The original question for the week was about my favorite holiday memory but I have already shared a lot of those. So I asked for a new question. That’s one of the nice things about the whole StoryWorth concept. You have options. So I took advantage and got this question instead: “Do you have a favorite poem? What is it?”
Holy cow. That is almost worst. There are tons of poems over the years that have touched me. That have stayed with me. The poems my mother read me as child…and there were a lot of them. The poems of Robert Frost to which I was introduced in grade school. Of Carl Sandburg. There are so many. Poems that tell a story…Robert Service comes to mind…and poems that touch the heart.
In these days of the coronavirus we might find particular solace in poetry. We certainly have a bit more time to reflect. I pulled “Good Poems for Hard Times” off my bookshelf. An anthology curated by Garrison Keillor. I am inspired to selectively dip into it…picking and choosing…reflecting. Maybe I’ll share some of the ones that inspire me.
It’s hard to choose a favorite but there’s one poem that I have turned to again and again over the years. In the days after the death of Betsy, my first wife, I was sitting alone in the living room of our townhouse in Springfield. I’m not sure where the boys were…I think that a neighbor who had watched them often — Joan Murray — may have taken them for a while. I was thumbing somewhat mindlessly through the “Treasures of the Smithsonian” one of those coffee table books that looks good but that is seldom truly read.
Suddenly, however, something caught my eye. The word COURAGE. It was the title of a poem. By Amelia Earhart. I had no clue she had written poetry but apparently she did. And this was one of her poems.
I read it and it touched me. It gave me …something. That’s the thing about good poetry. It can trigger unexpected … it moves us, inspires us. It brings a smile, or a tear. It has an impact that each of us may feel differently.
“Courage” gave me hope. It reminded me that even in our darkest moments we can emerge stronger. And nothing in life comes without cost. We must look within to find the strength to pay it.
At that moment in time, at that crossroads in my life, the messages in the two stanzas of that poem brought me clarity. They gave me hope. They spoke to me. And they still do. Maybe, had I seen it at a different time, I would have responded differently — or not at all. But the words, the moment, and the need all converged. And I was touched. And changed.
THAT’s what a good poem can do.
Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace, The soul that knows it not knows no release from little things; Knows not the livid loneliness of fear, Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear the sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living, Compensate for dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate, Unless we dare the soul’s dominion? Every time we make a choice, we pay with courage to behold the resistless day and count it fair.