Each week on the March to Santiago, we recommend a poem that align’s with that week’s theme to help deepen your reflections and inspire authentic emotions within you.
By Billy Collins
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
open all the windows in the house
The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
By Joy Harjo
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
By Emily Dickinson
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
A Chance Meeting
I had a moment’s talk with him
And saw that he was good,
A spirit candid to the brim,
Breathing of brotherhood,
A fleeting face, a stranger face
I shall not meet again,
Yet earth is now a friendlier place,
And full of better men.
If such a whiff of soul transforms
So blessedly and far,
What of that world beyond the storms,
Where none but true men are?
By Edgar Guest
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must—but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow—
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.
To the New Year
By W.S. Merwin
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Let them be as flowers,
always watered, fed, guarded, admired,
but harnessed to a pot of dirt.
I’d rather be a tall, ugly weed,
clinging on cliffs, like an eagle
wind-wavering above high, jagged rocks.
To have broken through the surface of stone,
to live, to feel exposed to the madness
of the vast, eternal sky.
To be swayed by the breezes of an ancient sea,
carrying my soul, my seed,
beyond the mountains of time or into the abyss of the bizarre.
I’d rather be unseen, and if
then shunned by everyone,
than to be a pleasant-smelling flower,
growing in clusters in the fertile valley,
where they’re praised, handled, and plucked
by greedy, human hands.
I’d rather smell of musty, green stench
than of sweet, fragrant lilac.
If I could stand alone, strong and free,
I’d rather be a tall, ugly weed.
The Song of the Bee
Buzz! buzz! buzz!
This is the song of the bee.
His legs are of yellow;
A jolly, good fellow,
And yet a great worker is he.
In days that are sunny
He’s getting his honey;
In days that are cloudy
He’s making his wax:
On pinks and on lilies,
And gay daffodillies,
And columbine blossoms,
He levies a tax!
Buzz! buzz! buzz!
The sweet-smelling clover,
He, humming, hangs over;
The scent of the roses
Makes fragrant his wings:
He never gets lazy;
From thistle and daisy,
And weeds of the meadow,
Some treasure he brings.
Buzz! buzz! buzz!
From morning’s first light
Till the coming of night,
He’s singing and toiling
The summer day through.
Oh! we may get weary,
And think work is dreary;
‘Tis harder by far
To have nothing to do.
What it Looks Like to Us and the Words We Use
By Ada Limón
All these great barns out here in the outskirts,
black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass.
They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.
You say they look like arks after the sea’s
dried up, I say they look like pirate ships,
and I think of that walk in the valley where
J said, You don’t believe in God? And I said,
No. I believe in this connection we all have
to nature, to each other, to the universe.
And she said, Yeah, God. And how we stood there,
low beasts among the white oaks, Spanish moss,
and spider webs, obsidian shards stuck in our pockets,
woodpecker flurry, and I refused to call it so.
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky,
its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name
though we knew they were really just clouds—
disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Build on resolve, and not upon regret,
The structure of thy future. Do not grope
Among the shadows of old sins, but let
Thine own soul’s light shine on the path of hope
And dissipate the darkness. Waste no tears
Upon the blotted record of lost years,
But turn the leaf, and smile, oh, smile, to see
The fair white pages that remain for thee.
Prate not of thy repentance. But believe
The spark divine dwells in thee: let it grow.
That which the upreaching spirit can achieve
The grand and all-creative forces know;
They will assist and strengthen as the light
Lifts up the acorn to the oak tree’s height.
Thou hast but to resolve, and lo! God’s whole
Great universe shall fortify thy soul.
By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
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
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.
How the Little Kite Learned to Fly
“I never can do it,” the little kite said,
As he looked at the others high over his head;
“I know I should fall if I tried to fly.”
“Try,” said the big kite; “only try!
Or I fear you never will learn at all.”
But the little kite said, “I’m afraid I’ll fall.”
The big kite nodded: “Ah well, goodby;
I’m off;” and he rose toward the tranquil sky.
Then the little kite’s paper stirred at the sight,
And trembling he shook himself free for flight.
First whirling and frightened, then braver grown,
Up, up he rose through the air alone,
Till the big kite looking down could see
The little one rising steadily.
Then how the little kite thrilled with pride,
As he sailed with the big kite side by side!
While far below he could see the ground,
And the boys like small spots moving round.
They rested high in the quiet air,
And only the birds and the clouds were there.
“Oh, how happy I am!” the little kite cried,
“And all because I was brave, and tried.”
If All the Skies
By Henry Van Dyke
If all the skies were sunshine,
Our faces would be fain
To feel once more upon them
The cooling splash of rain.
If all the world were music,
Our hearts would often long
For one sweet strain of silence,
To break the endless song.
If life were always merry,
Our souls would seek relief,
And rest from weary laughter
In the quiet arms of grief.
By Alice Cary
The boy who does a stroke, and stops—
Will ne’er a great man be;
’Tis the aggregate of single drops
That makes the sea the sea.
The mountain was not at its birth
A mountain, so to speak:
The little atoms of sand and earth
Have made its peak a peak.
Not all at once the morning streams
Its gold above the gray,
It takes a thousand little beams
To make the day the day
Not from the snow-drift, May awakes,
In purples, reds, and greens;
Spring’s whole bright retinue it takes
To make her queen of queens.
Upon the orchard, rain must fall,
And soak from branch to root,
And blossoms bloom and fade withal,
Before the fruit is fruit.
The farmer needs must sow and till
And wait the wheaten head,
Then cradle, thresh, and go to mill,
Before his bread is bread.
Swift heels may get the early shout,
But, spite of all the din,
It is the patient holding out
That makes the winner win.
Make this your motto, then, at start,
’Twill help to smooth the way,
And steady up both hand and heart,—
“Rome wasn’t built in a day!”
The Poet and the Rest of Creation
Up comes the sun with merry light
And puts the dark to rout;
It makes a very pleasant sight
For me to write about.
The river flowing to the sea
Slips cheerily along;
It’s quite the proper thing for me
To celebrate in song.
The mountains rise on either hand
Majestical to view,
And I shall find them very grand
To write a sonnet to.
The ocean stretches far and wide,
It fills a mighty cup;
Some day I surely shall decide
To write the ocean up.
The city with its rapid stream
Of mortals gay or wan,
Will make a very jolly theme
To write an ode upon.
So many pretty things I see
Within the horizon’s hem,
And all are waiting anxiously
For me to write of them.
By Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
For Every Hill I’ve Had to Climb
By L.E. Thayer
For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat
My heart sings but a grateful song—
These were the things that made me strong!
For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years,
And for the hopes that lived in vain,
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow!
‘Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate man’s will to strive;
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep man’s will alive.
O’er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.