15 Poems that Will Speak to Those on the Path to Spiritual Awakening

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Each of us is on our own individual and unique spiritual journey, working towards the discovery of spiritual enlightenment and awakening. Throughout this journey we will be faced with a number of highs and lows, facing emotions and experiences that others may find hard to connect with or understand.

Poetry has long been known for its ability to take vast, difficult and even complicated emotions and capture them within their words and stylistic flair. Through their grasp of language and writing, poets can depict happiness and sorrow, celebration and struggle, complexity and simplicity. There is no aspect of the human condition that is genuinely off limits.

RWC News 15 Poems that Will Speak to Those on the Path to Spiritual Awakening
Source: Progressive Dreamers | YouTube

These creative and ingenious works can both motivate and inspire, touching us on an emotional, spiritual and mental level. They may help us to understand and explain an ambiguous feeling, provide guidance in our spiritual journey or call attention to an area in our life, or in society, that needs to change. In the words of poet Claribel Alegria, “The poet can and must, in his life as well as his work, serve as the finely-honed scalpel of change, both in word and deed, when he lives in a profoundly unjust and stagnant society.”

While it is difficult to define what is and isn’t considered to be poetry, as the label has been applied to such a vast assortment of literary works, ancient examples include the Vedas (1700-1200 BC) and the Odyssey (800-675 BC). When asked to define poetry, Samuel Taylor Coleridge referred to it as “the art of apprehending and interpreting ideas by the faculty of imagination; the art of idealizing in thought and in expression. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.” Modern day poets continue to push these boundaries, challenging traditional views of poetry with their new, unique style and form.

With the frame of a man, and the face of a boy, and a manner strangely wild,
And the great, wide, wondering, innocent eyes of a silent-suffering child;
With his hideous dress and his heavy boots, he drags to Eternity—
And the Warder says, in a softened tone: ‘Keep step, One Hundred and Three.’

’Tis a ghastly travesty of drill—or a ghastly farce of work—
But One Hundred and Three, he catches step with a start, a shuffle and jerk.
’Tis slow starvation in separate cells, and a widow’s son is he,
And the widow, she drank before he was born—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

They shut a man in the four-by-eight, with a six-inch slit for air,
Twenty-three hours of the twenty-four, to brood on his virtues there.
And the dead stone walls and the iron door close in as an iron band
On eyes that followed the distant haze far out on the level land.

Bread and water and hominy, and a scrag of meat and a spud,
A Bible and thin flat book of rules, to cool a strong man’s blood;
They take the spoon from the cell at night—and a stranger might think it odd;
But a man might sharpen it on the floor, and go to his own Great God.

One Hundred and Three, it is hard to believe that you saddled your horse at dawn;
There were girls that rode through the bush at eve, and girls who lolled on the lawn.
There were picnic parties in sunny bays, and ships on the shining sea;
There were foreign ports in the glorious days—(Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)

A man came out at exercise time from one of the cells to-day:
’Twas the ghastly spectre of one I knew, and I thought he was far away;
We dared not speak, but he signed ‘Farewell—fare—well,’ and I knew by this
And the number stamped on his clothes (not sewn) that a heavy sentence was his.

Where five men do the work of a boy, with warders not to see,
It is sad and bad and uselessly mad, it is ugly as it can be,
From the flower-beds laid to fit the gaol, in circle and line absurd,
To the gilded weathercock on the church, agape like a strangled bird.

Agape like a strangled bird in the sun, and I wonder what he could see?
The Fleet come in, and the Fleet go out? (Hold up, One Hundred and Three!)
The glorious sea, and the bays and Bush, and the distant mountains blue
(Keep step, keep step, One Hundred and Three, for my lines are halting too)

The great, round church with its volume of sound, where we dare not turn our eyes—
They take us there from our separate hells to sing of Paradise.
In all the creeds there is hope and doubt, but of this there is no doubt:
That starving prisoners faint in church, and the warders carry them out.

They double-lock at four o’clock and the warders leave their keys,
And the Governor strolls with a friend at eve through his stone conservatories;
Their window slits are like idiot mouths with square stone chins adrop,
And the weather-stains for the dribble, and the dead flat foreheads atop.

No light save the lights in the yard beneath the clustering lights of the Lord—
And the lights turned in to the window slits of the Observation Ward.
(They eat their meat with their fingers there in a madness starved and dull—
Oh! the padded cells and the O—b—s are nearly always full.)

Rules, regulations—red-tape and rules; all and alike they bind:
Under ‘separate treatment ’ place the deaf; in the dark cell shut the blind!
And somewhere down in his sandstone tomb, with never a word to save,
One Hundred and Three is keeping step, as he’ll keep it to his grave.

