Excerpts for Good Poems

Poem in Thanks

Thomas Lux

Lord Whoever, thank you for this air

I'm about to in- and exhale, this hutch

in the woods, the wood for fire,

the light-both lamp and the natural stuff

of leaf-back, fern, and wing.

For the piano, the shovel

for ashes, the moth-gnawed

blankets, the stone-cold water

stone-cold: thank you.

Thank you, Lord, coming for

to carry me here-where I'll gnash

it out, Lord, where I'll calm

and work, Lord, thank you

for the goddamn birds singing!

How Many Nights

Galway Kinnell

How many nights

have I lain in terror,

O Creator Spirit, Maker of night and day,

only to walk out

the next morning over the frozen world

hearing under the creaking of snow

faint, peaceful breaths...


bear, earthworm, ant...

and above me

a wild crow crying 'yaw yaw yaw'

from a branch nothing cried from ever in my life.

Welcome Morning

Anne Sexton

There is joy

in all:

in the hair I brush each morning,

in the Cannon towel, newly washed,

that I rub my body with each morning,

in the chapel of eggs I cook

each morning,

in the outcry from the kettle

that heats my coffee

each morning,

in the spoon and the chair

that cry "hello there, Anne"

each morning,

in the godhead of the table

that I set my silver, plate, cup upon

each morning.

All this is God,

right here in my pea-green house

each morning

and I mean,

though often forget,

to give thanks,

to faint down by the kitchen table

in a prayer of rejoicing

as the holy birds at the kitchen window

peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,

let me paint a thank-you on my palm

for this God, this laughter of the morning,

lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,

dies young.

Psalm 23

from The Bay Psalm Book

The Lord to me a shepherd is,

want therefore shall not I:

He in the folds of tender grass,

doth cause me down to lie:

To waters calm me gently leads

restore my soul doth he:

He doth in paths of righteousness

for his name's sake lead me.

Yea, though in valley of death's shade

I walk, none ill I'll fear:

Because thou art with me, thy rod,

and staff my comfort are.

For me a table thou hast spread,

in presence of my foes:

Thou dost anoint my head with oil;

my cup it overflows.

Goodness and mercy surely shall

all my days follow me:

And in the Lord's house I shall dwell

so long as days shall be.

At Least

Raymond Carver

I want to get up early one more morning,

before sunrise. Before the birds, even.

I want to throw cold water on my face

and be at my work table

when the sky lightens and smoke

begins to rise from the chimneys

of the other houses.

I want to see the waves break

on this rocky beach, not just hear them

break as I did all night in my sleep.

I want to see again the ships

that pass through the Strait from every

seafaring country in the world-

old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,

and the swift new cargo vessels

painted every color under the sun

that cut the water as they pass.

I want to keep an eye out for them.

And for the little boat that plies

the water between the ships

and the pilot station near the lighthouse.

I want to see them take a man off the ship

and put another up on board.

I want to spend the day watching this happen

and reach my own conclusions.

I hate to seem greedy-I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what's going to happen.

Address to the Lord

John Berryman


Master of beauty, craftsman of the snowflake,

inimitable contriver,

endower of Earth so gorgeous & different from the boring Moon,

thank you for such as it is my gift.

I have made up a morning prayer to you

containing with precision everything that most matters.

'According to Thy will' the thing begins.

It took me off & on two days. It does not aim at eloquence.

You have come to my rescue again & again

in my impassable, sometimes despairing years.

You have allowed my brilliant friends to destroy themselves

and I am still here, severely damaged, but functioning.

Unknowable, as I am unknown to my guinea pigs:

How can I 'love' you?

I only as far as gratitude & awe

confidently & absolutely go.

I have no idea whether we live again.

It doesn't seem likely

from either the scientific or the philosophical point of view

but certainly all things are possible to you,

and I believe as fixedly in the Resurrection-appearances to Peter and

to Paul

as I believe I sit in this blue chair.

Only that may have been a special case

to establish their initiatory faith.

Whatever your end may be, accept my amazement.

May I stand until death forever at attention

for any your least instruction or enlightenment.

I even feel sure you will assist me again, Master of insight & beauty.

Philip Appleman

O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,

gimme a break before I die:

grant me wisdom, will, & wit,

purity, probity, pluck, & grit.

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,

gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,

and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice-

these little blessings would suffice

to beget an earthly paradise:

make the bad people good-

and the good people nice;

and before our world goes over the brink,

teach the believers how to think.

Reprinted from Good Poems by Garrison Keillor, Copyright ©2002, Viking, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission