now i like to imagine la migra running
into the sock factory where my mom
& her friends worked. it was all women

who worked there. women who braided
each other’s hair during breaks.
women who wore rosaries, & never 

had a hair out of place. women who were ready
for cameras or for God, who ended all their sentences
with si dios quiere. as in: the day before 

the immigration raid when the rumor
of a raid was passed around like bread
& the women made plans, si dios quiere.

so when the immigration officers arrived
they found boxes of socks & all the women absent.
safe at home. those officers thought

no one was working. they were wrong.
the women would say it was god working.
& it was god, but the god 

my mom taught us to fear
was vengeful. he might have wet his thumb
& wiped la migra out of this world like a smudge

on a mirror. this god was the god that woke me up
at 7am every day for school to let me know
there was food in the fridge for me & my brothers.

i never asked my mom where the food came from,
but she told me anyway: gracias a dios.
gracias a dios del chisme, who heard all la migra’s plans

& whispered them into the right ears
to keep our families safe.

Copyright © 2021 by José Olivarez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

How desire is a thing I might die for. Longing a well,
a long dark throat. Enter any body

of water and you give yourself up
to be swallowed. Even the stones

know that. I have writhed
against you as if against the black

bottom of a deep pool. I have emerged
from your grip breathless

and slicked. How easily
I could forget you

as separate, so essential
you feel to me now. You

beneath me like my own
blue shadow. You silent as the moon

drifts like a petal
across your skin, my mouth

to your lip—you a spring
I return to, unquenchable, and drink.

Copyright © 2021 by Leila Chatti. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Maya

We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.

Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I first tasted under Apollo's lips,
love and love sweetness,
I, Evadne;
my hair is made of crisp violets
or hyacinth which the wind combs back
across some rock shelf;
I, Evadne,
was mate of the god of light.

His hair was crisp to my mouth,
as the flower of the crocus,
across my cheek,
cool as the silver-cress
on Erotos bank;
between my chin and throat,
his mouth slipped over and over.

Still between my arm and shoulder,
I feel the brush of his hair,
and my hands keep the gold they took,
as they wandered over and over,
that great arm-full of yellow flowers.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

“It isn’t right to despise one’s country
I don’t deserve to be loved and left.”
—Faysal Cumar Mushteeg

Say you are reading Barthes, or rereading Barthes, 
two acts which are hardly independent of each other.  
Say it’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, and you are all aflush,  
your finger tracing the outline of flight, Either woe or well-being, he writes,  
Sometimes I have a craving to be engulfed.  
And even though this could mean anything, you think you know what it means 
to shiver with well-practiced yearning.   
Not for provincial beginnings, nor Moroccan boys,  
but for lip-shaped crescent moons left on teacups. 
An oil splash of a man with scarred hands.  
In this poem, he doesn’t have a name.  
Your own dumb luck pools around your ankles. We skirt around it, a kindness.  
It disgusts you, the depth of this need,  
like the slick walls of a well.   
Your bones ache most when held. 
Eventually, you’ll have to stop impersonating a skimmed stone.  
There are other ways of parting. 
You annotate Barthes annotating Keats, half in love with easeful death. 
Over-identify until you are light-headed, until you remember a hot, loud classroom.  
Breathless bluetooth blues, a free school meal in your belly, 
the easy cruelty of teachers at under-performing schools,  
so unlike their counterparts in the movies,  
those loose-tied English teachers who promise you 
a world so much bigger than this. So much easier than this. 
Chipped neon nail polish competing against your prized set of highlighters,  
you mistake a poem for a blueprint. First the odes, then the Jane Campion film.  
That night, you dreamt of lavender fields, bruised eyelids,  
the shape of Rome’s dying sunlight on a poet’s grave.  

                    Here lies one whose name was writ in water 

No name. No date. This was all Keats wanted. Convinced they knew better,  
his friends contextualised their grief, added the rest.  
This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET,  
who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart,  
at the Malicious Power of his enemies,  
desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone.  

