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Sunday Poems
Sometimes, I need to reassure myself of my place in the world. Questions like, "What's my 'thing'? What do I want to be known for? What will I do, know, love?" echo in my mind. It's daunting, to reflect in such a way, on who you are and who you want to be. We think of ourselves as giant beings: multi-faceted, complex, intriguing. Inwardly, we often are. But outwardly, it's easy to feel lost.

I think it boils down to this: we all want desperately to be known. To have someone understand. To have someone love us in spite of what they know. Last week, I wrote about the impossibility of knowing everything about someone else. This week, I want to revisit that in a new way. To be known is not just a two-way street. It's also a solitary, internal pursuit. How can you be known by others without truly knowing yourself?

Words have always helped me to know myself better. Something about having the language to describe, reassure, and understand. A line that's stuck with me is from Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar: "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am." Over the years, I've doodled it in margins, hung it on my wall, engraved it on a necklace, and stitched it into my favorite jean jacket. Sonically, the words comfort me. Like the best music, I replay them again and again and again. They offer stability and a reminder: I am working to know who I'm becoming. And learning to love who I have always been.

This week, poems about knowing yourself.
Summing Up
by Claribel Alegria

In the sixty-three years
I have lived
some instants are electric:
the happiness of my feet
jumping puddles
six hours in Machu Picchu
the buzzing of the telephone
while awaiting my mother’s death
the ten minutes it took
to lose my virginity
the hoarse voice
announcing the assassination
of Archbishop Romero
fifteen minutes in Delft
the first wail of my daughter
I don’t know how many years yearning
for the liberation of my people
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me in love
one forget-me-not afternoon
the desire to mold myself
into a verse
a cry
a fleck of foam.
Someday I'll Love Ocean Vuong
by Ocean Vuong

Ocean, don’t be afraid.
The end of the road is so far ahead
it is already behind us.
Don’t worry. Your father is only your father
until one of you forgets. Like how the spine
won’t remember its wings
no matter how many times our knees
kiss the pavement. Ocean,
are you listening? The most beautiful part
of your body is wherever
your mother's shadow falls.
Here's the house with childhood
whittled down to a single red trip wire.
Don't worry. Just call it horizon
& you'll never reach it.
Here's today. Jump. I promise it's not
a lifeboat. Here's the man
whose arms are wide enough to gather
your leaving. & here the moment,
just after the lights go out, when you can still see
the faint torch between his legs.
How you use it again & again
to find your own hands.
You asked for a second chance
& are given a mouth to empty out of.
Don't be afraid, the gunfire
is only the sound of people
trying to live a little longer
& failing. Ocean. Ocean —
get up. The most beautiful part of your body
is where it's headed. & remember,
loneliness is still time spent
with the world. Here's
the room with everyone in it.
Your dead friends passing
through you like wind
through a wind chime. Here's a desk
with the gimp leg & a brick
to make it last. Yes, here's a room
so warm & blood-close,
I swear, you will wake —
& mistake these walls
for skin.
The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life that you could save.
Are you looking for poems that fit a specific topic or feeling? Reply to this email with whatever that topic area is, and I'll cover your topic (and suggest some poems that fit!) in an upcoming edition of Sunday Poems.

To the friends who have already shared topics, ideas, quotes, and essays they have been reading: keep them coming! This week was inspired loosely by the following recommendation (thanks Mary!): an essay from The Paris Review titled "One Word: Understand".
Revisit past collections here:
Sunday Poems #4: Trust the hours
Sunday Poems #5: Still somehow we breathe 
Sunday Poems #6: Sing their names
Sunday Poems #7: This place could be beautiful

Sunday Poems #8: It was summer, I was there, so was he
Sunday Poems #9: Where I know we are headed
Sunday Poems #10: You are neither here nor there
Sunday Poems #11: Though we have been apart, we have been together

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