Poems that will inspire you!

Poetry, as they say, comes from the heart and the soul. As one of my favorite contemporary poets, David Whyte, says – poets don’t start out as philosophers, but all poets end up being philosophers. Reading or listening to a poet talk about an aspect of life often gives us clarity, a new perspective, or simply shows us that what we think about or face actually binds us to the rest of humankind. This page will contain some of my favorite poems – I hope that you like them as much as I do.

Watching a child is a magical thing – children are refreshingly authentic. They laugh when they think something is funny – sometimes with complete abandon. They cry when they’re upset. If something interests them, they explore it. As we go through life, that authenticity becomes a dangerous thing as we begin to fear a loss of belonging or acceptance. Many of us begin to live a life that isn’t really ours – it’s a life that we hope will make us acceptable to others. Hopefully, if we lose our authenticity along the way, we find the guidance and courage to reclaim it as we grow older and wiser. Derek Wolcott speaks to this journey of reclamation in his beautiful poem:


by Derek Wolcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
you will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

This next poem is so beautiful and speaks to what I believe we are here to do –  live fully as the unique person we are.  When we show up in our life authentically, it may not always be pretty and at times it may be painful, but it is real – and we have the opportunity to bring who we are to the world.


by Jewel Mathieson

We have come to be danced
not the pretty dance
not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
but the claw our way back into the belly
of the sacred, sensual animal dance
the unhinged, unplugged, cat is out of its box dance
the holding the precious moment in the palms
of our hands and feet dance

We have come to be danced
not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
but the wring the sadness from our skin dance
the blow the chip off our shoulder dance
the slap the apology from our posture dance

We have come to be danced
not the monkey see, monkey do dance
one, two dance like you
one two three, dance like me dance
but the grave robber, tomb stalker
tearing scabs & scars open dance
the rub the rhythm raw against our souls dance

We have come to be danced
not the nice invisible, self conscious shuffle
but the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
the strip us from our casings, return our wings
sharpen our claws & tongues dance
the shed dead cells and slip into
the luminous skin of love dance

We have come to be danced
not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
but the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath & beat dance
the shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
the mother may I?
yes you may take 10 giant leaps dance
the Olly Olly Oxen Free Free Free dance
the everyone can come to our heaven dance

We have come to be danced
where the kingdom’s collide
in the cathedral of flesh
to burn back into the light
to unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
to root in skin sanctuary

We have come to be danced

So many of us have an idea of who or what we want to be, but don’t think we can really do it.  Maybe there are financial considerations, self-doubt about our ability to learn what we need to learn or keep going through all the years it will take to get there, or perhaps we are obeying “rules” that we think are there, binding us, but are really only barriers in our minds.  This next poem speaks clearly to that situation – we really CAN be what we want to be, if we’re willing to think about the steps we need to take and then keep going until we get there.  It’s possible that those “dreams” are just that – in reality, we want something else more that then takes priority.  While there are some ideas that will never come to fruition (you can’t be a pilot if your vision is impaired), we can usually reach any reasonable goal we set for ourselves with planning, effort and commitment.


by Donna Levine

 There is inside you                                                                                                                               All of the potential                                                                                                                          To be whatever you want to be;
All of the energy
To do whatever you want to do.
Imagine yourself as you would like to be,
Doing what you want to do,
And each day, take one step
Towards your dream.
And though at times it may seem too
difficult to continue,
Hold on to your dream.
One morning you will awake to find
That you are the person you dreamed of,
Doing what you wanted to do,
Simply because you had the courage
To believe in your potential
And to hold on to your dream.

I love this next poem because, as many of us, I have often felt the expectation to be consistent – consistently optimistic, energetic, and engaged. The problem is that I don’t always feel that way! Just as the true beauty of the moon is appreciated in its changing appearance, so, too, are each of us all the more fascinating and human because of our changing moods, interests, and ideas. When we’re feeling less capable or upbeat than we would like, there’s a natural tendency to panic – what if we never regain that sense of confidence and competence again? This poem offers the sense of compassion that we might all feel towards ourselves – the faith that there is something to be appreciated and gained from our “fading from fullness” and the faith that what comes next in our lives may bring a different kind of beauty as well.

by David Whyte

I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

It always amazes me in reading the Sufi poets that they realized these truths so many centuries ago! Growing up in the 50’s, I was expected to be “nice.” There was no acceptance of anger, confrontation, or self-centeredness. And if a sad event occurred, it was best to “keep a stiff upper lip” and go on as if nothing was wrong. Unfortunately, as both research and anecdotal reports document, when we refuse to acknowledge our true feelings, their power over us grows and they come out in other ways in our lives. Rumi encourages us to welcome each feeling, to allow it to do its work in us, as this will clear us out for “some new delight.”

by Rumi

This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

As healthcare professionals, most of us have a strong value of service. Unfortunately, this desire to do for others can crowd out a healthy focus on what’s best for us. As we begin to move more toward caring for ourselves and satisfying our own needs, the desires of those who depend on us may pull us back into old patterns. Mary Oliver’s metaphor masterfully creates the sense of just how difficult it can be to change those old habits. At the end it offers us the hope of finding a balance between our own needs and the needs of others and reminds us that we can never truly expect to help others if we are not healthy ourselves.

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 voices 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 you could save.

2 Responses to Poems that will inspire you!

  1. Karen Garman says:

    Hi! Just picked you up on Google! Love the poems and the blog – you are quite the 21st century physician coach! GOOD FOR YOU!!! Hope to see you soon – Karen

    • Helane says:

      So happy that you loved the poems! Poets speak for us in in such elegant and profound ways – I often wonder how they knew exactly what I was thinking and feeling, and then they take me one step further in my understanding. Looking forward to meeting a new group of medical students and having the joy of watching them begin to become doctors. Hope your summer projects were even more fun than they sounded!

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