Emily Dickinson sums up this idea up:
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
I like that line: The Truth must dazzle gradually.
And that's exactly how I feel about the following poem by Michael Blumenthal:
What I Believe
I believe there is no justice,
grow on the mountain.
I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man,
but that his wife will remarry.
I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.
I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.
I believe that no one is spared
and no one gets all of it.
I believe we all drown eventually
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.
I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.
I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.
And I believe that whatever
pulls us under,
will do so gently
so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in.
from Days We Would Rather Know
Pleasure Boat Studio, 2005
Can you write a 'credo' poem, a list things you, or someone else, believes in, but make that poem speak to other people too? I think part of this poem's success is how it shifts between points of view, from I to you to we. What matters to the narrator becomes something that matters to the reader (the personal you), to the world in general (the universal you), and to all of us (we).
I like how concrete images are set against abstract ideas: justice/cottongrass and bunchberry, clocks break/time goes on. I like the swings between opposites: weaker/stronger, sea/land. And I like how the rhythm of the poem changes with the enjambement (the read on lines) between the last two stanzas, how it gently extends our reading, and thus our understanding.
There's a quiet voice behind the poem, but it has authority too. The use of the first person, the I, often has that effect.
I suggest a poem of no more than 40 lines that draws on some of the craft choices in this poem: juxtaposition of image and idea, shifts between opposites, and a deliberate choice of point/s of view.