The world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind happiness not always being so very much fun if you don’t mind a touch of hell now and then just when everything is fine because even in heaven they don’t sing all the time The world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind some people dying all the time or maybe only starving some of the time which isn’t half so bad if it isn’t you Oh the world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t much mind a few dead minds in the higher places or a bomb or two now and then in your upturned faces or such other improprieties as our Name Brand society is prey to with its men of distinction and its men of extinction and its priests and other patrolmen and its various segregations and congressional investigations and other constipations that our fool flesh is heir to Yes the world is the best place of all for a lot of such things as making the fun scene and making the love scene and making the sad scene and singing low songs of having inspirations and walking around looking at everything and smelling flowers and goosing statues and even thinking and kissing people and making babies and wearing pants and waving hats and dancing and going swimming in rivers on picnics in the middle of the summer and just generally ‘living it up’ Yes but then right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician
From A Coney Island of the Mind, copyright ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
They knock on cupboards & ribs,
steal mothballs from the wardrobe’s dim corners
& patch them into their wings.
They scream when the kettle boils.
Their feet & fingers are webbed like geese.
Some bake bran muffins in blue children’s aprons.
The kitchen, powdered in bread flour, a cloud they glide through.
Others wrestle the wind through a screen door.
When the doorbell rings, they flap their arms & chirp
their mockingbird throats.
They work in shifts, all night shining shoes.
All morning they brush her hair.
Some are secretive & break the chimes, so she won’t
know their comings & goings.
Others dissect the basement mice & pin
the decorative bodies, splayed like fans, to the walls.
Their laughter rakes like tires screeching through a stop.
She begs them to stop but they only start a game
of tar & feathers.
She opens the door to leave, but more trudge in
ferrying beer bottles & shoehorns, tiny mouse bones dangling
from their teeth.
Some plant violets in the garden then wash their feet
so the dirt won’t track in. Or so the violets won’t grow
inside. Some rock her to bed & call her baby;
others roll their doll eyes & bite her fingernails to shards as she sleeps.
She once woke to a fistful of blood & feathers, believing
it a tiny bird she’d crushed in sleep.
Tomorrow, she will take a pill & they will leave in a mournful parade:
When angels leave us, they look like lost children.
She will spend all day counting their shadows like stitches
& washing that dead bird from her fingers’ webs.
Copyright © Natalie Rose Richardson. This poem originally appeared in Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School (Penguin, 2022). Used with permission of the author.
Sometimes it seems as though some puppet-player,
A clenched claw cupping a craggy chin
Sits just beyond the border of our seeing,
Twitching the strings with slow, sardonic grin.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.
The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.
We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.
The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapoursdense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.
These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.
And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o'er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—
So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.
This poem is in the public domain.
My friends are dead who were
the arches the pillars of my life
the structural relief when
the world gave none.
My friends who knew me as I knew them
their bodies folded into the ground or burnt to ash.
If I got on my knees
might I lift my life as a turtle carries her home?
Who if I cried out would hear me?
My friends—with whom I might have spoken of this—are gone.
Copyright © 2022 by Marie Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.