Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings |
a total stranger one black day
knocked living the hell out of me--
who found forgiveness hard because
my(as it happened)self he was
-but now that fiend and i are such
Gary Fincke |
When magpies die, each of the living swoops down
and pecks, one by one, in an accepted order.
He coaxed my car to start, the boy who’s killed himself.
He twisted a cable, performed CPR on
The carburetor while my three children shivered
Through the unanswerable questions about stalled.
He chose shotgun, full in the face, so no one stepped
Into the cold, blowing on his hands, to fix him.
Let him rest now, the minister says.
Let this be,
Repeating himself to four brothers, five sisters,
All of them my neighbors until they grew and left.
Let us pray.
Let us manage what we need to say.
Let this house with its three hand-made additions be
Large enough for the one day of necessity.
Let evening empty each room to ceremony
Chosen by the remaining nine.
Let the awful,
Forecasted weather hold off in east Ohio
Until each of them, oldest to youngest, has passed.
Let their thirty-seven children scatter into
The squabbling of the everyday, and let them break
This creeping chain of cars into the fanning out
Toward anger and selfishness and the need to eat
At any of the thousand tables they will pass.
Let them wait.
Let them correctly choose the right turn
Or the left, this entrance ramp, that exit, the last
Confusing fork before the familiar driveway
Three hundred miles and more from these bleak thunderheads.
Let them regather into the chairs exactly
Matched to their numbers, blessing the bountiful or
The meager with voices that soar toward renewal.
Let them have mercy on themselves.
Let my children,
Grown now, be repairing my faults with forgiveness.
© Gary Fincke
Wendell Berry |
You will be walking some night
in the comfortable dark of your yard
and suddenly a great light will shine
round about you, and behind you
will be a wall you never saw before.
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one.
And you will know
that they have been there all along,
their eyes on your letters and books,
their hands in your pockets,
their ears wired to your bed.
Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
"I am not ashamed.
" A sure horizon
will come around you.
The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.
More great poems below...
The Bible |
“Do not enter into judgment with your servant;
For before you no one alive can be righteous.
“O Jehovah, do not in your indignation reprove me,
Nor in your rage correct me.
For your own arrows have sunk themselves deep into me,
And upon me your hand is come down.
There is no sound spot in my flesh because of your denunciation.
There is no peace in my bones on account of my sin.
For my own errors have passed over my head;
Like a heavy load they are too heavy for me.
My wounds have become stinky, they have festered,
Because of my foolishness.
I have become disconcerted, I have bowed low to an extreme degree;
All day long I have walked about sad.
“Look! With error I was brought forth with birth pains,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
“May you purify me from sin with hyssop, that I may be clean;
May you wash me, that I may become whiter even than snow.
“Conceal your face from my sins,
And wipe out even all my errors.
51:5, 7, 9.
“Happy is the one whose revolt is pardoned, whose sin is covered.
Happy is the man to whose account Jehovah does not put error,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
My sin I finally confessed to you, and my error I did not cover.
I said: ‘I shall make confession over my transgressions to Jehovah.
And you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.
Ingeborg Bachmann |
For why cometh a time,
When you forget yesterday?
Forgot our vows that we made,
And turn and walk away.
How can a heart forget,
The love we once had?
And turn yourself against me,
And make my soul so sad.
You’ve found someone better,
And you’ll leave us behind;
You think you can change your heart,
And erase your troubled mind.
How can you just quit,
And let our love just die?
I’ve done all I know to do,
But you refuse to try.
If I could only be around you,
Our love would live , I bet;
But you want me to stay away,
So you can just forget.
For what has happened to you,
That has torn up your mind?
From the precious girl I once loved,
The one so pure and kind.
I know that you are hurting,
You can’t look at me any more;
I know I can help you,
Heal your heart that’s sore.
I know I’m not perfect,
But I really try to be;
I really truly love you,
That you’ve got to see.
I know I’m no studly man,
Big and tall I’m not;
I don’t have much to offer you,
But all the love I got.
We’ve had our share of problems,
But troubles don’t last long;
If we work together,
From them we can be strong.
Maybe you think you’ve gone too far,
And respect you’ll never get;
But if only you’d just reach out,
Forgiveness can be met.
Don’t give up like other folks,
Just so you’ll fit in;
For God and I believe in you,
And beg you not to sin.
I know that you’re confused now,
And don’t know how to turn;
Just take one step toward me,
And leave your pain to burn.
For I so love you dearly,
I can’t watch you walk away;
Please tell me you love me too,
And that you want to stay.
Margaret Atwood |
The rest of us watch from beyond the fence
as the woman moves with her jagged stride
into her pain as if into a slow race.
We see her body in motion
but hear no sounds, or we hear
sounds but no language; or we know
it is not a language we know
We can see her clearly
but for her it is running in black smoke.
The cluster of cells in her swelling
like porridge boiling, and bursting,
like grapes, we think.
Or we think of
explosions in mud; but we know nothing.
All around us the trees
and the grasses light up with forgiveness,
so green and at this time
of the year healthy.
We would like to call something
out to her.
Some form of cheering.
There is pain but no arrival at anything.
Louise Gluck |
Now, in twilight, on the palace steps
the king asks forgiveness of his lady.
He is not
duplicitous; he has tried to be
true to the moment; is there another way of being
true to the self?
hides her face, somewhat
assisted by the shadows.
for her past; when one has a secret life,
one's tears are never explained.
Yet gladly would the king bear
the grief of his lady: his
is the generous heart,
in pain as in joy.
Do you know
what forgiveness mean? it mean
the world has sinned, the world
must be pardoned --
Derek Walcott |
So much rain, so much life like the swollen sky
of this black August.
