Napped half the day;

no one   

    punished me!

— Issa (trans. Robert Hass)

   All the time I pray to Buddha

I keep on

      killing mosquitoes.

— Issa (trans. Robert Hass)


My Life Has Been the Poem I Would Have Writ

My life has been the poem I would have writ

But I could not both live and utter it.

Henry David Thoreau


We lose — because we win —

Gamblers — recollecting which

Toss their dice again!

— Emily Dickinson

I Walked in a Desert

I walked in a desert.

And I cried,

“Ah, God, take me from this place!”

A voice said, “It is no desert.”

I cried, “Well, But —

The sand, the heat, the vacant horizon.”

A voice said, “It is no desert.”

— Stephen Crane


The Span of Life

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.

I can remember when he was a pup.

— Robert Frost


A Life


In a sense.

In no sense!

Was that it? 

Was that it?

Was that it?

That was it.

— Howard Nemerov


Their Sex Life

One Failure on

Top of another.

— A. R. Ammons


Bravery runs in my family.

— A. R. Ammons


I Had Thought Things Were Going Along Well

But I was mistaken.

— John Ashbery



Any body can die, evidently. Few

Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many

Need oblivion, painkillers,

Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,

Various world:

X=your zenith.

— Robert Pinsky



You say I but

you’re a function

of your body.

It stops, you do.

–Bruce Kawin



So much for the fighting

                                             and the sex,

I want to be alone

with you in the next room.

— Kathleen Ossip


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Author: The Best American Poetry