You think of how casually our bodies are overruled by kin, by blood,  
by heartaches disguised as homelands.  
How you can count the years you have lived for yourself on one hand.  
History is the hammer. You are the nail. 
In another dream, your mother is barefoot and young,  
wearing a scarf the colour of a wound. By Fontana del Moro, a Moor adrift  
on a conch shell leans over her shoulder,  
as she unpeels her wet dress from her legs.  
Unmoored, she laughs at this new country calling itself an old one.  
These fictions she tosses like loose coins.  
We don’t dare dip our hands further than they can reach.  
Her gold bracelets slide down the silk flags of her wrists.  
Nightly, you strive to write a loose translation of this. 
Arterial blood is theatrical, like the desire for a time before your time.  
The world will not stop when you do, or even before.  
Yes, being the one who survived, the one who made it to this side,  
is a full-time job.  
But no-one asked you to take it.  
Diaspora is witnessing a murder without getting blood on your shirt.  
Your body is the evidence of its absence.  
Of course, there are other definitions.  
Namely, a freshly scraped scalp, dome of your rock,  
the inevitability of fajr and late-night texts,  
each lie about how good the exchange rate was.  
That time he cried telling you the story of why his family had left Sweden,  
the image of a younger brother held underwater by wild-eyed classmates.  
Definitions, like flags, lay claim to what has always existed.  
For now, these will do. You can’t speak for the future.  
It barely speaks for you.  
Pick a mask and ask me to wear it. You only know love like this,  
an interpretation you can’t outrun.  
A footnote to haunt the page.  

Copyright © 2021 by Momtaza Mehri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

                 And sometimes, yes, I’d beg for it—
           he’d make me beg: Shy moon, 
                      why shy tonight? 

I heard the geese before I saw them again this morning—
this time, flying north. Above them, thunderheads like doomed 
zeppelins, like whales when sounding, though they brought 
no rain. That’s how I used to write, insisting on ordinary things 
being somehow more than that, that they had to mean something, 
the way disruption can punctuate with meaning an established 

pattern, or as when finding out one’s silence has been mistaken 
for arrogance or, worse, indifference, when all you meant 
was to be kind—retreat, not exile; less the monsters, than 
how we lived beside them, our lives not leaves not trash on an 
updraft that at random carries them then refuses them, can a wind 
refuse. And yet… 

                        Shy moon --

As if doing what we’d always done were enough to be grateful for, 
as if to keep doing it were itself to be grateful. You just forgot, 
that’s all. It’s harder not to forget. How the yard gave way 
like a ragged imperative to a forest of scrub-pines and oak, mostly, 

how a stand of ferns there almost looked, from above, like a boat 
of shadows, coming at last unmoored, and the forest a sea—that 
endless-seeming, that steeped in night-dark, beg for it, why shy

Copyright © 2021 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

On nights like this, she sleeps with the car’s jack handle
            in her hand, the smell of oil and metal oddly comforting
in such a public place. She keeps her clothes

in a cardboard box on the ’54 Chevy’s back seat,
            along with a green wool blanket, two towels, a bag
of books. And tonight she piles blouses, blue jeans,

sweater, skirt—all of it—on top of her body, hunkering
            down low on the front seat. She’s parked beneath
the brightest overhanging street light she could find

at the edge of this shopping mall parking lot, slammed
            the door locks down tight. Tomorrow, she’ll drive
across town, tell a pack of lies to a do-gooder doctor.

