When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

WHEN DEATH COMES
by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

DON'T HESITATE
by Mary Oliver

I wonder how it all got started, this business
about seeing your life flash before your eyes
while you drown, as if panic, or the act of submergence,
could startle time into such compression, crushing
decades in the vice of your desperate, final seconds.

After falling off a steamship or being swept away
in a rush of floodwaters, wouldn't you hope
for a more leisurely review, an invisible hand
turning the pages of an album of photographs —
you up on a pony or blowing out candles in a conic hat.

How about an animated film, a carousel of slides?
Your life expressed in an essay, or in one model paragraph?
Wouldn't any form be better than this sudden flash?
Your whole existence going off in your face
in an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography —
nothing like the three large volumes you envisioned.

Survivors would have us believe in a brilliance
here, some bolt of truth forking across the water,
an ultimate Light before all lights go out,
dawning on you with all its megalithic tonnage.
But if something does flash before your eyes
as you go under, it will probably be a fish,

a quick blur of curved silver darting away,
having nothing to do with your life or your death.
The tide will take you, or the lake will accept it all
as you sink toward the weedy disarray of the bottom,
leaving behind what you have already forgotten,
the surface, now overrun with the high travel of clouds.

THE ART OF DROWNING
by Billy Collins

All myth is an enriched pattern,
a two-faced proposition,
allowing its operator to say one thing and
mean another, to lead a double life. 
Hence the notion found early in ancient
thought that all poets are liars.
And from the true lies of poetry
trickled out a question. 

What really connects words and things?

Not much, decided my husband
and proceeded to use language
in the way that Homer says the gods do. 
All human words are known to the gods
but have them for entirely other meanings
alongside our meanings.
They flip the switch at will. 

My husband lied about everything.

Money, meetings, mistresses,
the birthplace of his parents,
the store where he bought shirts, the spelling of his own name.
He lied when it was not necessary to lie.
He lied when it wasn't even convenient.
He lied when he knew they knew he was lying.

He lied when it broke their hearts.

My heart. Her heart. I often wonder what happened to her.

The first one.

There is something pure-edged and burning about the first infidelity in a marriage.

Taxis back and forth.

Tear.

Cracks in the wall where it gets hit.

Lights on late at night.

I cannot live without her.

Her, this word that explodes.

Lights still on in the morning.

by Anne Carson

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.

by Derek Walcott

When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.

When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.

When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.

When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.

When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth.

When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness.

When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind.

When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings.

When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind.

When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time.

by Katrina Kenison

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 mail letters and purchase 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.


KINDNESS
by Naomi Shihab Nye