You have spoken the answer.
A child searches far sometimes
Into the red dust
On a dark rose leaf
And so you have gone far
For the answer is:
In the republic
Of the winking stars
and spent cataclysms
Sure we are it is off there the answer is hidden and folded over,
Sleeping in the sun, careless whether it is Sunday or any other
day of the week,
Knowing silence will bring all one way or another.
Have we not seen
Purple of the pansy
out of the mulch
into a dusk
blur of yellow?
Almost we thought from nowhere but it was the silence,
This poem is in the public domain.
After the birthing of bombs of forks and fear,
the frantic automatic weapons unleashed,
the spray of bullets into a crowd holding hands,
that brute sky opening in a slate metal maw
that swallows only the unsayable in each of us, what's
left? Even the hidden nowhere river is poisoned
orange and acidic by a coal mine. How can
you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek
bottom dry to suck the deadly water up into
your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to
say, Don't die. Even when silvery fish after fish
comes back belly up, and the country plummets
into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn't there still
something singing? The truth is: I don't know.
But sometimes, I swear I hear it, the wound closing
like a rusted-over garage door, and I can still move
my living limbs into the world without too much
pain, can still marvel at how the dog runs straight
toward the pickup trucks break-necking down
the road, because she thinks she loves them,
because she’s sure, without a doubt, that the loud
roaring things will love her back, her soft small self
alive with desire to share her goddamn enthusiasm,
until I yank the leash back to save her because
I want her to survive forever. Don't die, I say,
and we decide to walk for a bit longer, starlings
high and fevered above us, winter coming to lay
her cold corpse down upon this little plot of earth.
Perhaps, we are always hurtling our body towards
the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love
from the speeding passage of time, and so maybe
like the dog obedient at my heels, we can walk together
peacefully, at least until the next truck comes.
Copyright © 2016 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
I will drift
and know it
the way a son
recognizes a mother
after he has returned
from many years
the new distance
Copyright © 2015 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
fold its edges
in gold paper
to rest on a scale.
the catapult of one
the other swings
bobs and waits
for a leaf of one’s
want to waft down.
such gentle collisions
crush more than steel
crack more than bones upon slight contact.
Copyright © 2015 by Tara Betts. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sounds of the winter too,
Sunshine upon the mountains—many a distant strain
From cheery railroad train—from nearer field, barn, house
The whispering air—even the mute crops, garner’d apples, corn,
Children’s and women’s tones—rhythm of many a farmer and of flail,
And old man’s garrulous lips among the rest, Think not we give out yet,
Forth from these snowy hairs we keep up yet the lilt.
This poem is in the public domain.
If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”
From The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan, published by Houghton Mifflin. Copyright © 1989 by Richard Brautigan. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
I looked and saw a sea
roofed over with rainbows,
In the midst of each
two lovers met and departed;
Then the sky was full of faces
with gold glories behind them.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
My marriage ended in an airport long ago. I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car, walking through the underground garage; jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside; the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers. I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over town couples were gathering like flocks of geese getting ready to take off, while here the jets were putting down their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires shrieking and scraping off two long streaks of rubber molecules, that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear. It is a matter of amusement to me now, me staggering around that underground garage, trying to remember the color of my vehicle, unable to recall that I had come by cab— eventually gathering myself and going back inside, quite matter-of-fact, to get the luggage I would be carrying for the rest of my life.
I remembered what it was like, knowing what you want to eat and then making it, forgetting about the ending in the middle, looking at the ocean for a long time without restlessness, or with restlessness not inhabiting the joints, sitting Indian style on a porch overlooking that water, smooth like good cake frosting. And then I experienced it, falling so deeply into the storyline, I laughed as soon as my character entered the picture, humming the theme music even when I’d told myself I wanted to be quiet by some freezing river and never talk to anyone again. And I thought, now is the right time to cut up your shirt.
