It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

“So Much Happiness” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Reprinted with the permission of Far Corner Books.

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields; on; on; and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears and horror
Drifted away ... O but every one
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

This poem is in the public domain.

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
   That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2017. This poem is in the public domain.

Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.

Copyright © 2013 by Ada Limón. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

The dive starts
on the board….
                                                                    
something Steve
often said,

or Rub some dirt
in it, Princess,
when in his lesser

inscrutable mood;                         

Steve of the hair gel,
and whistle, a man
who was her
                                                          
diving coach,
who never seemed
to like her much.

Which was odd,

given, objectively,
her admirable discipline,
and natural gifts,

the years and years                                                          
of practice, and the long                                                          
row of golden
trophies she won
                                                                    
for his team. The girl
she was then,

confused, partly
feral, like the outdoor
cat you feed,

when you remember
to, but won’t allow

to come inside….

She’s thinking of Steve
now, many years
later, while swimming

naked in her wealthy
landlord’s pool. Or

“grotto,” to call it
properly, an ugly,
Italian word for

something lovely,

ringed, as it is,
with red hibiscus;                                                  

white lights
in the mimosa trees                                                                  
draping their blurry
pearls along
the water’s skin.

It’s 3 am,

which seemed
the safest time for
this experiment,

in which she’s turned
her strange and aging
body loose. Once,

a man she loved
observed, You’re
the kind of woman

who feels embarrassed
just standing in 

a room alone,
a comment, like him,
two parts ill spirited,

and one perceptive.

But this night she’s
dropped her robe,                                                            
come here to be

the kind of woman
who swims naked                                                             
without asking
for permission, risking
a stray neighbor

getting the full gander,

buoyed by saltwater;
all the tough and sag
of her softened by

this moonlight’s near-
sighted courtesy.

Look at her: how
the woman is floating,

while trying to recall
the exact last
moment of her girlhood—

where she was,
what she was doing—

when she finally
learned what she’d                                               
been taught: to hate

this fleshy sack
of boring anecdotes                                                          
and moles she’s lived

inside so long,
nemesis without                                                                           
a zipper for escape.

A pearl is the oyster’s

autobiography,
Fellini said. How  
clean and weightless

the dive returns
to the woman now;

climbing the high
metal ladder, then

launching herself,
no fear, no notion

of self-preservation,

the arc of her
trajectory pretty
as any arrow’s

in St. Sebastian’s
side. How keen                                                                              
that girl, and sleek,

tumbling more
gorgeous than two                                                            
hawks courting

in a dead drop.                                                                             

Floating, the woman
remembers this again,

how pristine she was
in pike, or tucked
tighter than a socialite, or

twisting in reverse
like a barber’s pole,

her body flying
toward its pivot,
which is, in those seconds,

the Infinite,

before each
possible outcome
tears itself away

(the woman climbing
from the water now)

like the silvery tissue
swaddling a costly
gift.

Copyright © 2020 by Erin Belieu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Forget each slight, each head that turned
Toward something more intriguing—
Red flash of wing beyond the window,

The woman brightly chiming
About the suffering of the world. Forget
The way your best friend told the story

Of that heroic road trip, forgetting that you drove
From Tulsa to Poughkeepsie while he
Slumped dozing under headphones. Forget

The honors handed out, the lists of winners.
Forget the certificates, bright trophies you
Could have, should have, maybe won.

Remind yourself you never wanted them.
When the spotlight briefly shone on you,
You stepped back into darkness,

Let the empty stage receive the light,
The black floor suddenly less black—
Scuff-marks, dust, blue tape—the cone

Of light so perfect, slicing silently that perfect
Silent darkness, and you, hidden in that wider dark,
Your refusal a kind of gratitude at last.

Copyright © 2019 by Jon Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride 
to the dump in carloads
to turn our headlights across the wasted field, 
freeze the startled eyes of rats against mounds of rubbish.

Shot in the head, they jump only once, lie still 
like dead beer cans.
Shot in the gut or rump, they writhe and try to burrow 
into garbage, hide in old truck tires, 
rusty oil drums, cardboard boxes scattered across the mounds,
or else drag themselves on forelegs across our beams of light 
toward the darkness at the edge of the dump.

It's the light they believe kills. 
We drink and load again, let them crawl
for all they're worth into the darkness we're headed for.

From Armored Hearts, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1995. Copyright © by David Bottoms, 1995. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.