Last week, during a particularly difficult illness day, I asked readers on Twitter to share a single line of poetry that has made them feel less alone. What a marvel awaited me in the responses—I discovered so many gorgeous poets & their works, gained mantras to carry me through the most aching of days, full of the best kind of nothings, the ones that added up to everything. Here are just a few of my favourite responses.
Though the beauty in an exercise like this is how inevitably varied, how brilliantly diverse each response is across history & style & poetic form, I also find it incredibly fascinating to see the themes that arise over & over again in these lines. Poets repeated (Andrea Gibson, Brigit Pegeen Kelly), motifs & concepts (love & death, the sea), specific lexicon or sentence structures. & doesn’t the beauty in art lie right there, in that sugar-spun sharp-tinged contradiction.
Dear readers: what’s one line of poetry that has made you feel less alone?
My own: “(i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands” (e.e. cummings)
Caitlyn Siehl: “And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” (Raymond Carver)
Suzanne E. Rhee: "I am living. I remember you." (Marie Howe)
Tyler Anne Wichard: “You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” (Mary Oliver)
Patrick Sewell: “I am very fond of the period between 1815 and 1821. Europe trembled while we sat still for our portraits.” (Billy Collins)
Aaron Lambert: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust." (T.S. Eliot)
Jennifer Lengwin: “I am utterly, intensely, completely, foreverly in love with wild things." (Tyler Knott Gregson)
Jill Bergantz Carley: “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel & kiss the ground.” (Rumi)
Heidi Czerwiec: “Child. We are done for in the most remarkable ways.” (Brigit Pegeen Kelly)
Ajibola Tolase: "If you can't save people, at least don't hate them." (Dunya Mikhail)
Amanda Cooper: “Someone often finds it easy to explain your gender by saying you are happiest on the road when you're not here or there, but in between. That yellow line running down the center of it all like a goddamn sunbeam.” (Andrea Gibson)
Caroline Grand-Clement: "We have, each of us, nothing. We will give it to each other.” (Carolyn Forché)
Paula Pattata: “Not because I am weak, but because I am not. Because I am the bravest thing. Because I will be the bravest thing.” (Caitlyn Siehl)
Brandon Noel: “And death shall have no dominion.” (Dylan Thomas)
Rachelle Foster: “Still, something in the coming dusk whispers not to fret. Don’t matter that we’ll lose today. It’s not tomorrow yet.” (Kate Tempest)
Anthony Moll: “because a village is always somewhere burning / And if you do not look because it is not your village / it is still your village” (Elana Bell)
Marie Lance: “And then it’s ten years later, and they are still dead, and you are happy.” (Jared Singer)
Holly: “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” (Elizabeth Bishop)
Maryyaam: “someone will remember us / i say / even in another time” (Sappho)
Jessie Lynn McMains: “I no longer need you to fuck me as hard as I hated myself. Make love to me like you know I am better than the worst thing I ever did.” (Buddy Wakefield)
Sara Barnard: “Round the corner is—sooner or later—the sea.” (Louis MacNeice)
Kari A. Flickinger: “The silver answer rang ... Not Death, but Love.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
August: “I know the bottom, she says. I feel it with my great tap root: It is what you fear. I do not fear it: I have been there." (Sylvia Plath)
Adriana Cloud: “And loneliness is still time spent with the world.” (Ocean Vuong)
Carla Sofia Ferreira: “ripped out the stitches in your heart because why not if you think nothing & no one can / listen I love you joy is coming” (Kim Addonizio)
Emily DMN: “I orphan my grief for the living and it is beauty.” (Julian Randall)
Amanda Silberling: “I’m so happy & prepared to believe that everyone walking down the street is someone I know.” (Eileen Myles)
Emily Banks: “And when we touch we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.” (Anne Sexton)
Amy Elsie: “We were alone, the way the ocean was alone, and briefly we understood why it couldn’t find the words for what it wanted to say, and why it kept trying.” (Sue Goyette)
Zana Fauzi: “I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside." (Andrea Gibson)
Nia K.B.: “Somewhere, there is a version of me that isn’t neck-deep in her invented filth.” (Franny Choi)
Melissa Tyndall: “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” (Robert Hayden)
Margo G.: “A kind of sober euphoria makes her believe in her future as an old woman, a wanderer seamed and brown,” (Denise Levertov)
Amorak Huey: “The heart dies of this sweetness.” (Brigit Pegeen Kelly)
These responses have been edited for length & clarity.
Thank you so much to everyone who shared their favourite lines with me, both on this list & not. They feel like proof of existence, you know? I was here, you were here, we breathed in this moment, we existed long enough to fall in love with words. I’m grateful for it & for you.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter yet, you should do that for a chance to be featured in the next compendium of reader answers. Until then: tell me in the comments, what’s one line of poetry that has made you feel less alone?