She’ll lie about her name, her address, her age—
            she’ll invent a husband. After the impossible
calendar questions, the awkward, back-opening

gown, the cold feet in iron stirrups, the knees
            spreading, the gloved hand pressing, the fingers
probing—the earnest-faced doctor will tell her

(while pulling gloves off, while tossing them
            into a gray metal bin), will tell her: yes. A baby
is arriving in late August—as if

she should expect a visitor, maybe stepping off
            the Greyhound bus, suitcase in hand—
and she remembers how her grandmother would call

her period the unwelcome visitor, how she’d say
            the only thing worse than the monthly visitor
is no visitor at all. The doctor will say everything

looks fine. He’ll say No charge for today. He’ll smile a little,
            shake her hand. The best he can do.
Then he’ll leave her alone in that white, white room

and she’ll button up her wrinkled work uniform, slip out
            onto the street, and make her way back
to the shopping mall to work the snack bar’s sorry

evening shift, serving coffee, burgers and fries to bored
            store clerks and tired housewives. Soon, like everyone else,
her high school principal will notice the swelling arc

of her belly, and he’ll call her into his windowless office,
            sit her down on a metal chair, and recite
district policy excluding pregnant students

from attending school. He will insist
            it’s for her own good. The girl will say he’s wrong.
She’ll say she’s not pregnant at all. He’ll call in

the kind, freckled woman who teaches history, and the girl
            will deny it again. She’ll deny it
over and over—to all of them—determined to hold them off

until graduation in June. Spring will be long, and filled with rain.
            But tonight, large flakes of snow hover in the light
and she thinks of her mother, scrambling toward the promise

of a job—her mother and the five younger kids, sleeping
            600 miles away on the floor of a rented house in a warm
desert town this girl has never seen, and she starts the car, lets it run

a few minutes with heater on and the urgency
            of Grace Slick’s “Somebody to Love” on the radio,
and she pulls the blanket close around her shoulders, imagines

the dense, pressed asphalt under the car, and the ancient
            earth beneath the asphalt, and she watches
the snow grow heavy, pile up, darkening.

Copyright © 2021 by Corrinne Clegg Hales. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In this city
each door I cross
in search of your room

grows darker
than the sky, this silver
dome of morning spread

across the urban smog.
Country dark washes the city
light off the outskirts

& beyond

where you sleep in hiding,
where your face
wrapped in gauze

shines like sequin
in the lingering moon-drizzle.
I reach for you

at the corners of the clubs,
inside motel rooms,

where rent boys tumble
perspired bed sheets,
doubling you, your maleness

your hipbones sticking
to my thighs, hard

stubble of your legs
scratching. The night I followed
a strange road, looking

to forget all this, starlight
spooled the gravel ribbon
leading back to the city

behind me, back
to the hospital room
where I last saw you—

Tonight, I’ll rest
on this road, I’ll look back
to the city of change

where one year
two skyscrapers lifted, a park
shed trees

for new thoroughfares,
& an old cinema
erupted to rebuild itself

in its place. I’ll stay
on the pavement,
suspended in time

like the broken sign announcing
You are enteringline , (a name

changed two years ago),
& I’ll wonder
if the hot breeze

blowing the nape
of my neck
is your unchanged

breath rising like candle
smoke from the city.

Copyright © 2021 by Aldo Amparán. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The old man cruises our neighborhood
in a 2-tone Chevy built like a fort;
he offers 25 cents to the girls
who’ll come close enough to let him pinch
a cheek—gaze hidden behind dark
glasses, one hand on the wheel,
one eye on the rearview mirror.

Across the street, we dare
each other: you do it; no,
you do it—pulled as much by the glory
of what a whole quarter buys,
by the yearning to be wanted
by someone—we’re just trailer court kids
on a Saturday morning made of asphalt,
shaggy pines and rain. Our mothers
chain smoke Pall Malls inside thin walls,
fathers or stepfathers or mothers’ boyfriends
out hunting work or already drinking.
We’ve all spent nights waiting outside The Mecca
in our parents’ old cars, peering over back seats
into dark windows as if wishing
could erase those light-years of distance.

