11 Favorite Lines of Poetry

I judge a poem’s quality in part by the ability of its lines to function collectively and disparately. In a notebook I’ve written many line fragments from poems that speak to me more powerfully because of their briefness. Here’s a few favorites.

Walt Whitman 

By the sea, under the yellow and sagging moon,

The messenger there arous’d – the fire, the sweet hell within,

The unknown want, the destiny of me.

Sherman Alexie

You were a stranger. You were dark and brief.

And I am humbled by the size of your grief.

Juliana Baggott

You hate me

so well –

so thoroughly

only because you have practiced

(rigorous scales, taskmaster metronome)

hating yourself.

Terrance Hayes

All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet the flowers don’t quit opening.

Edgar Lee Masters

And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,

And not a single regret.

Paul Hoover

You await a handsome savior,

but the plain man draws near…

Carl Sandburg

I have loved the prairie as a man with

a heart shot full of pain over love.

William Somerset Maugham

The tragedy of love is indifference.

Adam Lindsay Gordon

Life is mostly froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone –

Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in our own.

Alice Meynell

I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.

Rupert Brooke 

Now, God be thanked, who has matched

us with this hour,

And caught our youth, and wakened us

from sleeping.






There was a sweeping tree

In my best friend’s back yard.

They cut it down; it was rotting.

I stood on the stump tonight,

Surveying the piecemeal limbs

Spread across the lawn

Like a museum dinosaur skeleton.

Our rope swing, slack

Snaked across the grass

Like entrails, wet with dew.

While Washing Dishes


While Washing Dishes

While washing

Dishes he makes

This face:

Chin out, lips almost

Kissing, eyes scanning

Back and forth

As dirty becomes clean,

Clean becomes dry.

I watch and think:

If he were to die,

I wouldn’t first miss

His complete and solemn

Self, romantic and achieving,

The man they would

Talk about at the funeral;

I would miss this.




I am a girl with dreams

Both too tight and too big,

Like a firmly-laced corset

I cannot fill out.

I wear my dreams

Wide as Marie Antoinette’s skirts;

I get stuck in doorframes

With these inconvenient dreams.

Sometimes after I don my dreams

I wonder if I should go out in public,

So gaudy and conspicuous,

Screaming, “Look at me!”

With the size of my visions.

Girls around me are comfortable

In their worn-in, small-scale plans,

Their coordinated ambitions

And tasteful wishes.

They can breathe easily;

I am gasping.

All I Need (A Poem in Four Sentences)

Photo on 2013-02-26 at 13.30

All I Need (A Poem in Four Sentences)

1. There is a picture of you and me I love to look at.

2. My hair still has purple in it, I am wearing black lace; you are in crisp-pressed turquoise and so tall.

3. It is a weird picture, candid as hell – your face is mostly hidden, but I can see the edge of your smile, I can tell I am the cause.

4. It is a smile truer than a child’s; it is all I need.




Stop trying to love,

Let the love make its own

Winding path through you;

Sometimes it will feel near,

Kicking up dust that stings

Your eyes, dazzling, fast, incredible.

But then it will journey far,

Until it is a speck on the horizon,

And you will feel alone

On the road and without a guide.

Know, know the love

Is always in you;

Do not chase it.

Let it travel.

It always finds its way