- John Donne
My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity in case I’m mistaken.
Don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you for my own.
May the dead forgive me that their memory’s but a flicker.
My apologies to time for the quantity of world overlooked per second.
My apologies to an old love for treating a new one as the first.
Forgive me, far-off wars, for carrying my flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
My apologies for the minuet record, to those calling out from the abyss.
My apologies to those in train stations for sleeping soundly at five in the morning.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing sometimes.
Pardon me, deserts, for not rushing in with a spoonful of water.
And you, O hawk, the same bird for years in the same cage,
staring, motionless, always at the same spot,
absolve me even if you happen to be stuffed.
My apologies to the tree felled for four table legs.
My apologies to large questions for small answers.
Truth, do not pay me too much attention.
Solemnity, be magnanimous toward me.
Bear with me, O mystery of being, for pulling threads from your veil.
Soul, don’t blame me that I’ve got you so seldom.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere.
My apologies to all for not knowing how to be every man and woman.
I know that as long as I live nothing can excuse me,
since I am my own obstacle.
Do not hold it against me, O speech, that I borrow weighty words,
and then labor to make them light.
- Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Joanna Trzeciak
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.
I don’t write poetry when I wish, I write when I can’t, when my larynx is flooded and my throat is shut.
- A Notebook by Anna Kamienska
Because it is occasionally possible, just for brief moments, to find the words that will unlock the doors of all those many mansions inside the head and express something – perhaps not much, just something – of the crush of information that presses in on us from the way a crow flies over and the way a man walks and the look of a street and from what we did one day a dozen years ago. Words that will express something of the deep complexity that makes us precisely the way we are, from the momentary effect of the barometer to the force that created men distinct from trees. Something of the inaudible music that moves us along in our bodies from moment to moment like water in a river. Something of the spirit of the snowflake in the water of the river. Something of the duplicity and the relativity and the merely fleeting quality of all this. Something of the almighty importance of it and something of the utter meaninglessness. And when words can manage something of this, and manage it in a moment, of time, and in that same moment, make out of it all the vital signature of a human being – not of an atom, or of a geometrical diagram, or of a heap of lenses – but a human being, we call it poetry.
- Ted Hughes
Respect the mind that stirs in every creature:
love is a mystery known by metals too;
every flower opens its soul to Nature;
everything is sentient, and works on you.
Beware! From the blind wall one watches you:
even matter has a logos all its own …
do not put it to some impious use.
Often in humble life a god works, hidden;
and like a new-born eye veiled by its lids,
pure spirit grows beneath the surface of stones.
– Gerard de Nerval
So, there’s no way to be sure. Not
about much of anything. No more about
anyone else than ourselves. Perhaps
not even of death, except that it’s bound
to happen. To you, yes; to me, us: the lot
of humankind, given how humankind sees it
from this near side. So what.
So nothing that we here and now
can perfectly know. Save, though the lens
our eyes raise, the old here and now.
The this, the already-going that moves us.
The red-shift we’re constantly part of.
And why not? Between what we were, and
are going to be, is who and how we best love.
- Philip Booth, Selves
take care not
to hurt, you
When the words had all been used
for other things
we saw the first day begin
- W.S. Merwin, The First Year
In the slaughterhouse of love they kill only
the best, none of the weak or deformed.
Don’t run away from this dying.
Whoever’s not killed for love is dead meat.
That always you will be my dream of you;
That never shall I wake to find untrue
All this I have believed and rested on,
Forever vanished, like a vision gone
Out into the night. Alas, how few
There are who strike in us a chord we knew
Existed, but so seldom heard its tone
We tremble at the half-forgotten sound.
The world is full of rude awakenings
And heaven-born castles shattered to the ground,
Yet still our human longing vainly clings
To a belief in beauty through all wrongs.
O stay your hand, and leave my heart its songs!"
— Amy Lowell, “To a Friend” (via litverve)
Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is
So beautiful appeared my death – knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.[…]
Just for a day
She won’t think
And the fish will forget
Their way about water
The sun will be suspended
Burning helpless in the orbit
The umbilical chord will coil
Time’s own neck
Just for a day
will place her lamp
between the sun and the moon
And the seven sages in the sky
Will get worried
Letters will fly away
Falling off the scripts
Creatures will forget their faces
And no mirrors will be there
Just for a day
You will go
Into an ethereal mist
For a moment
And darkness will befall
The whole of universe
Lava will gather
In the guts of earth
snails will burn
inside their shells
In just a day’s
her body will turn blue
from its own bite
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.
— David Whyte