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Is There a Poem in Your Pocket?

29 April 2010 4 Comments

Commentary by Mary Liston Liepold, Editor in Chief

It’s Poetry Month and today, April 29, is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Are you carrying a particular poem in your pocket, or in your mind? We are blessed to have many talented poets in our Peace X Peace community, so to help you fill those physical and mental pockets, we’re devoting most of this week’s blog space to poetry.

Peace X Peace founder Patricia Smith Melton is an artist in many media, including poetry, and her vision for this organization has always challenged us to make our website and our e-media as beautiful as peace herself. Be sure to read her new poem addressed to Love.

Our longtime member and friend Alaha Ahrar addresses her poem to the homeland she loves, Afghanistan, formerly known as Khurasan. We offer it both in English translation and in its original Dari, not only because Alaha has attracted a huge following among Afghans but because the Dari script is beautiful in its own right.

Washington, DC-area member Judy Neri has written many poems I admire, and she is as generous with her gifts as she is gifted. I chose one that connected to my own experience as a writer and a mother. You don’t have to be either one, though, to enjoy Writing.

Finally, our staff member Liora Herman contributed a kind of prose poem about a necessary but inconvenient feature of April in these latitudes: tree pollen and the allergic reactions it provokes.

Shepard Fairey design for Syracuse Cultural Workers

Now, is anyone out there wondering what poetry has to do with peace? If you’ve been reading our publications for a while you’ll remember the PeaceTimes feature “Singing for Our Lives,” in which various members tell us how they believe art can change the world. Like other art forms, poetry sneaks past our defenses to pluck the common chords that unite us as human beings and make us responsible for each other’s well-being. The arts, like all good things, thrive in peaceful times and places and struggle to survive in times of war.

Please use the Comment space below to share your favorite poems and poets. Rumi? Mary Oliver? You? We are eager to discover many more of the poets and poetry-lovers in our midst and share the wonder of their words with our international audience of peacebuilders. We publish peacebuilding poems as Voices from the Frontlines all year round, so don’t wait until next April!

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About the Author

Mary Liepold is the Editor-in-Chief at Peace X Peace. To reach Dr. Liepold, email
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4 Comments to “Is There a Poem in Your Pocket?”
  1. Alaha Ahrar says:

    Dearest Mary Liepold hello,
    Thank you very much for your hard work and for your efforts in making this world a better place for all to live.

  2. Brigitte Pichot says:

    Thank you very much, Mary, for your beautiful way of weaving poetry into your Peace work. I would like to offer my favorite poem about compassion.

    “Please Call Me by My True Names” was written in 1989 by Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, and tireless worker for peace.)



    Please Call Me by My True Names

    Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow –
    even today I am still arriving.

    Look deeply: every second I am arriving
    to be a bud on a Spring branch,
    to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
    learning to sing in my new nest,
    to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
    to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

    I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
    to fear and to hope.

    The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
    of all that is alive.

    I am the mayfly metamorphosing
    on the surface of the river.
    And I am the bird
    that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

    I am the frog swimming happily
    in the clear water of a pond.
    And I am the grass-snake
    that silently feeds itself on the frog.

    I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
    my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
    And I am the arms merchant,
    selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

    I am the twelve-year-old girl,
    refugee on a small boat,
    who throws herself into the ocean
    after being raped by a sea pirate.
    And I am the pirate,
    my heart not yet capable
    of seeing and loving.

    I am a member of the politburo,
    with plenty of power in my hands.
    And I am the man who has to pay
    his “debt of blood” to my people
    dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

    My joy is like Spring, so warm
    it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
    My pain is like a river of tears,
    so vast it fills the four oceans.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
    so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

    Please call me by my true names,
    so I can wake up,
    and so the door of my heart
    can be left open,
    the door of compassion.

  3. Ann Marie says:

    Poetry is a healing force, so natural and something that has become lost in our culture. Thank you for bringing it forward! This is a favorite poem by John Fox who brings poetry and medicine together at the Institute for Poetic Medicine:

    When Someone Deeply Listens To You

    When someone deeply listens to you
    it is like holding out a dented cup
    you’ve had since childhood
    and watching it fill up with
    cold, fresh water.
    When it balances on top of the brim,
    you are understood.
    When it overflows and touches your skin,
    you are loved.

    When someone deeply listens to you
    the room where you stay
    starts a new life
    and the place where you wrote
    your first poem
    begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
    It is as if gold has been discovered!

    When someone deeply listens to you
    your barefeet are on the earth
    and a beloved land that seemed distant
    is now at home within you.

    — John Fox

  4. Felecia Berg says:

    V is for

    V is for victory
    V is for volume
    V is for vanity
    V is for volunteer
    V is for voice
    V is for virtue
    V is for vision
    V is for village

    V is for if:
    V is for if you have virtue
    you will volunteer
    to be a voice
    and have a vision
    to set aside vanity
    and exude volume
    into victory
    that creates a village
    V is for Peace

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