How pure a thing is joy

I always say I'm not very good at favorites. I find making such choices to be far too committal, not to mention unnecessary. Why rate things in such ways? I don't have top five places I've ever visited, I don't have a favorite book or song of all time. I have a web of beautiful things that I've spun in my psyche, and each one is good and important in a different way.

That being said, I just may have a favorite poem. I've reread this so many times that its rhythm has become a familiar place. When I want to be reminded how to live, how to make sense of our existence, of the great and terrible impermanence of our world, this is the place I come to.

What are years    

       What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
       naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage; the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt -
dumbly calling, deafly listening - that
in misfortune, even death,
          encourages others
          and in its defeat, stirs

       the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
       accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be 
free and unable to be,
        in its surrendering
        finds it continuing. 

       So he who strongly feels
behaves. The very bird,
       grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy. 
        This is mortality,
        this is eternity. 

Marianne Moore


  1. I completely missed this post before! Wow, great poem! And I agree with Jacquelyn - that is an incredible photograph. I'll definitely have to check out all three of the poets you suggested to me. Thanks for the rec!

  2. I'm the same. Or I find I'll tell someone that something is my absolute favorite and has been forever, and then completely forget about it. And then they'll go and get me that thing or whatever and I'll be like "What?" and they'll be like "It's your favorite." And I'll be like "It is...?"

    Top five lists stress me out because I always forget all the places I've been or flavors I've tried.