"So, you traitor, you really believed you'd keep this a secret, this great outrage? Steal away in silence from my shores? Can nothing hold you back? Not our love? Not the pledge once sealed with our right hands? Not even the thought of Dido doomed to a cruel death? Why labor to rig your fleet when the winter's raw, to risk the deep when the Northwind's closing in? You cruel, heartless—Even if you were not pursuing alien fields and unknown homes, even if ancient Troy were standing, still, who'd sail for Troy across such heaving seas? You're running away—from me? Oh, I pray you by these tears, by the faith in your right hand— what else have I left myself in all my pain?— by our wedding vows, the marriage we began, if I deserve some decency from you now, if anything mine has ever won your heart, pity a great house about to fall I pray you, if prayers have any place—reject this scheme of yours! Thanks to you, the African tribes, Numidian warlords hate me, even my own Tyrians rise against me. Thanks to you, my sense of honor is gone, my one and only pathway to the stars, the renown I once held dear. In whose hands, my guest, do you leave me here to meet my death? 'Guest'—that's all that remains of 'husband' now. But why do I linger on? Until my brother Pygmalion batters down my walls? Or Iarbas drags me off, his slave? If only you'd left a baby in my arms—our child— before you deserted me! Some little Aeneas playing about our halls, whose features at least would bring you back to me in spite of all, I would not feel so totally devastated, so destroyed." The queen stopped but he, warned by Jupiter now, his gaze held steady, fought to master the torment in his heart. At last he ventured a few words: "I. . . you have done me so many kindnesses, and you could count them all. I shall never deny what you deserve, my queen, never regret my memories of Dido, not while I can recall myself and draw the breath of life. I'll state my case in a few words. I never dreamed I'd keep my flight a secret. Don't imagine that. Nor did I once extend a bridegroom's torch or enter into a marriage pact with you. If the Fates had left me free to live my life, to arrange my own affairs of my own free will, Troy is the city, first of all, that I'd safeguard, Troy and all that's left of my people whom I cherish. The grand palace of Priam would stand once more, with my own hands I would fortify a second Troy to house my Trojans in defeat. But not now. Grynean Apollo's oracle says that I must seize on Italy's noble land, his Lycian lots say 'Italy!' There lies my love, there lies my homeland now. If you, a Phoenician, fix your eyes on Carthage, a Libyan stronghold, tell me, why do you grudge the Trojans their new homes on Italian soil? What is the crime if we seek far-off kingdoms too? "My father, Anchises, whenever the darkness shrouds the earth in its dank shadows, whenever the stars go flaming up the sky, my father's anxious ghost warns me in dreams and fills my heart with fear. My son Ascanius . . . I feel the wrong I do to one so dear, robbing him of his kingdom, lands in the West, his fields decreed by Fate. And now the messenger of the gods—I swear it, by your life and mine—dispatched by Jove himself has brought me firm commands through the racing winds. With my own eyes I saw him, clear, in broad daylight, moving through your gates. With my own ears I drank his message in. Come, stop inflaming us both with your appeals. I set sail for Italy— all against my will." Even from the start of his declaration, she has glared at him askance, her eyes roving over him, head to foot, with a look of stony silence. . . till abruptly she cries out in a blaze of fury: "No goddess was your mother! No Dardanus sired your line, you traitor, liar, no, Mount Caucasus fathered you on its flinty, rugged flanks and the tigers of Hyrcania gave you their dugs to suck! Why hide it? Why hold back? To suffer greater blows? Did he groan when I wept? Even look at me? Never! Surrender a tear? Pity the one who loves him? What can I say first? So much to say. Now— neither mighty Juno nor Saturn's son, the Father, gazes down on this with just, impartial eyes. There's no faith left on earth! He was washed up on my shores, helpless, and I, I took him in, like a maniac let him share my kingdom, salvaged his lost fleet, plucked his crews from death. Oh I am swept by the Furies, gales of fire! Now it's Apollo the Prophet, Apollo's Lycian oracles: they're his masters now, and now, to top it off. the messenger of the gods, dispatched by Jove himself. comes rushing down the winds with his grim-set commands. Really! What work for the gods who live on high, what a concern to ruffle their repose! I won't hold you, I won't even refute you—go!— strike out for Italy on the winds, your realm across the sea. I hope, I pray, if the just gods still have any power, wrecked on the rocks mid-sea you'll drink your bowl of pain to the dregs, crying out the name of Dido over and over, and worlds away I'll hound you then with pitch-black flames, and when icy death has severed my body from its breath, then my ghost will stalk you through the world! You'll pay, you shameless, ruthless— and I will hear of it, yes, the report will reach me even among the deepest shades of Death!"
