Fine Art Friday: Three Short Poems I Love to Pieces

I've been waiting excitedly all week to share these poems with you, readers, and tell you just why they mean so much to me.

They were introduced to me in various literature classes in college — the place I learned to truly appreciate poetry. Before that, I'd read bits of poetry here and there, but the discussions on a higher level in college, with professors adept at literary criticism, opened a new world of words to me.

Without further ado, here are the three short poems I love:

Is there anything more melancholy and beautiful than fog? (Photo: Free images)

"Fog," by Carl Sandburg, 1916

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

I love the metaphor of fog being like a cat, coming to observe. It's in the city, but not really of the city. It springs up seemingly out of nowhere. It makes no sound and can scarcely be felt. But its presence is by turns eerie, soothing, mysterious, aloof or comforting.

Cats are just like that. They steal your heart and win your cautious respect.

"So sweet and so cold." (Photo: Free images)

"This Is Just To Say," by William Carlos Williams, 1934

I have eaten 
the plums 
that were in 
the icebox 

and which 
you were probably 
for breakfast 

Forgive me 
they were delicious 
so sweet 
and so cold

This poem is written like an apology note on the kitchen counter. It tickles my funny bone. It makes me think of how sometimes, the food being saved for a special occasion — whatever it may be — is more tempting than the food that's freely available. We're all human; we all feel the pull of forbidden fruit.

Reading this poem made you hungry for plums, didn't it? You weren't even thinking about them until I shared this, were you?

The innocence of a child. (Photo: Free images)

My Papa's Waltz, by Theodore Roethke, 1942

The whiskey on your breath 
Could make a small boy dizzy; 
But I hung on like death: 
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans 
Slid from the kitchen shelf; 
My mother’s countenance 
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist 
Was battered on one knuckle; 
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head 
With a palm caked hard by dirt, 
Then waltzed me off to bed 
Still clinging to your shirt.

This poem, admittedly, is very bittersweet. I remember being disappointed and angry after I first read it — angry that the poet would celebrate drunkenness in verse. Alcoholism isn't something to laud, my college self said. 

But eventually, I peeled back the layers and found beauty underneath. The more I've thought about it over the years, the more I have come to realize Roethke did what artists the world over strive to do: Make something honest and beautiful out of something broken.

The poem illustrates that troubled people show love in troubling ways. It's love that's as imperfect as love always will be this side of heaven.

I haven't read much about Roethke beyond his Wikipedia page, but I'm willing to bet the poem is autobiographical. I'm thankful he took his pain and spun a refrain. (Ha! See, I'm a poet, too. ;)

Share your favorite poem

Can you think of a poem that has affected you deeply? I'd love to hear about it. Leave me a comment here or over at my Facebook Community page.

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