I have had a lifelong love affair with poetry.
From Frost to Dickinson, from Angelou to Millay, I drank in the words like a magic potion. I savored their taste on my tongue and felt them make their way to my bloodstream, slowly reaching my heart. Lately, I have stumbled across poems so magnificent that I could feel my heart crack wide open.
They made me ache and want to weep in sadness or joy. The beauty swept me up, and I felt myself transported by their words. And that is the human experience—that we can share what we love and who we are, and someone else will say, “That’s it exactly!”
It resonates, and we feel seen and understood in a way that we can’t always explain—but always feel.
I offer these five poems, so astoundingly lovely to me, that I could not help but share them with you. I offer one for your journey of self-discovery, another on gratitude and feelings bigger than ourselves, a poem on heartache and moving on, a spoken word poem of heartbreak and rape culture, and a spectacular prayer for peace.
The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice…
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world…
First Date by Sabrina Benaim
… I mean when you leave the balloons that you carry in your laughter behind on my ceiling, well, I like them better than flowers. My body is a garden rooted in gratitude. “Thank you” is the biggest poem I’ve got inside of me.
Me? I am a campfire cold hearts like to sit around and roast their marshmallows in, but when I say campfire, I mean tiny furnace, little light lady, I mean I am not the path of least resistance…Love made me feel like I knew the answer, but when I raised my hand, I was the only one in the room…
Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell by Marty McConnell
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl…
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. …
you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas…
Alternate Universe in Which I am Unfazed by the Men Who Do Not Love Me by Olivia Gatwood
…I do not slice the tires, I do not burn the photos, I do not write the letter, I do not beg. I do not ask for forgiveness. I do not hold my breath while he finishes. The man tells me he does not love me, and he does not love me. The man tells me who he is, and I listen. I have so much beautiful time.
Pray for Peace by Ellen Bass
…Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.
Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.
…Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Gloria Martin/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen