To the Young Who Want to Die – Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was a rare kind of poet — able to speak volumes, artfully, in common language. If we need poetry at all — and I, for one, do — this is the kind we need. We need poetry that reaches out; poetry that makes of itself an offering; poetry that fosters connection. This poem does that better than most.


Sit down. Inhale. Exhale.
The gun will wait. The lake will wait.
The tall gall in the small seductive vial
will wait will wait:
will wait a week: will wait through April.
You do not have to die this certain day.
Death will abide, will pamper your postponement.
I assure you death will wait. Death has
a lot of time. Death can
attend to you tomorrow. Or next week. Death is
just down the street; is most obliging neighbor;
can meet you any moment.

You need not die today.
Stay here–through pout or pain or peskyness.
Stay here. See what the news is going to be tomorrow.

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.


 

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Romance #1

A Craig Patrick poem. #instapoem #instapoetry #poem #poetry #giantsofdiving

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Paper

paper cradles words
as its corners curve with age
set adrift on water; caught in currents of air
they swirl their way through
into the fine-grained pulp of us
and when we drift as dusty vapor
back into the earth together
we will grow as wood for making paper
never having lost each other

New App

Paul just shook his head
when I told him about
my plan for a new app
that uses inaudible low
frequency sound waves to
simulate human empathy.

Pop in your earbuds,
launch my new app on
your favorite device,
and let the feeling that
you’ve really been heard
just wash right over you.

But let us forget for now
about the healing power
of my incredible new app
and talk more about Paul
and his consistent failure
to champion my dreams.

originally published in Algebra of Owls

Gridlock

take any exit that leads
beyond the line of trees
that guards this highway
like occupation soldiers

past construction zones
and horn blast hysteria
speed trap surveillance
and brake light surprise

toward the low-lying sun
that marks the horizon
like a lidless eye
or better still – fly

for the sake of rising
above the power lines
and glide around awhile
until we’ve had our fill

of land and sea and sky
and find a place to land
in the paint-peeled rafters
of an ancient fading barn

or up on blocks, perhaps
in a dilapidated car
let’s sink down deep
into the sleek back seat

like a pair of nesting pigeons
considering the significance
of a universe that holds
the last two secret stars

originally published in Forth Magazine

 

Rilke

Reading the existentialists has drawn me deeper into Rilke’s poetry of late.  I haven’t yet connected with him as readily as I did Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, but I’m well on my way and dedicated to the pursuit.  Here is one poem that took hold of me immediately.


Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29

Why Poetry?

I’ve had some level of interest in poetry for as long as I can remember, but in recent years, it has occupied a position of much greater significance in my life. As with any topic of deep interest, poetry inspires questions, not the least of which is why. Why poetry? Why does it mean so much to me, especially when so many other people just can’t be bothered?

Poems have the power to draw us deeply into unfamiliar contexts. Take the following poem for example, in which the author, a child of biracial parents, imagines a lighter-skinned version of herself.

Blond
Natasha Trethewey

Certainly it was possible — somewhere
in my parents’ genes the recessive traits
that might have given me a different look:
not attached earlobes or my father’s green eyes,
but another hair color — gentleman-preferred,
have-more-fun blond. And with my skin color,
like a good tan — an even mix of my parents’ —
I could have passed for white.

When on Christmas day I woke to find
a blond wig, a pink sequined tutu,
and a blond ballerina doll, nearly tall as me,
I didn’t know to ask, nor that it mattered,
if there’d been a brown version. This was years before
my grandmother nestled the dark baby
into our creche, years before I’d understand it
as primer for a Mississippi childhood.

Instead, I pranced around our living room
in a whirl of possibility, my parents looking on
at their suddenly strange child. In the photograph
my mother took, my father — almost
out of the frame — looks on as Joseph must have
at the miraculous birth: I’m in the foreground —
my blond wig a shining halo, a newborn likeness
to the child that chance, the long odds,
might have brought.

Few scenarios could lie further from my own experience, but the poem allows me into its private world with such immediacy that I imagine myself in the speaker’s place. I ponder the same questions she does, and I begin to feel what she feels. The context is unique, but the emotions it inspires are universally human. In the space of one short poem, I’ve imagined life in someone else’s shoes – someone with a background far different from mine. Every new poem offers this possibility.

I would argue that there is nothing we need more as human beings than to connect regularly with this level of depth, particularly with people from unfamiliar backgrounds. Article after article will tell you that despite the best efforts of technology, we live in an age of ever-increasing social isolation. Developing a poetry habit can help to bridge this disconnect, and as with any learned behavior, lasting change requires repeated exposure. The ultimate promise of poetry, as Jane Hirshfield writes in her book Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, is that “by changing ourselves, one by one…,” we might also change “…the outer world that selves create and share.” It may be a cliche to suggest that poetry, or any art, has the power to change the world, but to my ear, it’s a cliche that rings true. Poems have tremendous potential to inspire both personal and social change.