03/23/2015 02:13 pm ET Updated May 23, 2015

The Book Won't Let Me Hold It

I was trying to read a book of poets from all over the world but the day and the light led me to feel their lives. This is the poem that arrived.

The Book Won't Let Me Hold It

This morning, the sun spills
from the mountain to the page
and try as I will, I can't read the
poems; only the chiseled notes
in the back about their lives: this
one killed on a forced march to
Germany, his poems pulled from
a mass grave. Another began as a
basket weaver in Turin. And the one
who climbed the Sierra Nevada in
search of his wife, long gone. And
the native of Shansi returning for
the first signs of spring, waiting on
the willows. Lifetimes to carry and
carve what no one can carry or carve.
And now, the lost one from the Sung
Dynasty who left only two poems, like
blue pebbles after a storm. And the
sad one whose only crime was being
sensitive. Like a waterfall gaining
from the source, spraying off the
rocks below; the lives of artists.

The poets referred to, in order, throughout the poem "The Book Won't Let Me Hold It" are: Miklós Radńoti (Hungarian poet), Antonio Porchia (Argentinean poet), Kenneth Rexroth (American poet), Yang Chu-Yuan (Ch'in poet), Lu Mei-P'o (Sung poet), and Cesare Pavese (Italian poet).

A Question to Walk With: In conversation with a loved one or friend, describe a connection you have for a writer or artist from another time and what their work awakens in you.

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.