In honor of National Poetry Month, some favorites:
… I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what it is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
– The Summer Day, Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
– Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
The past and present wilt – I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceeded to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Song of Myself, Walt Whitman
And, from Leaves of Grass:
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others … argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to
Thanks God I said
and is it even okay if I don’t paragraph my letters
Sweetcakes God said
what I’m telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
– God Says Yes To Me, Kaylin Haught
my wary one, it’s far too late
to unlove each other. Instead let’s cook
something elaborate and not
invite anyone to share it but eat it
all up very very slowly.
– Misgivings, William Matthews
No one loves a war,
but I know a man
who loves tanks so much he wishes he had one
to pick up the groceries, drive his wife to work,
drop his daughter off at school with her Little Mermaid
lunch box, a note hidden inside
next to the apple, folded
with a love that can be translated into any language: I hope
you do not suffer.
– Love, Matthew Dickman