“The Way It Is” by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

 

From Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems. Graywolf Press (January 7, 2014).

“The Return” by Mary Oliver

The deed took all my heart.
I did not think of you,
Not ’til the thing was done.
I put my sword away
And then no more the cold
And perfect fury ran
Along my narrow bones
And then no more the black
And dripping corridors
Hold anywhere the shape
That I had come to slay.
Then for the first time,
I saw in the cave’s belly
The dark and clotted webs,
The green and sucking pools,
The rank and crumbling walls,
The maze of passages.

And I thought then
Of the far earth,
Of the spring sun
And the slow wind,
And a young girl,
And I looked then
At the white thread.

Hunting the minotaur
I was no common man
And had no need of love.
I trailed the shining thread
Behind me, for a vow,
And did not think of you.
It lay there, like a sign,
Coiled on the bull’s great hoof.
And back into the world,
Half blind with weariness
I touched the thread and wept.
O, it was frail as air,
And I turned then
With the white spool

Through the cold rocks,
Through the black rocks.
Through the long webs,
And the mist fell,
And the webs clung.
And the rocks tumbled,
And the earth shook.

And the thread held.

 

From New and Selected Poems, Volume One

“What I Did Wrong” by Marie Howe

Slapped the man’s face, then slapped it again,

broke the plate, broke the glass, pushed the cat

from the couch with my feet. Let the baby

cry too long, then shook him,

let the man walk, let the girl down,

wouldn’t talk, then talked too long,

lied when there was no need

and stole what others had, and never

told the secret that kept me apart from them.

Years holding on to a rope

that wasn’t there, always sorry

righteous and wrong. Who would

follow that young woman down the narrow hallway?

Who would call her name until she turns?

 

Copyright © 2017 by Marie Howe. From Magdalene​ (W. W. Norton, 2017).

“Enough” by Suzanne Buffam

I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.

I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage.

I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her

And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.

Now surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows

To describe her private sufferings
The more distantly she can perceive them.

I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.

What does it mean to love the life we’ve been given?
To act well the part that’s been cast for us?

Wind. Light. Fire. Time.
A train whistles through the far hills.

One day I plan to be riding it.

Suzanne Buffam, “Enough” from The Irrationalist. Copyright © 2010 by Suzanne Buffam. Canarium Books.


“Saving Grace” by Tom Petty from Highway Companion

(Album version video.)

“Hope” by Lisel Mueller

“Hope on Board” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers from She’s the One


It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

 

“Hope” by Lisel Mueller from Alive Together. © Louisiana State University Press, 1996.