Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
  Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
  Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
  And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
  When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
  The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
  When I have cross’d the bar.

This poem is in the public domain.

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

From How Beautiful the Beloved by Gregory Orr. Copyright © 2009 by Gregory Orr. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

        When I stop and think about what it's all about I do come up with some answers, but they don’t help very much.

        I think it is safe to say that life is pretty mysterious. And hard.

        Life is short. I know that much. That life is short. And that it's important to keep reminding oneself of it. That life is short. Just because it is. I suspect that each of us is going to wake up some morning to suddenly find ourselves old men (or women) without knowing how we got that way. Wondering where it all went. Regretting all the things we didn't do. So I think that the sooner we realize that life is short the better off we are.

        Now, to get down to the basics. There are 24 hours a day. There is you and there are other people. The idea is to fill these 24 hours as best one can. With love and fun. Or things that are interesting. Or what have you. Other people are most important. Art is rewarding. Books and movies are good fillers, and the most reliable.

        Now you know that life is not so simple as I am making it sound. We are all a bit fucked up, and here lies the problem. To try and get rid of the fucked up parts, so we can just relax and be ourselves. For what time we have left.

From The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett. Copyright © 2012 by The Estate of Joe Brainard. Reprinted with permission of The Library of America. www.loa.org. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 11, 2013.

What happened. This terrible breaking, this blow. Then slow
     the dogwood strewn like tissue along the black road.
No the busy pollinators the breeze in the pine shadows
     in the aftermath where I drove back there. And two bones
of smoke lifting ahead along the shoulder in the high new
     green weed-bank running beside the asphalt. No
I had come from my father. Nothing more common nothing more
     than such. I could not breathe for the longest time
over and again. There was something deadly, she said, in it.
     Of the genus buteo, as b. harlani, as Harlan’s red-tail.
Blocky in shape, goes the book, blood or brick-red but white
     I am sure underneath, white along its wing, which was not smoke
but rising now one bird. I was coming back and couldn’t breathe
     and him bruised torn bedridden tubed taken to the brink
by his body and carried aloft. There he had fallen.
     This is what happened said the medical team. Fallen:
and ripped aortal stenosis in the process of their repair.   
     No the white bird strained, as trying to lift, to a slight
dihedral, the deepest deliberate wing beats, and barely
    above the snow-white-lipped grasses and the shoulder
until I thought I would hit it. It happened or
     it did not, in the way of my thinking. And now why
I saw. Two lengths of snake helical and alive in the talons
     heavy there, writhing, so the big bird strained for the length
of time that it takes. Like the oiled inner organs
     of a live thing heaving in shreds, the dogwoods
the doctors, and did I say the horrible winds all before.
     Now the air after storm. The old road empty. Swept white,
by blossoms by headlights, my father hovering still:
     why it flew so close, why it was so terribly slow.
I think I hoped it would tear me to pieces. Lift me,
     of my genus helpless, as wretched. And drop me away.
I turned back to the animal. No it turned its back to me.

 

Copyright © 2017 by David Baker. Used with permission of the author. “Why Not Say” originally appeared in American Poetry Review.

If I could have put you in my heart,
If but I could have wrapped you in myself,
How glad I should have been!
And now the chart
Of memory unrolls again to me
The course of our journey here, here where we part.

And of, that you had never, never been
Some of your selves, my love, that some
Of your several faces I had never seen!
And still they come before me, and they go,
And I cry aloud in the moments that intervene.

And oh, my love, as I rock for you to-night,
And have not any longer and hope
To heal the suffering, or to make requite
For all your life of asking and despair,
I own that some of me is dead to-night.

This poem is in the public domain.

There will be rose and rhododendron
   When you are dead and under ground;
Still will be heard from white syringas
   Heavy with bees, a sunny sound;

Still will the tamaracks be raining
   After the rain has ceased, and still
Will there be robins in the stubble,
   Brown sheep upon the warm green hill.

Spring will not ail nor autumn falter;
   Nothing will know that you are gone,
Saving alone some sullen plough-land
   None but yourself sets foot upon;

Saving the may-weed and the pig-weed
   Nothing will know that you are dead,—
These, and perhaps a useless wagon
   Standing beside some tumbled shed.

Oh, there will pass with your great passing
   Little of beauty not your own,—
Only the light from common water,
   Only the grace from simple stone!

This poem was originally published in Second April (1921). This poem is in the public domain. 

The courage that my mother had
Went with her, and is with her still:
Rock from New England quarried;
Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore
She left behind for me to wear;
I have no thing I treasure more:
Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me
The thing she took into the grave!—
That courage like a rock, which she
Has no more need of, and I have.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, "The courage that my mother had" from Collected Poems. Copyright 1954, © 1982 by Norma Millay Ellis. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Holly Peppe, Literary Executor, The Edna St. Vincent Millay Society, www.millay.org.