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Posts Tagged ‘poems about living’

Dear readers,

Thank you kindly for joining me on this month’s journey in verse. It’s always a delight to share the words that have moved me over the past year–and to seek out new poets to introduce to you all. I hope you’ve encountered something along the way that resonated with you, and I very much hope you will keep reading poetry throughout the year.

April’s final poem comes from the incredible Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), who is considered the first modern Turkish poet. As I mentioned in this month’s introductory post, it is through reading poetry that I often rediscover what is worth celebrating and fighting for in this life, even on the darkest days. These stirring words from Hikmet speak not only to what is at stake in each of the poems I posted this month, but to what is at stake in every day of our lives. Here’s to learning to love this world, seriously and deeply and with every fiber of our beings.

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“On Living”

I

Living is no laughing matter:
    you must live with great seriousness
        like a squirrel, for example—
  I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
        I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
    you must take it seriously,
    so much so and to such a degree
  that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
    in your white coat and safety glasses,
    you can die for people—
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
    is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
  that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
  and not for your children, either,
  but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
  because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
                      from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
                      about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
                      for the latest newscast. . .
Let’s say we’re at the front—
                  for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
                  we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
            but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
            about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                      before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
                          I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
            we must live as if we will never die.

III

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
              and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
              I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
              in pitch-black space . . .
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
                              if you’re going to say “I lived”. .

translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

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I’m completely taken by the intensity of John Rybicki’s poems of loss, life, and love in When All the World is Old, which he wrote in homage to his wife Julie Moulds, who died of cancer 16 years after she was diagnosed at the age of 29.
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“This Noise from My Fingers”

It astounds me the ways
I scale the sky. Every day I have to
relearn my body.

Who will tell us to the world?
Our children whose heads we breathe into
like seashells casting those spells

our mothers once wooed us with?
A playground where we became the mist
hanging over everything?

We knew it was our insides
tugged inside out at last.
Once when I was a boy on the dodge

hopping fences, I let my leg hang over the lip
to that other world. I stopped
on top of that wobbly fence,

and hit the pause button on the world.
I held it all: the shadows from the plum tree
whose fruit we used to peg cars with;

the dust from my father’s broom;
even the boys chasing after me.
I knew the time was passing

and took even the shadows of the branches
into those pockets God had sewn
into my body for the traveling.

I kissed the moment flush
on the mouth then let it go,
surrendered again to the earth

with silencers on my tennis shoes.
Maybe time itself came brushing
the trail behind me until it vanished

clean off the grass, and I took up residence
with all the other balloons
floating along the landscape.

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