Reluctance, Robert Frost
In Blackwater Woods, Mary Oliver
I Ask For Silence, Pablo Neruda
I Will Wear Purple, Jenny Joseph
Let It Go (from Frozen), Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
The Friend, Mark Nepo
The Open Road, Walt Whitman (excerpts)
The Layers, Stanley Kunitz
The Shell, David Whyte
Wean Yourself, Rumi
Tale of the Sands

* * *

The Ascending Soul, Rumi
Quieting The Thieves, Mark Nepo
Accepting This, Mark Nepo
I Know the Truth, Marina Tsvetaeva
To a Daughter Leaving Home, Linda Pastan
The Prophet, On Children, Kahil Gibran
The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away From the Curb, Sharon Olds
September, the First Day of School, Howard Nemerov
The Layers, Stanley Kunitz
Where is God? Mark Nepo
What Things Want, Robert Bly
Song of a Man Who Has Come Though, D.H. Lawrence
Let It Be, The Beatles
I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair
The Holy Longing, Johann Goethe
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning, John Donne
Morning Swim, Maxine Kumin
Letting Go, Fay Zwicky
Like Me, Rumi

by Robert Frost

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In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver

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I Ask For Silence
by Pablo Neruda

Now they leave me in peace.
Now they grow used to my absence.

I am going to close my eyes.

I want only five things,
five chosen roots.

One is endless love.

Two is to see the autumn.
I cannot exist without leaves
flying and falling to earth.

The third is the solemn winter,
the rain I loved, the caress
of fire in the rough cold.

Fourth, the summer,
plump as a watermelon.

And fifthly, your eyes.
Matilde, my dear love,
I won’t sleep without your eyes.
I won’t exist without your gaze.
I adjust the spring
for you to follow me with your eyes.

That, friends, is all I want.
Next to nothing, close to everything.

Now they can go if they wish.

I have lived so much that some day
they will have to forget me forcibly,

rubbing me off the blackboard.
My heart was inexhaustible.

But because I ask for silence,
don’t think I’m going to die.
The opposite is true;
it happens I am going to live.

To be, and to go on being.

I will not be, however, if inside me,
the crop does not keep sprouting,
the shoots first, breaking through the earth
to reach the light;
but the mothering earth is dark,
and, deep inside me, I am dark.
I am a well in the water of which
the night leaves behind stars
and goes on alone across fields.

It’s a question of having lived so much
that I want to live a bit more.

I never felt my voice so clear,
never have been so rich in kisses.

Now, as always, it is early.
The light is a swarm of bees.

Let me alone with the day.
I ask leave to be born.


I Will Wear Purple
by Jenny Joseph

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Let It Go (from Frozen)
By Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

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The Friend
by Mark Nepo

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The Open Road (excerpts)
by Walt Whitman

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune — I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing . . .
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

* * *

You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.

* * *

Here is the efflux of the Soul;
The efflux of the Soul comes from within, through embower’d gates, ever
provoking questions:
These yearnings, why are they? These thoughts in the darkness, why are they?

* * *

Allons! whoever you are, come travel with me!
Traveling with me, you find what never tires.

The earth never tires;
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first — Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first;
Be not discouraged — keep on — there are divine things, well envelop’d;
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.

* * *

The Soul travels;
The body does not travel as much as the soul;
The body has just as great a work as the soul, and parts away at last for
the journeys of the soul.

* * *

All parts away for the progress of souls;
All religion, all solid things, arts, governments, — all that was or is
apparent upon this globe or any globe, falls into niches and corners before
the procession of Souls along the grand roads of the universe.

Of the progress of the souls of men and women along the grand roads of the
universe, all other progress is the needed emblem and sustenance.

Forever alive, forever forward,
Stately, solemn, sad, withdrawn, baffled, mad, turbulent, feeble,
Desperate, proud, fond, sick, accepted by men, rejected by men,
They go! they go! I know that they go, but I know not where they go;
But I know that they go toward the best — toward something great.

* * *

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe — I have tried it — my own feet have tried it well — be not
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! Mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the court,
and the judge expound the law.

Comerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself, before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?


The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

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The Shell
by David Whyte

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Wean Yourself*
by Rumi
(translated by Coleman Banks)

Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.

From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say, “The world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.”

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark, with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer:

There is no “other world.”
I only know what I’ve experienced.
You must be hallucinating.

* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Banks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Banks (Harper Collins 2004).

A Tale of the Sands
(Traditional Sufi Tale)

A Stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one, but it found
that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross
This desert, and yet there was no way.

Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: “The Wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.”

The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed — that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross a desert.

By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.”

But how could this happen? “By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind,” said the desert.

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could ever be regained?

The wind,” said the sand, “performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.”

How can I know that this is true?” asked the stream.

“It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become
more than a quagmire, and even that could take many,
many years, and it certainly is not the same as a stream.”

“But can I not remain the same desert stream that I am today?”

“You cannot remain so,” the desert whisper said. “Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.”

When he heard this, certain echoes began to arise in the thoughts of the stream. Dimly, he remembered a state in which he — or some part of him, was it? — had been held in the arms of a wind. He also remembered — or did he? — that this was the real thing, not necessarily the obvious thing, to do.

And the stream raised his vapour into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fall softly as soon as they reached the roof of a mountain, many miles away. And because he had his doubts, the stream was able to remember and record more strongly in his mind the details of the experience. He reflected, “Yes, now I have learned my true identity.