If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
   one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
   of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
   somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
   at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”

From The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan, published by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright © 1989 by Richard Brautigan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.

Come, let us be friends, you and I,
     E’en though the world doth hate at this hour;
Let’s bask in the sunlight of a love so high 
     That war cannot dim it with all its armed power. 

Come, let us be friends, you and I,
     The world hath her surplus of hatred today; 
She needeth more love, see, she droops with a sigh,
     Where her axis doth slant in the sky far away. 

Come, let us be friends, you and I, 
     And love each other so deep and so well, 
That the world may grow steady and forward fly,
     Lest she wander towards chaos and drop into hell. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 17, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

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.

I talk with you of foolish things and wise,
    Of persons, places, books, desires and aims, 
Yet all our words a silence underlies,
    An earnest, vivid thought that neither names.

Ah! what to us where foolish talk or wise?
    Were persons, places, books, desires or aims, 
Without the deeper sense that underlies, 
    The sweet encircling thought that neither names? 

1882

From The Poems of Sophie Jewett (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1910) by Sophie Jewett. Copyright © Thomas Y. Crowell & Co. This poem is in the public domain.

(To F. S.)

I loved my friend. 
He went away from me. 
There’s nothing more to say. 
The poem ends, 
Soft as it began,—
I loved my friend. 

From The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) by Langston Hughes. This poem is in the public domain. 

Everyone who left us we find everywhere.
It’s easier, now, to look them in the eyes—
At gravesites, in bed, when the phone rings.
Of course, we wonder if they think of us.

It’s easier, now, to look them in the eyes,
Imagine touching a hand, listening to them talk.
Of course, we wonder if they think of us
When nights, like tonight, turn salty, warm.

Imagine touching a hand, listening to them talk—
Hard to believe they’re capable of such coldness.
When nights, like tonight, turn salty, warm,
We think of calling them, leaving messages.

Hard to believe they’re capable of such coldness—
No color, no pulse, not even a nerve reaction.
We think of calling them, leaving messages
Vivid with news we’re sure they’d want to know.

No color, no pulse, not even a nerve reaction:
We close our eyes in order not to see them.
Vivid with news, we’re sure they’d want to know
We don’t blame them, really. They weren’t cruel.

We close our eyes in order not to see them
Reading, making love, or falling asleep.
We don’t blame them. Really, they weren’t cruel,
Though it hurts every time we think of them:

Reading, making love, or falling asleep,
Enjoying the usual pleasures and boredoms.
Though it hurts every time we think of them,
Like a taste we can’t swallow their names stay.

Enjoying the usual pleasures and boredoms,
Then, they leave us the look of their faces
Like a taste we can’t swallow. Their names stay,
Diminishing our own, getting in the way

At gravesites, in bed, when the phone rings.
Everyone who left us we find everywhere,
Then they leave us, the look of their faces
Diminishing, our own getting in the way.

From Goodbye to the Orchard (Sarabande Books, 2004) by Steven Cramer. Copyright © 2023 by Steven Cramer. Used with the permission of the author.

for Maya

We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.

Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.