The press is printing its smug, smug lies, and paying its shameful debt—
It speaks of the comforts that prisoners have, and ‘holidays’ prisoners get.
The visitors come with their smug, smug smiles through the gaol on a working day,
And the public hears with its large, large ears what authorities have to say.

They lay their fingers on well-hosed walls, and they tread on the polished floor;
They peep in the generous shining cans with their ration Number Four.
And the visitors go with their smug, smug smiles; the reporters’ work is done;
Stand up! my men, who have done your time on ration Number One!

Speak up, my men! I was never the man to keep my own bed warm,
I have jogged with you round in the Fools’ Parade, and I’ve worn your uniform;
I’ve seen you live, and I’ve seen you die, and I’ve seen your reason fail—
I’ve smuggled tobacco and loosened my tongue—and I’ve been punished in gaol.

Ay! clang the spoon on the iron floor, and shove in the bread with your toe,
And shut with a bang the iron door, and clank the bolt—just so,
With an ignorant oath for a last good-night—or the voice of a filthy thought.
By the Gipsy Blood you have caught a man you’ll be sorry that ever you caught.

He shall be buried alive without meat, for a day and a night unheard
If he speak to a fellow prisoner, though he die for want of a word.
He shall be punished, and he shall be starved, and he shall in darkness rot,
He shall be murdered body and soul—and God said, ‘Thou shalt not!’

I’ve seen the remand-yard men go out, by the subway out of the yard—
And I’ve seen them come in with a foolish grin and a sentence of Three Years Hard.
They send a half-starved man to the court, where the hearts of men they carve—
Then feed him up in the hospital to give him the strength to starve.

You get the gaol-dust in your throat, in your skin the dead gaol-white;
You get the gaol-whine in your voice and in every letter you write.
And in your eyes comes the bright gaol-light—not the glare of the world’s distraught,
Not the hunted look, nor the guilty look, but the awful look of the Caught.

There was one I met—’twas a mate of mine—in a gaol that is known to us;
He died—and they said it was ‘heart disease’; but he died for want of a truss.
I’ve knelt at the head of the pallid dead, where the living dead were we,
And I’ve closed the yielding lids with my thumbs—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

A criminal face is rare in gaol, where all things else are ripe—
It is higher up in the social scale that you’ll find the criminal type.
But the kindness of man to man is great when penned in a sandstone pen—
The public call us the ‘criminal class,’ but the warders call us ‘the men.’

The brute is a brute, and a kind man kind, and the strong heart does not fail—
A crawler’s a crawler everywhere, but a man is a man in gaol!
For forced ‘desertion’ or drunkenness, or a law’s illegal debt,
While never a man who was a man was ‘reformed’ by punishment yet.

The champagne lady comes home from the course in charge of the criminal swell—
They carry her in from the motor car to the lift in the Grand Hotel.
But armed with the savage Habituals Act they are waiting for you and me,
And the drums, they are beating loud and near. (Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

The clever scoundrels are all outside, and the moneyless mugs in gaol—
Men do twelve months for a mad wife’s lies or Life for a strumpet’s tale.
If the people knew what the warders know, and felt as the prisoners feel—
If the people knew, they would storm their gaols as they stormed the old Bastile.

And the cackling, screaming half-human hens who were never mothers nor wives
Would send their sisters to such a hell for the term of their natural lives,
Where laws are made in a Female Fit in the Land of the Crazy Fad,
And drunkards in judgment on drunkards sit and the mad condemn the mad.

The High Church service swells and swells where the tinted Christs look down—
It is easy to see who is weary and faint and weareth the thorny crown.
There are swift-made signs that are not to God, and they march us Hellward then.
It is hard to believe that we knelt as boys to ‘forever and ever, Amen. ’

Warders and prisoners all alike in a dead rot dry and slow—
The author must not write for his own, and the tailor must not sew.
The billet-bound officers dare not speak and discharged men dare not tell
Though many and many an innocent man must brood in this barren hell.

We are most of us criminal, most of us mad, and we do what we can do.
(Remember the Observation Ward and Number Forty-Two.)
There are eyes that see through stone and iron, though the rest of the world be blind—
We are prisoners all in God’s Great Gaol, but the Governor, He is kind.

They crave for sunlight, they crave for meat, they crave for the might-have-been,
But the cruelest thing in the walls of a gaol is the craving for nicotine.
Yet the spirit of Christ is everywhere where the heart of a man can dwell,
It comes like tobacco in prison—or like news to the separate cell.

