When people say they miss me, I think how much I miss me too, Me, the old me, the great me, Lover of three women in one day, Modest me, the best me, friend To waiters and bartenders, hearty Laugher and name rememberer, Proud me, handsome and hirsute In soccer shoes and shorts On the ball fields behind MIT, Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym, Mutual sweat dripper in and out Of the sauna, furtive observer Of the coeducated and scantily clad, Speedy me, cyclist of rivers, Goose and peregrine falcon Counter, all season venturer, Chatterer-up of corner cops, Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers, Outwitter of panhandlers and bill Collectors, avoider of levies, excises, Me in a taxi in the rain, Pressing my luck all the way home. That's me at the dice table, baby, Betting come, little Joe, and yo, Blowing the coals, laying thunder, My foot on top a fifty dollar chip Some drunk spilled on the floor, Dishonest me, evener of scores, Eager accepter of the extra change, Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon Lifter, fervent retailer of others' Humor, blackhearted gossiper, Poisoner at the well, dweller In unsavory detail, delighted sayer Of the vulgar, off course belier Of the true me, empiric builder Newly haircutted, stickerer-up For pals, jam unpriser, medic To the self-inflicted, attorney To the self-indicted, petty accountant And keeper of the double books, Great divider of the universe And all its forms of existence Into its relationship to me, Fellow trembler to the future, Thin air gawker, apprehender Of the frameless door.
As Poems Speak to Us
From Dig Safe by Stuart Dischell. Copyright © 2003 by Stuart Dischell. Reprinted by permission of Penguin. All rights reserved.
Lying, thinking Last night How to find my soul a home Where water is not thirsty And bread loaf is not stone I came up with one thing And I don't believe I'm wrong That nobody, But nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone. There are some millionaires With money they can't use Their wives run round like banshees Their children sing the blues They've got expensive doctors To cure their hearts of stone. But nobody No, nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone. Now if you listen closely I'll tell you what I know Storm clouds are gathering The wind is gonna blow The race of man is suffering And I can hear the moan, 'Cause nobody, But nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone.
From Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well By Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1975 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted with permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at www.randomhouse.com.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on"; If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run— Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!
This poem is in the public domain.
Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.
I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone. I could never show it to anyone. Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me. Sometimes it pleases me. Usually it brings misery. And this poem says exactly what I think. What I think of myself, what I think of my friends, what I think about my lover. Exactly. Parts of it might please them, some of it might scare them. Some of it might bring misery. And I don't want to hurt them, I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt anybody. I want everyone to love me. Still, I keep working on it. Why? Why do I keep working on it? Nobody will ever see it. Nobody will ever see it. I keep working on it even though I can never show it to anybody. I keep working on it even though someone might get hurt.
Copyright © 2000 by Lloyd Schwartz. From Cairo Traffic (The University of Chicago Press, 2000). Appears courtesy of the author.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand, dare sieze the fire? And what shoulder, & what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain? What the anvil? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp? When the stars threw down their spears, And water'd heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
This poem is in the public domain.
My black face fades, hiding inside the black granite. I said I wouldn't, dammit: No tears. I'm stone. I'm flesh. My clouded reflection eyes me like a bird of prey, the profile of night slanted against morning. I turn this way—the stone lets me go. I turn that way—I'm inside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial again, depending on the light to make a difference. I go down the 58,022 names, half-expecting to find my own in letters like smoke. I touch the name Andrew Johnson; I see the booby trap's white flash. Names shimmer on a woman's blouse but when she walks away the names stay on the wall. Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's wings cutting across my stare. The sky. A plane in the sky. A white vet's image floats closer to me, then his pale eyes look through mine. I'm a window. He's lost his right arm inside the stone. In the black mirror a woman's trying to erase names: No, she's brushing a boy's hair.
From Dien Cai Dau by Yusef Komunyakaa. Copyright © 1988 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.
The tires on my bike are flat. The sky is grouchy gray. At least it sure feels like that Since Hanna moved away. Chocolate ice cream tastes like prunes. December's come to stay. They've taken back the Mays and Junes Since Hanna moved away. Flowers smell like halibut. Velvet feels like hay. Every handsome dog's a mutt Since Hanna moved away. Nothing's fun to laugh about. Nothing's fun to play. They call me, but I won't come out Since Hanna moved away.
From If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries . . ., published by Macmillan, 1981. Used with permission.
Patience is wider than one once envisioned, with ribbons of rivers and distant ranges and tasks undertaken and finished with modest relish by natives in their native dress. Who would have guessed it possible that waiting is sustainable— a place with its own harvests. Or that in time's fullness the diamonds of patience couldn't be distinguished from the genuine in brilliance or hardness.
From Say Uncle by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2000 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.