Published on Academy of American Poets (

Not to Know How to Live

              All modesty is false modesty
when it comes to poems,
              or to the silence
in which poems begin
              before they are words,
when they are still daisies
              at the foot of the dead Christ
in an anonymous painting,
              13th century. Not to know how to live
is one thing, and nothing
              to be ashamed of.
But not to know
              how to sit in front of those daisies
with tears in my eyes:
              what a waste that would be.


Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017


Jim Moore

Jim Moore was born on June 22, 1943, in Decatur, Illinois. He began writing in the mid-1960s and received his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota and his master’s degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poetry collections include Underground: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2014), Invisible Strings (Graywolf Press, 2011), and Lightning at Dinner (Graywolf Press, 2005).

Date Published: 2018-04-23

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