Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Prospero speaks to Ferdinand and Miranda

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay'd: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. Sir, I am vex'd;
Bear with my weakness; my, brain is troubled:
Be not disturb'd with my infirmity:
If you be pleased, retire into my cell
And there repose: a turn or two I'll walk,
To still my beating mind.

 

 

This poem is in the public domain.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
                 To me did seem
            Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
             Turn wheresoe’er I may,
              By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

            The rainbow comes and goes,
            And lovely is the rose;
            The moon doth with delight
     Look round her when the heavens are bare;
            Waters on a starry night
            Are beautiful and fair;
     The sunshine is a glorious birth;
     But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
     And while the young lambs bound
            As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
            And I again am strong.
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,—
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng.
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
            And all the earth is gay;
                Land and sea
     Give themselves up to jollity,
            And with the heart of May
     Doth every beast keep holiday;—
                Thou child of joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
        Shepherd-boy!
                 Ye blesséd Creatures, I have heard the call 
     Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
     My heart is at your festival,
       My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
         O evil day! if I were sullen
         While Earth herself is adorning
              This sweet May-morning;
         And the children are culling
              On every side
         In a thousand valleys far and wide
         Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:—
         I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
         —But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
              The pansy at my feet
              Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
               Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
               He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
     Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
          And by the vision splendid
          Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother‘s mind,
               And no unworthy aim,
          The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man,
               Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
          A wedding or a festival,
          A mourning or a funeral;
               And this hath now his heart,
          And unto this he frames his song:
               Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
          But it will not be long
          Ere this be thrown aside,
          And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
          As if his whole vocation
          Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
          Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,—
          Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
          On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
          To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
          O joy! that in our embers
          Is something that doth live,
          That Nature yet remembers
          What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
          —Not for these I raise
          The song of thanks and praise;
     But for those obstinate questionings
     Of sense and outward things,
     Fallings from us, vanishings,
     Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized, 
High instincts, before which our mortal nature 
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
     But for those first affections,
     Those shadowy recollections,
          Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
     Uphold us—cherish—and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being 
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
               To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
               Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
   Hence, in a season of calm weather
          Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
               Which brought us hither;
          Can in a moment travel thither—
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then, sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
          And let the young lambs bound
          As to the tabor’s sound!
     We, in thought, will join your throng,
          Ye that pipe and ye that play,
          Ye that through your hearts to-day
          Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
     Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
          We will grieve not, rather find
          Strength in what remains behind;
          In the primal sympathy
          Which having been must ever be;
          In the soothing thoughts that spring
          Out of human suffering;
          In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish‘d one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway;
I love the brooks which down their channels fret
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born day
               Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
   Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
   Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
   To me the meanest flower that blows can give
   Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

This poem is in the public domain.

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour'd,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur'd their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer'd not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak'd up,
And shivering scrap'd with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects—saw, and shriek'd, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir'd before;
The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.

This poem is in the public domain.

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

From Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well By Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1975 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted with permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at www.randomhouse.com.

for Bill Handley

Pale ash falls from
the sky. On the lanai,
a child finger-paints

a big red sun, twin to
the one that burns
above: mirror on fire.

What does the sun see,
through pages of smoke?
Hills: gargoyles, winged.

The horizon brazen as
the great fool’s gold
jet landing on sparkler

wheels. She catches it:
the revolving star atop
a police cruiser, reflecting

in a flash, the blood moon
coming up at dusk. Printing
her name in what we call

stardust. No one can look
for long into a burning
mirror: faces break up into

bloodshards. Still her small
fingers work ash into a
pink soul-lit version of

a planet unlike ours, its
moon withdrawing into
lit craters. Witness how

she rises, even in this sullen
white downfall, watching over
the indelible realms of touch.

No one else will ever render it so,
a world on fire burning within this
world that her fingers summon tonight,

arriving wildbright and never again.

Copyright © 2016 by Carol Muske-Dukes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

The unknowns are up early;
they browse through the bronze
             porch bells.  Crows
             call & late
         apples blaze
      toward western emptiness.
         In your illness,
             the edges hesitate;
    like the revolt
of workers, they
              will take a while…

Here comes the fond
     mild winter; other
         realms are noisy
        & unanimous. You tap
the screen & dream
       while waiting; four
            kinds of forever
      visit you today: 
something, nothing,
everything & art,
   greater than you are
          & of your making—
 

Copyright © 2016 by Brenda Hillman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 18, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Who can make a delicate adventure
Of walking on the ground?
Who can make grass-blades
Arcades for pertly careless straying?
You alone, who skim against these leaves,
Turning all desire into light whips
Moulded by your deep blue wing-tips,
You who shrill your unconcern
Into the sternly antique sky.
You to whom all things
Hold an equal kiss of touch.

Mincing, wanton blue-bird,
Grimace at the hoofs of passing men.
You alone can lose yourself
Within a sky, and rob it of its blue!
 

This poem is in the public domain.

