One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
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.