Lines 379-486 from "Book Four: The Tragic Queen of Carthage," from Virgil: The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by Robert Fagles, copyright © 2006 by Robert Fagles. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Do you remember Sita? How when Hanuman came to rescue her she refused, how she insisted that Rama come openly, defeat her captor Ravana openly? She had no desire for stealth, no desire for intrigue, and though Ravana could not touch her for the curse on his flesh, she remained captive until Rama came. Do you remember that she was tortured? That Hunaman asked her for permission to kill the women who had tortured her? Do you remember how she walked through fire to prove her purity, even though everyone knew of the curse on Ravana? How the people said the fire didn't matter because Fire was the brother of her mother, Earth? How Rama was as weak in the face of his people as he had been strong in the face of Ravana? Can you imagine the eyes of Sita when she refused another test? When she looked at Rama, a man she loved enough to die for, a man who was a god, and knew it was over? Can you imagine her eyes in that moment, as she asked her mother to take her back, to swallow her back into the earth? I think my eyes are like that now, leaving you.
Copyright © 2012 by Jason Schneiderman. Used with permission of the author.
I came as a stranger; as a stranger now I leave. The flowers of May once welcomed me warmly; a young girl spoke of love, her mother even of marriage. Now all is bleak--the pathway covered with snow. The time of departure is not mine to choose; I must find my way alone in this darkness. With the shadow of the moon at my side, I search for traces of wildlife in the white snow. Why should I linger and give them reason to send me away? Let stray hounds howl outside their master's house. Love likes to wander from one to another, as if God willed it so. My darling, farewell. A quiet step, a careful shutting of the door so your sleep is not disturbed, and two words written on the gate as I leave, "Good night," to let you know I thought of you.
From Schubert's Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image, and Songs by Wilhelm Müller. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved.
Do not write. I am sad, and want my light put out. Summers in your absence are as dark as a room. I have closed my arms again. They must do without. To knock at my heart is like knocking at a tomb. Do not write! Do not write. Let us learn to die, as best we may. Did I love you? Ask God. Ask yourself. Do you know? To hear that you love me, when you are far away, Is like hearing from heaven and never to go. Do not write! Do not write. I fear you. I fear to remember, For memory holds the voice I have often heard. To the one who cannot drink, do not show water, The beloved one's picture in the handwritten word. Do not write! Do not write those gentle words that I dare not see, It seems that your voice is spreading them on my heart, Across your smile, on fire, they appear to me, It seems that a kiss is printing them on my heart. Do not write!
N'écris pas. Je suis triste, et je voudrais m'éteindre. Les beaux étés sans toi, c'est la nuit sans flambeau. J'ai refermé mes bras qui ne peuvent t'atteindre, Et frapper à mon coeur, c'est frapper au tombeau. N'écris pas! N'écris pas. N'apprenons qu'à mourir à nous-mêmes. Ne demande qu'à Dieu . . . qu'à toi, si je t'aimais! Au fond de ton absence écouter que tu m'aimes, C'est entendre le ciel sans y monter jamais. N'écris pas! N'écris pas. Je te crains; j'ai peur de ma mémoire; Elle a gardé ta voix qui m'appelle souvent. Ne montre pas l'eau vive à qui ne peut la boire. Une chère écriture est un portrait vivant. N'écris pas! N'écris pas ces doux mots que je n'ose plus lire: Il semble que ta voix les répand sur mon coeur; Que je les vois brûler à travers ton sourire; Il semble qu'un baiser les empreint sur mon coeur. N'écris pas!
Translation from Modern Poets of France: A Bilingual Anthology, edited and translated by Louis Simpson, published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray. Yet if you should forget me for a while And afterwards remember, do not grieve: For if the darkness and corruption leave A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, Better by far you should forget and smile Than that you should remember and be sad.
This poem is in the public domain.
The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
This is almost bliss.
And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
Gone under the twilight.
Only the twilight now, and the soft “Sh!” of the river
That will last forever.
