Poems That Mean the World to Me

There are two poems that I would keep under my pillow if I were in the habit of doing that.  As it is, I have them pinned to the noticeboard in my study and below are my favourite fragments from them.  They seem to speak my words, my thoughts, my heart (but so much better than I ever could).  The first one I discovered a long time ago, as a teenager; the second one I came across only a few months ago, but it sparked my creative renaissance. The sentiments seem to lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, we all have contradictions within ourselves, don’t we?

You said: ‘I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,

find another city better than this one’.


You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.

This city will always pursue you.

You’ll walk the same streets, grow old

int he same neighbourhoods, turn grey in these same houses.

You’ll always end up in this city.  Don’t hope for things elsewhere:

there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.

Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,

you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

(C.P. Cavafy)

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
If they say we should get together.
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

(Naomi Shihab Nye)

12 thoughts on “Poems That Mean the World to Me”

  1. Gutted by the poem from Constantine Cavafy. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s the one truth that’s incredibly hard to swallow. I remember something Rilke and Plath said. Non-verbatim, but I believe the message was that one ought not to blame his/her situation for an inability to write. Just admit that you’re not enough of a poet to conjure images from thin air (or from memory.)

    1. So many people think they can start over by moving abroad, or moving house, or changing partners etc. But you can never escape yourself. Thank you for stopping by on my blog and for your thoughtful comment. Look forward to reading more of your blog.

  2. Awesome snippets, especially the first one. I think everyone, at some point in his or her life, thinks that a change of scenery will somehow fix all their problems. And while it might be a nice break, I firmly believe that you can’t escape who you are fundamentally.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ethan. I also see it (as Cavafy probably did) as the immigrant experience: you think you are going somewhere new and reinventing yourself, but people never will let you forget where you come from.

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