Poetry to Inspire and Restore Hope

My sister loves to send me poems, some written by herself, some written by other brilliant poets. Here are a few that stir my soul, inspiring me to be grateful for Earth’s smallest blessings (like the plush purple bells of grape hyacinths, or the sweeping sweetness of golden trumpet vine), to strive to love all beings more deeply (the capering butterflies and men under bridges with rattling cups alike), and to look upon the sunrise of each new day with hope for a more just and peaceful world:

Famous

By Naomi Shihab Nye

 

The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Throughout my day at the Furniture Bank, I mostly answer phones, file paperwork, and guide clients through the warehouse as they select furniture. I’m useful, but not indispensable. This poem reminds me that I do not have to occupy center stage to make a difference.

A couple of weeks ago at the Furniture Bank there was a woman who was so thrilled about her furniture, she told me and the front office manager she was going to buy us chocolate from the nearest Publix. We told her we did not need her to repay us with gifts but she insisted.

“Not many people are willing to help me and my kids out,” she said. “I’m so thankful for people like you.” Then she asked to take a picture with the front office manager and me so she would not forget us. Not everyone who comes through the Furniture Bank door is grateful (it is, after all, used furniture), nor is everyone kind (sleeping on a hardwood floor is not conducive to pleasant dispositions). Though she was asking to take a picture with us as though we were the celebrities, with her infectious exuberance, in that moment the client was to me “famous as the one who smiled back.”

The Place Where We Are Right

By Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

My mother sent me this poem. I find it teaches an invaluable lesson about the tender strength and endurance of kindness, a lesson that has helped me a great deal when it comes to living in intentional community. I’ve realized winning an argument will most likely always be a hollow and fleeting victory, because it’s difficult to do without making someone else feel embarrassed or inferior for being wrong about something. Further, there is no gain in proving someone else wrong aside from a fast-fading spark of pride, and if there is little gain, there is little point. According to Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Praise Song for the Day

By Elizabeth Alexander 

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.
I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
Since this poem was written, there has been both progress and upheaval in U.S. politics. We still have a long and arduous  journey ahead, but this poem fills me with hope that a brighter dawn is cresting beyond the darkness.
Advertisements

One comment

  1. David Garth · March 20

    “From the place where we are right
    flowers will never grow” These words are worth remembering every day in these times.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s