And at last I know my love for you is here,
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
Troubles, anxieties, and pains.
You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
You are the night, and I the day.
What else—it is perfect enough,
It is perfectly complete,
You and I.
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright © 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
This poem is in the public domain.
Vast and gray, the sky
is a simulacrum
to all but him whose days
are vast and gray, and—
In the tall, dried grasses
a goat stirs
with nozzle searching the ground.
—my head is in the air
but who am I…?
And amazed my heart leaps
at the thought of love
vast and gray
yearning silently over me.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
This poem is in the public domain.
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
I lie here thinking of you:—
the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—
you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!
From A Books of Poems: Al Que Quiere! (The Four Seas Company, 1917).
What was it I was going to say?
Slipped away probably because
it needn’t be said. At that edge
almost not knowing but second
guessing the gain, loss, or effect
of an otherwise hesitant remark.
Slant of light on a brass box. The way
a passing thought knots the heart.
There’s nothing, nothing to say.
Copyright © 2015 by Thomas Meyer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
What you said I shattered was the window
but we both know what you meant. I can’t
recall a single meadow that didn’t slow my pulse.
Though you are far you are on my wing: you
are the sight of an apple in the bathroom
or oils unintended for a wood floor. A fence
ran the length of a field, between two trees
so that, in snow, it looked like stitches
or a fallen rope ladder. Did you know
that three hundred years ago the heart was
a furnace? At this point what else can I do
but follow the precedent I’ve established?
Choose one of the following: at Monticello,
the turnips gave me a toothache, or at Red
Hook, the red bees. Will you laugh if I say, I
beat my heart into a red caul of sentences?
Near the pond I lifted a rock and found life
under it crowded with so many urges. To see
if it’s possible to dig a grave, today I took
a shovel to the field. It is possible and surprisingly
easy to dig a grave! Over coffee, on the phone,
I said to you, it took trillions to prop up
the markets, but what I wanted to say was, I have
beaten my heart into a red caul of sentences.
Copyright © 2014 by Robert Ostrom. Used with permission of the author.
A cold wind, later, but no rain.
A bus breathing heavily at the station.
Beggars at the gate, and the moon
like one bright horn of a white
cow up there in space. But
really, must I think about all this
a second time in this short life?
This crescent moon, like a bit
of ancient punctuation. This
pause in the transience of all things.
Up there, Ishtar in the ship
of life he’s sailing. Has
he ripped open again his sack of grain?
Spilled it all over the place?
Bubbles rising to the surface, breaking.
Beside our sharpened blades, they’ve
set down our glasses of champagne.
A joke is made. But, really, must
I hear this joke again?
Must I watch the spluttering
light of this specific flame? Must I
consider forever the permanent
transience of all things:
The bus, breathing at the station.
The beggars at the gate.
The girl I was.
Both pregnant and chaste.
The cold wind, that crescent moon.
No rain. What difference
can it possibly make, that
pain, now that not a single
anguished cry of it remains?
Really, must I grieve it all again
a second time, and why tonight
of all the nights, and just
as I’m about to raise, with the
blissful others, my
glass to the silvery, liquid
chandelier above us?
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
(at St. Mary’s)
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that
From Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 2001 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with permission of BOA Editions Ltd. All rights reserved.
Once, I knew a fine song,
—It is true, believe me,—
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.
This poem is in the public domain.
Got your message, here
in the letter you didn’t write:
burned, with a forbidden seal,
marking the burial site
of what has neither voice nor definition,
what has no face, no peace, no place to sleep,
a whisper in which I can’t [inaudible]
—what the sea doesn’t say, whispering, every night,
and when the rain comes to erase the streets
tomorrow, & all the dusks that follow that,
and runs around making up street dances
from what you once said, I’ll have this map,
without details, made of what I’ve missed,
telling me that that which isn’t is.
Soneto Balbuciendo En Que La Poeta Manda A Su Amor En Nueva York La Lluvia de La Habana
He leído el mensaje que mandaste,
aquí, en la carta no me has escrito:
quemada, y con sello prohibido,
diciéndome dónde enterraste
lo que no tiene voz ni luz ni cara,
ni paz, ni un lugar para dormir,
susurro donde yo puedo oír
cada noche lo que no dice el mar,
y cuando la lluvia borrará las calles
mañana, y los crepúsculos después,
y correrá haciendo bailes
de lo que me dijiste una vez,
yo tendré este mapa, sin detalles,
que me dice que lo que no es, es.
