing
Let the morning find you singing
And if you can't write one yourself
The borrow one from someone else
All you have to do is listen
Words and music then some rhythm
And when you have done that awhile
Then it's time to get some style
Take a lesson, may be two
The find the song that's right for you

Symons, Arthur

The Last Memory

When I am old, and think of the old days,
And warm my hands before a little blaze,
Having forgotten love, hope, fear, desire,
I shall see, smiling out of the pale fire,
One face, mysterious and exquisite;
And I shall gaze, and ponder over it,
Wondering, was it Leonardo wrought
That stealthy ardency, where passionate thought
Burns inward, a revealing flame, and glows
To the last ecstasy, which is repose?
Was it Bronzino, whose Borghese eyes?
And, musing thus among my memories,
O unforgotten! you will come to seem,
As pictures do, remembered, some old dream.
And I shall think of you as something strange,
And beautiful, and full of helpless change,
Which I beheld and carried in my heart;
But you, I loved, will have become a part
Of the eternal mystery, and love
Like a dim pain; and I shall bend above
My little fire, and shiver, being cold,
When you are no more young, and I am old.

Wheeler Wilcox, Ella

Past, The

I fling the past behind me, like a robe
Worn threadbare at the seams, and out of date.
I have outgrown it. Wherefore should I weep
And dwell upon its beauty, and its dyes
Of oriental splendor, or complain
That I must needs discard it? I can weave
Upon the shuttles of the future years
A fabric far more durable. Subdued,
It may be, in the blending of its hues,
Where somber shades commingle, yet the gleam
Of golden warp shall shoot it through and through,
While over all a fadeless luster lies,
And starred with gems made out of crystalled tears,
My new robe shall be richer than the old.

Oldfield, Brenda M


Death, O come, hear my pulse, fears
Laid waste to thy ears, to beget strife,
To steal, to descend, with thy beastly
Claws, of iron despair! To burst life,
Like a bubble, thrust into thin air!

Death, O life’s full! Not an empty bubble
Thy thieving void, that’s the big trouble!

So do not haunt me, O mean death,
In thy wrath, in thy smug, wintry eyes,
Spitting cold images, into mine own
To freeze, to burn inside, with toxic cries!

Death, O erode me no more, I drown,
In thy torrential rivers, of pain and grief
O part me not from loved ones, O never,
It floods me in terror, there’s no relief!

Death, O life’s full! Not an empty bubble!
Thy thieving void, that’s the big trouble!

Death, O do not oppress me, I suffocate,
Under thy wheels of steel, heaving sadness,
Grinding my being, my tears, my passions
To hail, to meet, to be dreaded emptiness!

Aye, I must submit to thee, O death,
To thy cruelty, to thy surreal silhouette
Ah! But all sorrows and, all fears depart,
Exhaled in my very last, gentle breath!

Death, O life’s full! Not an empty bubble!
Thy thieving void, that’s the big trouble!

Death, O recoil then, thy ashen curtains,
Spurning no more, this voice so grim
But cheers heard, of thy sister, Rebirth
She nurtures life, like a happy poem!

O death, dance to belonging, not longing,
Not bellowing, for unreal below or, above,
But leaping on earth, with a child’s heart,
Feeling warm memories, of selfless love!

Death, O you’re not this big trouble,
But a love of life, in a sturdy bubble,
Girded by life, brimming with love!

Oldfield, Brenda M

A Matter of Man's Soul

Man maybe made, just of matter
Or a soul wrapped, in calculation
Or perhaps, it's just the latter

But not withstanding either
It comes not as a breather
To discern man as a whole

Sensed by his senses
A matter that moves his soul
Within the mind's abysses

It doesn't matter his soul is lost
He must find it, at all cost
Ordered by time, or some rhyme
That his soul be in order

And moved along in Space
By a wretched motion
To the blundering fury of time
In some geometric, spatial theatre

Echoing, a cruel display
For man's matter and soul
So nothing matters, but the soul of man
For man is nothing, but the soul of matter