Below are some poems that have been like friends to me during some tough and confusing times in my life.

I hope they will be a blessing to you if you need them now.


The Real Work

by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.


From Rilke’s Book of Hours

by Rainer Maria Rilke

You are not surprised at the force of the storm —

you have seen it growing.

The trees flee. Their flight

sets the boulevards streaming.  And you know:

he whom they flee is the one

you move toward. All your senses

sing him, as you stand at the window.

 

The weeks stood still in summer.

The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel

it wants to sink back

into the source of everything. You thought

you could trust that power

when you plucked the fruit;

now it becomes a riddle again,

and you again a stranger. 

 

Summer was like your house: you knew

where each thing stood.

Now you must go out into your heart

as onto a vast plain. Now

the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind

sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves. 

 

Through the empty branches the sky remains.

It is what you have.

Be earth now, and evensong.

Be the ground lying under the sky.

Be modest now, like a thing

ripened until it is real,

so that he who began it all

can feel you when he reaches for you. 


The Art of Disappearing 

by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like 
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time. 


Sweet Darkness

by David Whyte



When your eyes are tired 
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone, 
no part of the world can find you.

It's time to go into the dark 
where the night has eyes 
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure 
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home 
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon 
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing. 
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds 
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness 
and the sweet 
confinement of your aloneness 
to learn

anything or anyone 
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.


From Rilke’s Book of Hours

by Rainer Maria Rilke


“How surely gravity's law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing---
each stone, blossom, child---
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth's intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God's heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”


From FOUR QUARTETS (East Coker)

by T.S. Eliot  

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth. 

You say I am repeating 
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not, 
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy. 
In order to arrive at what you do not know 
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. 
In order to possess what you do not possess 
You must go by the way of dispossession. 
In order to arrive at what you are not 
You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.


The Man Watching
By Rainer Maria Rilke

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after 
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes 
that a storm is coming, 
and I hear the far-off fields say things 
I can't bear without a friend, 
I can't love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on  
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age: 
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,  
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!  
What fights with us is so great.  
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,  
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it's with small things,  
and the triumph itself makes us small.  
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.  
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: 
when the wrestlers' sinews  
grew long like metal strings,  
he felt them under his fingers  
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel  
(who often simply declined the fight)  
went away proud and strengthened 
and great from that harsh hand,  
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.  
Winning does not tempt that man.  
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,  
by constantly greater beings.

                --Translated by Robert Bly


Oceans

by Juan Ramon Jimenez

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
                    And nothing
happens! Nothing...Silence...Waves...

    --Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life? 


The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began, 

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble 

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voice 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,

determined to do

the only thing you could do --

determined to save

the only life that you could save.