Poetry Page

By cutting to the truth of our experience, poetry shakes us and awakens us. Through it we open our eyes to what Robert Frost called “the pleasure of taking pains.” And what is gratitude besides this playful engagement with life as it unfolds in all its challenges and delights?


Walk Right In
by Hazel Moss
How can you reframe your life when depression is in your genes?

Equinox
by Richard Wehrman
As summer ends, the "complete truth of being" has us loving the full circle of Life.

Miracles
by Dale Biron
In the midst of of pain, the "tiniest move" forward can feel like a miracle.

One Morning
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
Is it possible that honoring the "ordinary" givens of our days can change our life?

Another Spring
by Kenneth Rexroth
Can we possibly grasp all the wondrous moments that are available for our attention as "we lie entranced by the starlit water"?

Introductions
by Susan Glassmeyer
Imagine what a gathering of strangers would be like if instead of making small talk about big issues, we ask about what astonishes us when we pay attention to little things.

i thank YOU GOD for most this amazing
by e.e. cummings
Have you ever had that sudden, filled-to-the-brim feeling of joy while taking a walk on a beautiful day? e.e. cummings captures that great-fullness.

Invocation
by Jeanne Lohmann
Writing about gravity, poet Rainer Maria Rilke observes that "if we surrendered to earth's intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees."  Jeanne Lohmann encourages us to take hold of this most rooted trust, from which flow our own true voices, our dreams, our ability to name things, even our opportunity to reach for holiness.

Clay
by Octavia Bennett
At ten years old (in 1998), Octavia possessed a rare sense of balance between passion and detachment, which comes through in her delightful poem about being a potter.

Boy's Sleep

by Naomi Shihab Nye
Children, who throw themselves into sleep no less than waking, remind us to be keenly attentive.

First Vote
by Joyce Holmes McAllister
With verve and subtle humor, McAllister reminds us of the gratitude which goes along with the privilege of voting.

Gratitude

by Sally Bliumis-Dunn
Loss can be a spur to gratefulness, but it doesn't necessarily take separation for us to revel in what we love.

Glory Expanding
by Michael Lipson
In "Glory Expanding, Says Poet," Lipson imagines a world where – instead of our daily diet of horrors – sensuality, glory, and gratitude for existence could count as the news of the day. His poem is a newspaper article from this more heart-stirring world.

The Moment
by Margaret Atwood
What happens in the moment when you finally know you have arrived and can say "I own this"? Atwood's poem provides an insightful view. (PCC)

The Lanyard
by Billy Collins
If, as a child, you ever made a gift for a loved one as part of a crafts project at camp or at school, you may understand the abyss that Billy Collins describes here – and perhaps also the tenderness that fills it. (PCC)

View #45
by Thomas Centolella
We have all had those moments of being so immersed in observing a scene -- whether transcendent like a red-tailed hawk in ecstatic flight or totally earthy like a cop with a drunk -- that we forgot we were even there. Centolella turns this experience into a paean to gratefulness.  (PCC)

Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things
by Naomi Shihab Nye
"She will have two families. They will eat at different hours." Naomi Shihab Nye captures the wonderful way that books open a different dimension for us, existing side-by-side with our everyday affairs.  (PCC)

An African Elegy
by Ben Okri
This poem, full of grace and understanding, blesses the gifts of life:  the warm air, good fruit, sweet music....  Even amidst our pain, these "secret miracles" weave themselves into our days and remind us to live gently.  (PCC)

Prayer

by George Ella Lyon
Can you imagine what Our Mother Who Art in the kitchen is cooking up and how Her bread could feed the world?  This extraordinary poem takes a look at a divine Mother who is tender, nurturing, and – when warranted – fierce. (PCC)

Incarnation
by Patricia Campbell Carlson
Sometimes we discover gratefulness precisely because something is not in pristine condition.