Copyright © 2015 by Suzanne Gardinier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
They were not kidding
when they said they were blinded
by a vision of love.
It was not just a manner
of speaking or feeling
though it’s hard to say
how the dead
really felt harder
even than knowing the living.
You are so opaque
to me your brief moments
of apparent transparency
seem fraudulent windows
in a Brutalist structure
The effort your life
requires exhausts me.
I am not kidding.
that you are unloved
but that you love
and must decide which
to remember; tracks left
in the field, a language
of going away or coming back—
and to look up
from the single mind,
to let untangle
the far-off snow
until no longer
held as proof
is also where birds
strung along branches
each with their own song
for the other,
every note used
to sing anyway—
how to hold the already
as the not yet
[for Ishion Hutchinson] The thing about entertaining them, about keeping their company, about fraternizing, is you must remember they are bloodless and have many faces, though it’s easy enough to walk in sunlight, where either you or they become invisible, never together seen; easy to get in bed with them, to bed them, to be seduced by them— listing in their own dominance. Remember what makes one human, animal, is not the high road but the baseness in the heart, the knowledge that they could, at any moment, betray you.
Copyright © 2011 by Dante Micheaux. Used with permission of the author.
Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love,
But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 14, 2013.
Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
Copyright © 2005 Jack Gilbert. From Refusing Heaven, 2005, Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission.
The pine branches reach—the rain! the sun! the edge of the
moving air! three goats!
Girls on razor scooters turn the corner and scoot
Autonomy actually shows, it shines amidst the stars of decision
I sacrifice hearing to writing, I return to the back of the train
Surrounded by nothing but tattered island nasturtia, the
shoveler is prepared to exclaim, “Grief exterior, grief
Beastly pine cones are falling from the sky
Down in the middle, and a soft wall, the midnight breeze
Check the role, the rock, the rule!
From cardboard pressed to ginger, water spilled on a list, salt
Why so many references to dogs, purple, and bananas?
Then the carnival—it came up afterwards like a vermillion
buttress to say of itself “it appears”
Wren in a ragged bee line, flora sleeping live
Yuki, Felicia, and Maxwell have between them $13.75, and they
are hungry as they enter the small café, where they see a
display of pies and decide to spend all their money on pie
there and then—how much pie will each get to eat if
each pie costs $5.25?
Invincible is my myopia, great is my waist, choral are my ideas,
wingéd are my eyebrows, deep is my obscurity—who am I?
© 2015 Lyn Hejinian. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2015 by the Academy of American Poets.
Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.
This poem is in the public domain.
I heard it on the radio,
A woman’s voice saying,
I like for you to be
The space far away
Where poetry figures out
Why you are still
But not absent,
Why you can hear
What’s coming next.
But her voice could not touch
What had flown away.
Nor could she kiss
My mouth, though I repeat
What was understood
Each night and each day.
Copyright © 2016 David Biespiel. Used with permission of the author.
At the columbarium dug
by hand, a man points to where rock
doves would be brought to nest, their eggs
tended by priests, and the cave locked
at sundown, guarded by hired
knives. The flock meant meat for the dry
times; saltpeter; yolks needed to bind
portraits to walls, to raise a sky
gilded with violets and myrrh.
Tonight, my mother paints her nails
black—a shade she names, “Dark Matter.”
She numbers what’s left of her cells,
tells us of this burning inside
her knees, laughs a promise to fight.
Copyright © 2016 R. A. Villanueva. Used with permission of the author.
A plausible place, this sea of air.
Somehow, the fragments of a later
Time get pulled out of the memory.
The earth surges up, the snow covers
Us. The blackened lungs of a bird
Cry out in the shaped bones
Of my hands. Walls of dust,
The bright little stars above us,
Who can crawl into the tiny black
Sky with reverse symmetry?
My brother, you really filled my head,
And now it’s time for me to fly
Out with or without the beautiful passages
Where my mind used to be.
