1. Dream Work by Mary Oliver

    Sometimes I pick up one of my poetry books as a sort of palate cleanser for all that prose I’m reading all the time. I had bought this book for one poem, “The Journey,” that I found in an anthology at some coffee shop. That poem struck me to the heart, (“though their melancholy was terrible”) but I never really bothered to flip through any of the other poems.

    You try reading Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn at the same time. You’ll be begging for just a glimpse of joy in the world, the warmth of human empathy.

    "I wanted
    my past to go away, I wanted
    my life to close, and open
    like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song where it falls
    down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery; I wanted
    to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know
    whoever I was, I was

    for a little while.”

    This is from the luminous first poem, “Dogfish,” as full of the milk of human kindness as Vidal is not. 

    And each slight little piece floats on from there as airy and simple with a full heart.

    "For year and years I struggled 
    just to love my life. And then

    the butterfly rose, weightless, in the wind.
    'Don't love your life
    too much,’ it said.

    And vanished
    into the world.”