Three Poems

Monday, April 27, 2015

I think, so often, poetry gets a bad rap. To the uninitiated it masquerades as complicated; both in form and content. When someone says to me, with a dose of resignation in their voice, I just don't understand poetry, I can't help wonder if they have resolved not to understand it.

Because, you see, the trick to understanding poetry is simply this: to live. As one of my friends recently put it, poetry is a condensed emotional experience. Appreciating it does not require an MFA. Nor does it ask you to imbue meaning from the meter. Poetry, as Billy Collins put it, is simply words playing together, having fun. Sentences skipping rocks and reminding you what it means to be human. Poems can make you laugh. Poems can handle heavy subjects with grace and truth. Poems do not need to rhyme; although they can. Poems often tell stories; although they don't have to. In truth, poems are for the prince and pauper alike.

In celebration of National Poetry Month I thought I'd share three accessible and new-to-me selections.

The Laughing Heart
Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission. be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

A Story About the Body
Robert Hass

The young composer, working that summer at an artist's colony, had watched her for a week. She was Japanese, a painter, almost sixty, and he thought he was in love with her. He loved her work, and her work was like the way she moved her body, used her hands, looked at him directly when she made amused and considered answers to his questions. One night, walking back from a concert, they came to her door and she turned to him and said, "I think you would like to have me. I would like that too, but I must tell you that I have had a double mastectomy," and when he didn't understand, "I've lost both my breasts." The radiance that he had carried around in his belly and chest cavity—like music—withered very quickly, and he made himself look at her when he said, "I'm sorry. I don't think I could." He walked back to his own cabin through the pines, and in the morning he found a small blue bowl on the porch outside his door. It looked to be full of rose petals, but he found when he picked it up that the rose petals were on top; the rest of the bowl—she must have swept them from the corners of her studio—was full of dead bees.

Love After Love
Derek Wolcott

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 your 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 own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Ps. Other thoughts about poetry. 


  1. That introduction is poetry itself! "Sentences skipping rocks..." perfect!
    Thanks for always sharing such amazing insights both here and in person!


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