My sister, the sun,
broods in her yellow room and won't come out.
Everything goes to hell; the mountains fume
like a kettle, rivers overrun; still,
she will not rise and turn off the rain.
She is in her room, fondling old things,
my poems, turning her album.
Even if thunder falls
like a crash of plates from the sky,
she does not come out.
Don't you know I love you but am hopeless
at fixing the rain ? But I am learning slowly
to love the dark days, the steaming hills,
the air with gossiping mosquitoes,
and to sip the medicine of bitterness,
so that when you emerge, my sister,
parting the beads of the rain,
with your forehead of flowers and eyes of forgiveness,
all with not be as it was, but it will be true
(you see they will not let me love
as I want), because, my sister, then
I would have learnt to love black days like bright ones,
The black rain, the white hills, when once
I loved only my happiness and you.
Allen Ginsberg |
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand
and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is
holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy
Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cas-
sady holy the unknown buggered and suffering
beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks
of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop
apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana
hipsters peace & junk & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy
the cafeterias filled with the millions! Holy the
mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the
middle class! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebell-
ion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria &
Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the
clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy
the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the
locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucina-
tions holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul!
David Wagoner |
All actors look for them-the defining moments
When what a character does is what he is.
The script may say, He goes to the door
And exits or She goes out the door stage left.
But you see your fingers touching the doorknob,
Closing around it, turning it
As if by themselves.
The latch slides
Out of the strike-plate, the door swings on its hinges,
And you're about to take that step
Over the threshold into a different light.
For the audience, you may simply be
Disappearing from the scene, yet in those few seconds
You can reach for the knob as the last object on earth
You wanted to touch.
Or you can take it
Warmly like the hand your father offered
Once in forgiveness and afterward
Kept to himself.
Or you can stand there briefly, as bewildered
As by the door of a walk-in time-lock safe,
Stand there and stare
At the whole concept of shutness, like a rat
Whose maze has been rebaffled overnight,
Stand still and quiver, unable to turn
Around or go left or right.
Or you can grasp it with a sly, soundless discretion,
Open it inch by inch, testing each fraction
Of torque on the spindles, on tiptoe
Slip yourself through the upright slot
And press the lock-stile silently
Back into its frame.
Or you can use your shoulder
Or the hard heel of your shoe
And a leg-thrust to break it open.
Or you can approach the door as if accustomed
To having all barriers open by themselves.
You can wrench aside
This unauthorized interruption of your progress
And then leave it ajar
For others to do with as they may see fit.
Or you can stand at ease
And give the impression you can see through
This door or any door and have no need
To take your physical self to the other side.
Or you can turn the knob as if at last
Nothing could please you more, your body language
Filled with expectations of joy at where you're going,
Holding yourself momentarily in the posture
Of an awestruck pilgrim at the gate-though you know
You'll only be stepping out against the scrim
Or a wobbly flat daubed with a landscape,
A scribble of leaves, a hint of flowers,
The bare suggestion of a garden.
Emily Dickinson |
He strained my faith --
Did he find it supple?
Shook my strong trust --
Did it then -- yield?
Hurled my belief --
But -- did he shatter -- it?
Racked -- with suspense --
Not a nerve failed!
Wrung me -- with Anguish --
But I never doubted him --
'Tho' for what wrong
He did never say --
Stabbed -- while I sued
His sweet forgiveness --
Jesus -- it's your little "John"!
Don't you know -- me?
A S J Tessimond |
We being so hidden from those who
Have quietly borne and fed us,
How can we answer civilly
Their innocent invitations?
How can we say "we see you
As but-for-God's-grace-ourselves, as
Our caricatures (we yours), with
Time's telescope between us"?
How can we say "you presumed on
The accident of kinship,
Assumed our friendship coatlike,
Not as a badge one fights for"?
How say "and you remembered
The sins of our outlived selves and
Your own forgiveness, buried
The hatchet to slow music;
Shared money but not your secrets;
Will leave as your final legacy
A box double-locked by the spider
Packed with your unsolved problems"?
How say all this without capitals,
Italics, anger or pathos,
To those who have seen from the womb come
Enemies? How not say it?
Robert William Service |
Because I've eighty years and odd,
And darkling is my day,
I now prepare to meet my God,
And for forgiveness pray.
Not for salvation is my plea,
Nor Heaven hope,--just rest:
Begging: "Dear Father, pardon me,
I did not do my best.
"I did not measure with the Just
To serve my fellow men;
But unto levity and lust
I loaned my precious pen.
I sorrow for the sacred touch,
And though I toiled with zest,
Dear God, have mercy, in-as-much
I did not do my best.
"I bless You for the gift you gave
That brought me golden joy;
Yet here beside the gentle grave
I grieve for its employ.
Have pity, Lord,--so well I know
I failed you in the test,
And my last thought is one of woe:
I did not do my best.
George William Russell |
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
Mark Strand |
There is a girl you like so you tell her
your penis is big, but that you cannot get yourself
to use it.
Its demands are ridiculous, you say,
even self-defeating, but to be honored, somehow,
briefly, inconspicuously in the dark.
When she closes her eyes in horror,
you take it all back.
You tell her you're almost
a girl yourself and can understand why she is shocked.
When she is about to walk away, you tell her
you have no penis, that you don't
know what got into you.
You get on your knees.
She suddenly bends down to kiss your shoulder and you know
you're on the right track.
You tell her you want
to bear children and that is why you seem confused.
You wrinkle your brow and curse the day you were born.
She tries to calm you, but you lose control.
You reach for her panties and beg forgiveness as you do.
She squirms and you howl like a wolf.
You know you will have her.
Taken by storm, she is the girl you will marry.