The Power of Great Poetry!

Looking through some old emails I happened to see one of my emails listing two of my favorite poems. I felt as though both the poets were talking to me. Yes, just to me! Let me share them with you here first and let’s talk a bit more about why I felt like that.

Poem 1 – The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say Don’t I know you? say no.
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.
If they say we should get together.
say why? It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished. When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf. Know you could tumble any second. Then decide what to do with your time.

When I read this poem few years back I was simply moved. For a person like me – the diplomat, the people pleaser, the yes girl; this poem first seemed downright rude! But the more I read Naomi’s lines I realized she was right. She was not being rude. She was saying the truth. I fell in love with her words. We all need to value our time as special. It is okay to choose who you spend your time with. In fact it is very important that you choose wisely. This is true even for what you do with your time. Make your choices based on what’s important to you. Think of what you really want from your moments. Then choose. I must confess I have yet to do this with full sincerity. I do know I should do this. And fast. I’m working on it. This time I will not stop until I reach my goal.

Poem 2 – The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver said it right! This poem spoke to me strongly and I felt inspired. I was going through a rough patch when I came across this poem first. It immediately made me feel stronger and more determined. I know now for a fact that every time we make an effort to focus on our needs, wants, desires, goals; there is a lot of resistance. Sometimes from outsiders but mainly from those close to us. Why this happens is that people often forget that when you love someone it means you set them free. You offer them wings and ask them to fly with abandon and promise to catch them if they should ever fall. And you also say that you know they will never fall. If love is true then they will always be connected, no matter what. And if it’s not there, then no matter what they will stay separate always. It is as simple as that. Or as complicated. Whichever way you wanna look at it.

What the poet is saying is that you can only save yourself. Rather, only you can save your self. And this is what each one of us should do. Be good to yourself. Dream as much as you can and some more. Love unconditionally. Open yourself up to life. Be willing to get hurt in the process. Continue to be true to yourself. Don’t go for the quick fix. Stay in touch with your feelings. Be one with nature. Take it slow and do it right. Choose kindness. Each time. Always.


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