Place its toothpicked pit in water, watch the grist
of its insides grow. Witness its populous bloom,
honeycombed with rough. Its cobblestones grip
the heart in its mitt, a closed fist thickened
and gritty as silt. The swamp of the plumb beat
adamant as weeds. The dish of which is salted
by complexities or cries. It is a house in which
we cannot live, the quiver on the arrow
we cannot launch. It grows late over Nevada
as we watch. Strikes its gullies: we grow burnt
as a moth. Mimics a sleep of archives and
the small lies all forget. Mimics all laughter
broken by the time it leaves the mouth.
With its moving parts, its chimes, its gleam,
it muddies our archways, lying low, gives off
noise and steam; its mechanics clear the fence.
It must be wooed. Must be quieted. Hush. It must
be soothed. Has a snag. Has a bleed. A drape.
Flaps awkwardly, at its edges, a heron. At
its center, a wide bottom perfect with fish.
You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I'll rise. Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom? 'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells Pumping in my living room. Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise. Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries? Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard 'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin' in my own backyard. You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I'll rise. Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs? Out of the huts of history's shame I rise Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.
Each week we feature a new term from Academy Chancellor Edward Hirsch's April 2014 book A Poet's Glossary. Ten years in the making, Hirsch's book is an international, inclusive collection of the poetic terms that define the art form.