They have smuggled him out to the Hospital with no one to tell the tale,
But it’s little the doctors and nurses can do for the patient from Starvinghurst Gaol.
He cannot swallow the food they bring, for a gaol-starved man is he,
And the blanket and screen are ready to draw—(Keep step, One Hundred and Three!)

‘What were you doing, One Hundred and Three?’ and the answer is ‘Three years hard,
And a month to go’—and the whisper is low: ‘There’s the moonlight—out in the yard.’
The drums, they are beating far and low, and the footstep’s light and free,
And the angels are whispering over his bed: ‘Keep step, One Hundred and Three!’

2. If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

3. The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?–
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.

4. Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath

I have done it again.

One year in every ten

I manage it—–

A sort of walking miracle, my skin

Bright as a Nazi lampshade,

My right foot

A paperweight,

My featureless, fine

Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin

O my enemy.

Do I terrify?——-

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?

The sour breath

Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh

The grave cave ate will be

At home on me

And I a smiling woman.

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.

What a trash

To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.

The Peanut-crunching crowd

Shoves in to see

They unwrap me hand and foot ——

The big strip tease.

Gentleman, ladies

These are my hands

My knees.

I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.

The first time it happened I was ten.

It was an accident.

The second time I meant

To last it out and not come back at all.

I rocked shut

As a seashell.

They had to call and call

And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying

Is an art, like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.

I do it so it feels real.

I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.

It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.

It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day

To the same place, the same face, the same brute

Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’

That knocks me out.

There is a charge

For the eyeing my scars, there is a charge

For the hearing of my heart—

It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge

For a word or a touch

Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair on my clothes.

So, so, Herr Doktor.

So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,

I am your valuable,

The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.

I turn and burn.

Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—

You poke and stir.

Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—-

A cake of soap,

A wedding ring,

A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Beware

Beware.

Out of the ash

I rise with my red hair

And I eat men like air.

5. Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back

Of the wind and floats downstream

Till the current ends and dips his wing

In the orange suns rays

And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage

Can seldom see through his bars of rage

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill

Of things unknown but longed for still

And his tune is heard on the distant hill for

The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

And the trade winds soft through

The sighing trees

And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright

Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams

His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

His wings are clipped and his feet are tied

So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with

A fearful trill of things unknown

But longed for still and his

Tune is heard on the distant hill

For the caged bird sings of freedom.

7. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

8. All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

9. Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

10. Walking Around by Pablo Neruda

It so happens I am sick of being a man.

And it happens that I walk into

tailorshops and movie

houses

dried up, waterproof, like a swan made

of felt

steering my way in a water of wombs

and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me

break into hoarse

sobs.

The only thing I want is to lie still like

stones or wool.

The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,

no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails

and my hair and my shadow.

It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous

to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,

or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.

It would be great

to go through the streets with a green knife

letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,

insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,

going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,

taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don’t want so much misery.

I don’t want to go on as a root and a tomb,

alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,

half frozen, dying of grief.

That’s why Monday, when it sees me coming

with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,

and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,

and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the

night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist

houses,

into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,

into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,

and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines

hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,

and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,

there are mirrors

that ought to have wept from shame and terror,

there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical

cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,

my rage, forgetting everything,

I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic

shops,

and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:

underwear, towels and shirts from which slow

dirty tears are falling.

11. Solitude by Ella Wheeler Scott

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone;

For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,

But has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;

Sigh, it is lost on the air;

The echoes bound to a joyful sound,

But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;

Grieve, and they turn and go;

They want full measure of all your pleasure,

But they do not need your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;

Be sad, and you lose them all,

There are none to decline your nectared wine,

But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;

Fast, and the world goes by.

Succeed and give, and it helps you live,

But no man can help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure

For a large and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.

12. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference

13. Crow’s Fall by Ted Hughes

When Crow was white he decided the

sun was too white.

He decided it glared much too whitely.

He decided to attack it and defeat it.

He got his strength up flush and in full

glitter.

He clawed and fluffed his rage up.

He aimed his beak direct at the sun’s center.

He laughed himself to the center of

himself

And attacked.

At his battle cry trees grew suddenly old,

Shadows flattened.

But the sun brightened –

It brightened, and Crow returned charred black.

He opened his mouth but what came out was charred black.

“Up there,” he managed,

“Where white is black and black is white, I won.”

14. A Dream within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow–

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand–

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep–while I weep!

O God! can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

15. A Poison Tree by William Blake

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:

And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole.
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

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Shelby Maydfunov
I have been reporting for RWC News for 2 years now. I am the daughter of parents legally immigrated here from Russia 41 years ago. I am 27 years old.

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