The Wishing Fish

by Thomas Vorce
This poem's playful, almost childlike manner draws us into a primordial joy steeped in mystery, a fundamental gratitude for the wonder of life itself.  (PCC)

See our Gift Person essay about Thomas Vorce

Crows
by Kathleen Kramer
Kramer's poem evokes tangible pride in a hard-won crop before raising the question of what to do when it is threatened.  (PCC)

Coming of Age

by Merle Feld
What happens when your ecological sensitivity collides with your common sense about letting your child grow up?  Here's a poem in gratitude for ambiguity. (PCC)

Two poems by Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Br. David Steindl-Rast

Circles
Each one of us is called to become the  Great Song that comes out of the Silence, and the more we let ourselves down into that Silence, the more we will become capable of singing that Great Song.  (DSR)

The Great Song
There is really only one song, and it’s the Great Song, the Cosmic Song; it’s the song that all things and all animals and all plants and all humans sing in their deepest heart. And every song that a human being sings with his or her voice is only an expression of that one Great Song that is there from the beginning and will be there after the end.  (DSR)

See also Michael Stillwater's video, Hymn to the Great Song.

Fifty Robins
by Amber Coverdale Sumrall
If you live in northern realms and are cheered each year by the return of robins in the spring, you may not have had the equally delightful experience of migrating robins appearing in winter, feasting on fermenting berries, making you laugh, summoning warmth into your rainy days.  (PCC)

At the Checkpoint
by Charles Henri Rohrbacher
In helping the poor of El Salvador, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan risked the fate of the poor.  On the 30th anniversary of their deaths, we remember them prayerfully with this poem honoring the grace and truthfulness of their lives.  For a narrative account, please see Maura Clarke and Companions. (PCC)

All That Is Glorious Around Us
by Barbara Crooker
It's not so much the sublime peaks and towering clouds in which this poet finds sources of gratitude, but everyday things closer at hand: to be dry in her car during driving rain; to enjoy autumn's parade of leaves; and poignantly, to simply breathe.
(PCC)

Where the Mind Is without Fear
by Rabindranath Tagore
In honor of pro-democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize – and on behalf of all people everywhere who long for freedom and ever-widening thought – we offer Tagore's vision of a world not broken into fragments.
(PCC)

Talking to Grief
by Denise Levertov
For some of us, knowing when to trust and when to question, when to let go and when to hold on, when to heal by paying attention and when to heal by radical abandon will always be polarities we must hold thoughtfully, not judging ourselves too harshly for being unable to reach an ideal prematurely.  Understanding this, Levertov offers her grief shelter.
(PCC)

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats
This classic, early (1890) Yeats poem is deceptively complex and modern.  In its longing for solitude and the solace of nature, we can hear our own desire to find untrammeled nature.  In its admission of being written "on the pavements grey," we recognize the difficulty of finding it.  And the repeat line "I will arise now" – which evokes the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:18) – can suggest unfulfilled promise or the actual determination to go.  Much is left to our interpretation, but the peace of the Isle, even with its buzzing bees and lapping waters, is unmistakable.  (PCC)

Ode to Chocolate
by Barbara Crooker
"Research tells us that fourteen out of any ten individuals like chocolate," writes Sandra Boynton in Chocolate:  The Consuming Passion.  But research could hardly do justice to nuances of preference like Barbara Crooker's, nor could it equally bring chocolate alive as a sauntering gambler. (PCC)

Last Snow
by Richard Nowogrodzki
When you're facing stage-four cancer, the words “last snow” take on different nuances of meaning.

Second Halloween
by Joyce Holmes McAllister
"Second Halloween" might give you the chills – the good kind! – with its cognizance of the thin veil between realms and its solid recognition (on the *second* anniversary) that all is not lost.

Gratefulness
by Dale Biron
Ever feel like your gratefulness engine is sputtering?  What keeps this old jalopy going is a mystery.

Watching the Birdwatcher
by Richard Schiffman
This study in perspective captures the space between moments by the reverse feat of not trying to grasp it.  Then it chides its own inherent contradiction!  What cannot be seen – the bird – comes through as the strongest presence in the poem.

