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poems to cope in troubling times

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Art by Will Barnet

2020 by Paul Guest

Maybe you need to embrace disappointment. The way you don’t sleep at night, dreaming of dry dust on furniture and the pleasant odor of plywood and what it feels like to peel skin off of your thumb. Maybe you should begin that perfect novel which will save you. Pluck you from the ruddy jaws of a monster that is right there beyond your failing sight. Not today, Satan, or Ronald Reagan— you learn that often enough evil is not about nuance. It was raining the day I was born and years later I haven’t learned much more about the stars: fire and cold light afloat in the murk of the cosmos. Last night I read about the doctors who removed 526 teeth from a boy’s dying jaw: hours in they feared there was no end to it. That his pain was infinite. Their hands trapped. Bits of white bone arrayed in a spiral beside his sleeping face and it was lovely and an evidence of the divine. Well, not really. Maybe you aren’t real, aren’t listening to the wind as it goes through the night like a sad prayer beneath the stippled sky. Maybe. Just maybe things will get better. Give it a year.


Teething Borders by Craig Santos Perez

Let us bridge each other across the wounded borderlands, until those once forbidden are now family, and those once prohibited are now protected. In this tender country, may dreams of sanctuary be the only documents needed to become citizens.


Picnic by Arjun Rajendran

It's been so long

since we've had a picnic, since we lay on a sheet


from all the gluttony, all the laughter,

when the aftertaste of pineapple lulled us into dreamless sleep,

when the dog chased after fairies, and returned

to nudge us out of our laziness, my attention divided

between a novel and the gurgling stream of fish

springing out the water, butterflies yellow white green

fluttered around our heads, the scent of cake, drawing

them into temptation, it's been so long

since we've all been together, since we forgave each other

our distance to occasion a picnic, at first a jigsaw puzzle

of a near complete afternoon, then as the seasons glide,

furiously coming apart, every piece

joining a rainy spot in the brain until all that is left is

a solitary bugle

floating in space, calling for memories to return while they hitchhike

in the opposite direction.


I Am by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I know not whence I came,

I know not whither I go;

But the fact stands clear that I am here

In this world of pleasure and woe.

And out of the mist and murk

Another truth shines plain –

It is my power each day and hour

To add to its joy or its pain.


Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes things don’t go, after all, from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail, sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war; elect an honest man, decide they care enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.


Bloom by Imtiaz Dharker

You are nothing more than yourself, not a message sent to change the world, not here to save mankind or even me. You are,

like a snail or mollusc, only there; like a leaf among thousands on a tree, like the sea or the smallest of its creatures,

just there. And yet, and yet I watch your face and see a star waking in your eyes like sap-rise to a leaf, tide-rush to the moon.

I try to live the life inside your head, think what you are thinking, feel what makes your heart beat fast, small body, small weight

in my arms. More than my self, I want to know you. This is the gift you give. Cradling you close I feel the world and all its waking life.

Holding you, I hold the world, wishing it for ever safe.


I'm going to curate some soothing/gentle/positive poems every month from now. Poetry saves me on a daily basis. It prevents me from caving to depression and negative thought patterns, and I'd like to pay it forward however I can.



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