Copyright © 2016 Noelle Kocot. Used with permission of the author.
In the recesses of the woman’s mind
there is a warehouse. The warehouse
is covered with wisteria. The wisteria wonders
what it is doing in the mind of the woman.
The woman wonders too.
The river is raw tonight. The river is a calling
aching with want. The woman walks towards it
her arms unimpaired and coated
with moonlight. The wisteria wants the river.
It also wants the warehouse in the mind
of the woman, wants to remain in the ruins
though water is another kind of original ruin
determined in its structure and unpredictable.
The woman unlaces the light across her body.
She wades through the river while the twining
bleeds from her mouth, her eyes, her wrist-veins,
her heart valve, her heart. The garden again
overgrows the body—called by the water
and carried by the woman to the wanting river.
When she bleeds the wisteria, the warehouse
in her mind is free and empty and the source
of all emptiness. It is free to house the night sky.
It is free like the woman to hold nothing
but the boundless, empty, unimaginable dark.
Copyright © 2016 Brynn Saito. Used with permission of the author.
You only watch the news to find out
where the fires are burning, which way
the wind is blowing, and whether
it will rain. Forecast ahead but first:
A mother’s boy laid out
in the street for hours.
These facts don’t wash away.
Copyright © 2016 D. A. Powell. Used with permission of the author.
It’s love you left, we’ll say
when you never come back
for bells for the dead, for the grave
stone heads: the only ones
that don’t keep count. Don’t
we know it’s love that keeps you
away, that marks every mile
devotion? You would’ve went
to the end with each one,
made Orpheus turn back.
Would’ve fell / would’ve leapt /
would’ve left. The living is easy
/ the leaving is easy / living
with ghosts, it was easy
to give up your home
to your father, struck
with the same grief
of living, demanding
what are you gonna do
with my mama’s house?
Shorn grass & damp dirt:
they’ll put me in the middle.
I kick the ground like tires,
feeling dumb without flowers /
tokens / grief / anything
in my hands. You’ll bring me
back home, won’t you? Stamp
it down, as if the flat earth
could answer sometimes this,
too, is love. You left.
Copyright © 2016 Gary Jackson. Used with permission of the author.
Ours is a partial language part pantomime,
part grimy guesswork: adulterated speculation
as to meaning & motivation.
Translated, heart suggests a familiar, universal
device but internal chemistries vary—
though components be the same & not uncommon.
The world owes us nothing. It promises less.
Call it: freedom. Free will. Or Wednesday.
Copyright © 2016 Rangi McNeil. Used with permission of the author.
our Father I do love to walk
down to the shore at dawn
while the ground is cold
and there sprinkle my cells
to smashed ocean radios
I dream that I was born
with no tongue and that
I can neither ask nor
answer nor understand
questions about where
I come from that the waves
are my clapping sisters
so many dark swallowed
ships my deleted thoughts
cannon and coin pulp
my new body and that any
one of a million canyons
trembling with the psalms
of stones is my easily
remembered mother who
easily remembers me
Copyright © 2016 by Nathan Parker. Used with permission of the author.
The white violet
is scented on its stalk,
fragile as agate,
lies fronting all the wind
among the torn shells
on the sand-bank.
The greater blue violets
flutter on the hill,
but who would change for these
who would change for these
one root of the white sort?
your grasp is frail
on the edge of the sand-hill,
but you catch the light—
frost, a star edges with its fire.
This poem is in the public domain.
Moved the jackrabbit
from the road, laid her under
a bush. Land of little
shade, we do what we can.
One sport is crying while driving.
Another the daffodil light.
All the mornings I’ve found you,
I’m just eating a sandwich with Sarah,
when the wind picks up, and her hair
crucial, planet. Night running off
with itself. Away
from your star. So soft
is the fur
of the currently—
Copyright © 2016 by Louise Mathias. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
This poem is in the public domain.
There’s the thing I shouldn’t do
and yet, and now I have
the rest of the day to
make up for, not
undo, that can’t be done
but next time,
think more calmly,
breathe, say here’s a new
(though why would that
work, it isn’t even
hidden, hear it in there,
Copyright © 2016 by Lia Purpura. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.