Poetry is about slowing down. You sit and you read something, you read it again, and it reveals a little bit more, and things come to light you never could have predicted.
~ Mark Strand
LIGHTING YOUR BIRTHDAY CAKE
Of course we didn't come this far
without leaving a trail, but it's only
footprints on a beach; one wash
through our memories, and it's gone. Strange,
so much passion, commitment, doomed
to be drifted over like
Troy and Babylon, pitiful echoes now
of all those eager heartbeats.
You've always cared so much,
about us, sure, but really everything—
hungry kids, dolphins, over-
population, and the old foes: batterers, bishops,
gunslingers, chauvinists—nothing escapes
your rage or compassion; earthquakes in Asia
shake our midnight bedroom. You always knew
that the bright bird of sympathy
is the only godliness on earth,
hovering over these grubby streets
on better wings than angels'. Now
I can't believe in a world without
your bonfire of outrage, small flame of anguish,
pink glow of happiness.
Remember how I need your warmth:
as you blow out these candles, make a wish
to keep the fires burning.
by Philip Appleman,
from New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996
(University of Arkansas Press).