To see the cherry hung with snow.

or Emily Dickinson's poem, quoted here in full — a poem among others that I couldn't get out of my head following the horrific Friday in Newtown:

There's a certain slant of light,

Winter Afternoons -

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral tunes -

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us -

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are -

None may teach it – Any -

'Tis the Seal Despair -

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air -

When it comes, the Landscape listens -

Shadows - hold their Breath -

When it goes, 'tis like the Distance

On the look of Death -

Over and over, the great poems provide needed perspective. They remind us, as W. H. Auden did in "September 1, 1939," that "we must love one another, or die." This admonition was even more true when Auden later altered the line to read, "We must love one another and die."

Reading poems, writing them, thinking about them, memorizing them are acts of devotion. Any good book of poetry, any excellent poem, focuses one's attention. Poems clarify us. A poem may be an act of meditation, as it might have been for the poet writing it and as it is now for those reading it. It may be a prayer. It can tell us that no matter what it is we're feeling, others also have felt this way. It may gentle us. On occasion, with its ambiguity, it may make us see many ways at once.