Sometimes when all the world seems gray and dun
And nothing beautiful, a voice will cry,
“Look out, look out! Angels are drawing nigh!”
Then my slow burdens leave me, one by one,
And swiftly does my heart arise and run
Even like a child, while loveliness goes by—
And common folk seem children of the sky,
And common things seem shapèd of the sun.
Oh, pitiful! that I who love them, must
So soon perceive their shining garments fade!
And slowly, slowly, from my eyes of trust
Their flaming banners sink into a shade!
While this earth’s sunshine seems the golden dust
Slow settling from that radiant cavalcade.
— Anna Hempstead Branch
After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.
It is difficult even to choose the adjective
For this blank cold, this sadness without cause.
The great structure has become a minor house.
No turban walks across the lessened floors.
The greenhouse never so badly needed paint.
The chimney is fifty years old and slants to one side.
A fantastic effort has failed, a repetition
In a repetitiousness of men and flies.
Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined. The great pond,
The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,
Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence
Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,
The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this
Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,
Required, as a necessity requires.
— Wallace Stevens
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
Is the woman in the pool of light
really reading or just staring
at what is written
Is the man walking in the soft rain
naked or is it the rain
that makes his shirt transparent
The boy in the iron cot
is he asleep or still
fingering the springs underneath
Did you honestly believe
three lives could be complete
The bottle of green liquid
on the sill is it real
The bottle on the peeling sill
is it filled with green
Or is the liquid an illusion
How summer’s children turn
into fish and rain softens men
How the elements of summer
nights bid us to get down with each other
on the unplaned floor
And this feels painfully beautiful
whether or not
it will change the world one drop
— C. D. Wright
wider than one
natives in their
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
from the genuine
— Kay Ryan
The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us—
behind the stalls
at the farmer’s market
snow glinting in heaps,
a cardinal its chest
puffed out, bloodshod
above the piles of awnings,
you picking up a sweet potato
turning to me ‘This too?’—
query of tenderness
under the blown red wing.
Remember the brazen world?
Let’s find a room
with a window onto elms
strung with sunlight,
a cafe with polished cups,
darling coffee they call it,
may our bed be stoked
with fresh cut rosemary
and glinting thyme,
all herbs in due season
tucked under wild sheets:
fit for the conjugation of joy.
— Meena Alexander
Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
You live your life your way and leave me alone.
I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.
About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no
argument. They die, after all.
But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming
generosity, how can they write you out?
As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.
— Mary Oliver