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.


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