The sounds of summer leave
your lungs mid-autumn.
Gulls rebuild the sky.
It’s more or less a spectacle.
With a gauze of dark circles
under your eyes, you watch
the whole world take a rain check.
The clouds overlap until nightfall
and you twiddle your thumbs
at everyone’s mid-life crisis.
The moon blinks inside
out and no one notices.
You do all the talking.
The city lights acting as your voice.

Copyright © 2015 by Noah Falck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us—
behind the stalls
at the farmer’s market
snow glinting in heaps,
a cardinal its chest
puffed out, bloodshod
above the piles of awnings,
passion’s proclivities;
you picking up a sweet potato
turning to me  ‘This too?’—
query of tenderness
under the blown red wing.
Remember the brazen world?
Let’s find a room
with a window onto elms
strung with sunlight,
a cafe with polished cups,
darling coffee they call it,
may our bed be stoked
with fresh cut rosemary
and glinting thyme,
all herbs in due season
tucked under wild sheets:
fit for the conjugation of joy.

Copyright © 2015 by Meena Alexander. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 15, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I like to be alone in someone else’s house,
practicing my cosmic long distance wink.
I send it out toward a mirror
some distracted bored cosmonaut dropped
on an asteroid hurtling vastly
closer to our star. No one watches
me watching thousands
of television hours, knitting
a golden bobcat out of
tiny golden threadlets. These good
lonely days every thing
I’ve claimed I’ve seen
for me to use it glows.
I’m waiting for the love
of Alice Ghostley, who keeps
in various faces and guises
appearing amid the plot machines,
always to someone more beautiful
and central in complex futile relation.
They call her plain but to me her name
sounds full of distant messages
beamed a thousand years ago,
only now to flower. Penultimate
cigarette, high desert breezes,
I’ve written all my plans and vows
on careful scraps of paper piled
beneath weirdly heavy little black rocks
I gathered on many slow walks
into town to ask no one who
would bother naming this particular
time between later afternoon
and twilight. Crazed bee, I know
the name of the plant you are in!
Salvia! Also, the jay is not blue,
nor the sky or indigo bunting,
within particles and feathers sun
gets lost making expert holographers
out of us all. Passarina, I saw
your dull blaze from the railing flash
and an insect disappeared. Afternoon
once again slipped into
the gas station like it did those old
days it had a body that moved
and smoked among the people,
whistling a cowboy song concerning
long shadows, happy and unfree.

Copyright © 2015 by Matthew Zapruder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 17, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

   The child takes her first journey
through the inner blue world of her mother's body,
   blue veins, blue eyes, frail petal lids.

   Beyond that unborn brackish world so deep
it will be felt forever as longing, a dream
   of blue notes plucked from memory's guitar,

   the wind blows indigo shadows under streetlights,
clouds crowd the moon and bear down on the limbs
   of a blue spruce. The child's head appears—

   midnight pond, weedy and glistening—
draws back, reluctant to leave that first home.  
   Blue catch in the mother's throat,

   ferocious bruise of a growl, and out slides
the iridescent body—fish-slippery
   in her father's hands, plucked from water

   into such thin densities of air,
her arms and tiny hands stutter and flail,
   till he places her on her mother's body,

   then cuts the smoky cord, releasing her
into this world, its cold harbor below
   where a blue caul of shrink-wrap covers

   each boat gestating on the winter shore.
Child, the world comes in twos, above and below,
   visible and unseen. Inside your mother's croon

   there's the hum of an old man tapping his foot
on a porch floor, his instrument made from one
   string nailed to a wall, as if anything

   can be turned into song, always what is
and what is longed for. Against the window
   the electric blue of cop lights signals

   somebody's bad news, and a lone man walks
through the street, his guitar sealed in dark plush.
   Child, from this world now you will draw your breath

   and let out your moth flutter of blue sighs.
Now your mother will listen for each one,
   alert enough to hear snow starting to flake

   from the sky, bay water beginning to freeze.
Sleep now, little shadow, as your first world
   still flickers across your face, that other side

   where all was given and nothing desired.
Soon enough you'll want milk, want faces, hands,
   heartbeats and voices singing in your ear.

   Soon the world will amaze you, and you
will give back its bird-warble, its dove call,
   singing that blue note which deepens the song,

   that longing for what no one can recall,
your small night cry roused from the wholeness
   you carry into this broken world.

From Rough Cradle by Betsy Sholl. Copyright © 2009 by Betsy Sholl. Used by permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.

(after Holderlin)

The yellow pears hang in the lake. 
Life sinks, grace reigns, sins ripen, and
in the north dies an almond tree.

A genius took me by the hand and said
come with me though the time has not yet come. 

Therefore, when the gods get lonely,
a hero will emerge from the bushes
of a summer evening 
bearing the first green figs of the season.

For the glory of the gods has lain asleep
too long in the dark
in darkness too long
too long in the dark.

Copyright © 2010 by David Lehman. Used with permission of the author.