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For Sorrow


After the Fire

You ever think you could cry so hard

that there’d be nothing left in you, like

how the wind shakes a tree in a storm

until every part of it is run through with

wind? I live in the low parts now, most

days a little hazy with fever and waiting

for the water to stop shivering out of the

body. Funny thing about grief, its hold

is so bright and determined like a flame,

like something almost worth living for.


-Ada Limón





Give Me This

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back

to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low

in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house

but what came was much stranger, a liquidity

moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog

slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still

green in the morning’s shade. I watched her

munch and stand on her haunches taking such

pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed

delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts

on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,

as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled

spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,

I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes

me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine

when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,

and she is doing what she can to survive.


-Ada Limón, from Poem-a-Day





She who reconciles the ill-matched threads of her life, and weaves them gratefully into a single cloth— it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall and clears it for a different celebration, where the one guest is you. In the softness of evening it’s you she receives. You are the partner of her loneliness, the unspeaking center of her monologues. With each disclosure you encompass more and she stretches beyond what limits her, to hold you.


-Rainer Maria Rilke, from Book of Hours: Love Poems to God





The Uses of Sorrow


(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)


Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.


It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.


-Mary Oliver





Wild Geese

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.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.


-Mary Oliver





Kindness


Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.


-Naomi Shihab Nye, from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems











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