Depression Days
by Joyce Holmes McAllister
In tough times, our ancestors' voices – and the memory of their actions, speaking louder than words – offer us wisdom.

The Call
by George Herbert
This prayer-in-poetry, set to music by Vaughn Williams, calls to us all that is lasting, healing, and worthwhile.  Isn't a love that "none can part" what we long for most?  How rare to be given the words to articulate it and the strength to come into the Presence that makes it possible. (PCC)
Remembering the poem's 1633 publication, please alter the pronoun if needed so that it follows your own heart's language.

Tea
by Amy Uyematsu
What appears as simple grace is exactly that which demands the greatest labor of love, as Amy Uyematsu's poem – and the life of peacemaker Thich Nhat Hanh, whom it honors – shows.
(PCC)

Desire Change (Sonnets to Orpheus Part II, #12, stanza 1)
by Rainer Maria Rilke, transl. by Br. David Steindl-Rast
Let change be your guiding star.  We ought to love the turning point.  Whenever you want to complain, remind yourself, “I’m at a turning point.  What is it turning to now?”  And be enthusiastic for it. (Br. David)
See also: "Letting change guide you" (video) and
Die Sonette an Orpheus
(all of part II, #12, in German).

Infinity and God
by Richard Jones
A five year old's grateful wonder can carry us all the way up to infinity and back down to the simplest feather, drawing our attention to the divine presence that permeates our world. (PCC)

Jitterbug
by Joyce Holmes McAllister
Although we may think of them as impediments, life's contradictions are often exactly what save us, allowing us to fly beyond limitations.  In this poem, Joyce Holmes McAllister plays contrasts off each other:  brittleness and speed, refusal and abandon, limping and flight. Through it all, she both defies the body's slowing process and affirms the prowess of age.  (PCC)

The Priest Writes His Desire
by Jessie Dolch
"I would like it noted," writes J. Dolch in a message to Br. David, "that the poem is really Fr. Hand's, as so much of it came from and was inspired by a letter he shared with his friends and which Ruben Habito posted at the Maria Kannon Zen Center. I merely imagined the scene of its writing." That is one powerful "merely," in our opinion.

The Spoon
by Richard Jones
This poem draws you into the realm of imagining all you can do with the simplest of objects, a spoon:  everything from taking your medicine to digging a tunnel to freedom.  Could it be that creative imagination plays a substantial role in being grateful?  (PCC)

Luminous Jealousy
by Patricia Campbell Carlson
What on earth (so to speak) is the moon up to on the day after an eclipse, and why is she taking all the credit?  This poem sheds a little light on jealousy, which is perhaps sometimes warranted.  (PCC)

Presence
by Katherine Lansing Davis
"When there are no words, how can there be a poem?" wrote Katherine Davis to our longtime friend Terry Pearce after the unexpected death of his vibrant and beautiful daughter Jodi Wilson Ehrlicher at age 31.  Married to Jason Ehrlicher and mother of two young children, Jodi will be remembered by everyone for her smile, sense of humor, and zest for life.  We are grateful to Katherine for finding words when we all know none can suffice.  We have only our hearts, captured in poetry, to offer. (PCC)

Lösch mir die Augen aus
by Rainer Maria Rilke, trans. by Br. David Steindl-Rast
Every now and then we let ourselves imagine the worst that could happen to us: How could we survive?  This testimony of dedication and trust attests to an enduring relationship that goes beyond our vision, our hearing, our speech, our mobility, and even our ability to think...a relationship which cannot be extinguished. In the sureness of this relationship – and our ability to surrender to it – lies consolation beyond measure. 
(PCC)
Read Rilke's original in German.

more poems

Poetry Editors: Dale Biron (DB), Elizabeth Burgert (EB),
Patricia C. Carlson (PCC), Brother David Steindl-Rast (Br. David)