And the people turned to poems

A wonderful thing happened this week: poems. 

In the wake of anger, uncertainty and unrest, my phone and email filled with poems. From people I hardly knew and from those I hold close. Because poems often say what the heart cannot yet grasp, I was heartened to know that in times of turmoil we still turn to poems to speak for us. 

Hours after a new president was announced, this poem arrived: 


Change is the new,


word for god,


lovely enough

to raise a song


or implicate


a sea of wrongs,

mighty enough,


like other gods,


to shelter,

bring together,


and estrange us.


Please, god,

we seem to say,


change us.


— Wendy Videlock



As dismay turned to resolve, this poem arrived:


Still I Rise 

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.


— Maya Angelou



As the streets turned ugly and solace felt scarce:  

The Peace of Wild Things

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.


— Wendell Berry


What brings
you comfort and clarity in these divisive days?