Poems for the End of 2018

As we close the year, here are some of the poems that I’ve enjoyed and shared in recent workshops. Maybe they will find their way to your holiday table or inspire reflection as we cross the threshold of 2019.

A Note

by Wislawa Szymborska

 

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble on a stone,
end up drenched in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Fruit

by Adam Zagajewski

How unattainable life is, it only reveals
its features in memory,
in nonexistence. How unattainable
afternoons, ripe, tumultuous, leaves
bursting with sap; swollen fruit, the rustling
silks of women who pass on the other
side of the street, and the shouts of the boys
leaving school. Unattainable. The simplest
apple inscrutable, round.
The crowns of trees shake in warm
currents of air. Unattainable distant mountains.
Intangible rainbows. Huge cliffs of clouds
flowing slowly through the sky. The sumptuous,
unattainable afternoon. My life,
swirling, unattainable, free.
[Excerpt]
by Paul Celan
translated by Pierre Joris

To stand, in the shadow
of the stigma in the air.

Standing-for-no-one-and-nothing.
Unrecognized,
for you
alone.

With all that has room in it,
even without
language.

from Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

The Orange

by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

 

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