I am a hungry heart on skinny legs,
standing on the edge of a journey—
no maps, no guides, instincts muddled
by neglect or abandonment or mistake;
naked, letting other people dress me
in trust, shame, lust. I want to say
I will learn how to hide my longing—
that invisible sign scrawled on my forehead
like an SOS revealing my location to the enemy—
but the truth is something more like this:

If there is a patron saint of trailer courts,
if Our Lady of the Single-Wide watches over
potholed streets, crew-cut bullies,
stolen bikes and wildflower ditches, if
children learn to brandish scabs and scars
like medals; if a prayer exists to banish predators—
well, no one taught me that magic.

So I step into that road, cross that street,
take that bribe—and keep walking, out
of that trailer park, away from that childhood.
I follow my hunger, my emptiness, the flame
on my forehead not betrayal but reminder:
it’s not wrong to want, to ask—not wrong—
I keep the beacon lit so love might see me.

Copyright © 2021 by Deborah A. Miranda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We ask about our people and they tell us the plight of boats
yachts smashed in the marina, ferries crashed into harbors
masts snapped, propellers bent, vessels drowned in coves.

They broadcast reports of water rising in hotel rooms
sand slipping into sheets where our cousins could never sleep  
salt stains as testimony, spit-prints of the hurricane’s wrath.

Bodies are piling up in the morgues and instead
an elegy of boats
an inventory of industry, countdown
to when paradise can begin again.

So it seems when we’re no longer property
we become less than property
a nail sick with rust, jangling in high winds.

This would be a different story were it not
for ex(ile), whose sting swells when banished
in one’s own yard, barred
from the fruits of your mother’s land.

Inside ex(ile): tempests and fault lines
are developers’ wet dreams.
A mainland will sink its territory in debt
starve its subjects in the wake of storms
clearing ground for palaces on the shore.

Inside ex(ile): the body is only
as good as its technology
how it buckles in a field.

Inside ex(ile) is the ile
pushed across the Atlantic through Oya’s lips.
Place or shelter, sacred home.

We ask about our people and fill the silence with prayer
utterances rerouting to our climate’s first spirits:
Guabancex blowing furious winds, Huraca’n spiraling at the center.
Guatauba drenched in thunder and lightning.
Coatrisque of the deadly floods.

Spare our kin, we plead. Save your wrath for the profiteers.
Cast them from our archipelago, our ile ife of the seas
until home is a place we never have to leave.

Copyright © 2021 by Desiree C. Bailey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Chopping cilantro and flat leaf parsley
on a bamboo board at the sink, mincing

garlic and onions. Late mellowing light,
the air bordering on cool but tinged

bitter-green with the smell of growing
amargoso in the yard. I can keep

the kitchen door open because the side gate
is locked, and the week-long siege at the street

corner is over. We did not know the man
they say trespassed, early Monday morning,

into someone's yard with a firearm;
did not know what altercation if any

led to someone calling the police. So he ran
and barricaded himself in his own house.

They came in force, then; rifles drawn,
sealed off one end of the block. Those of us

who could still come and go out the other end
brought back reports every day, over four

days: how many squad cars, where the waiting
ambulance was parked, the bomb unit; who saw

the robot deployed with a phone, the negotiators,
the TV crew. We did not witness how, before dawn

on the fourth day, finally they took him into custody
from the Latin custodia meaning guardianship,

keeping, care. Now this man who neighbors say
used to pelt their doors with donuts, or attach

stuffed animals on leashes for walks,
is in a hospital or facility. Is it wrong  

to wonder if it lasted as long as it did
instead of arriving at swifter resolution—

doors broken in; tasers, clubs; bullets sprayed
into his body—because of the color of his skin?

Or is it possible to believe that finally
something of change might be moving slowly

through the dismal atmosphere, tempering
and holding in check, allowing the thought

to stay the trigger, the heart to register
its trembling before letting the weapon fly?

In summer, because dark descends more slowly,
it's hard to scan the sky for the hunter

and his belt studded with the three telltale
bright stars; harder to remember how

once, he boasted he would hunt down and kill
all of earth's wild animals, to make it safe.

But there he is, adrift in the inky darkness,
club and shield eternally raised, his own K-9 units

at his heels; and here we are, still trying to sort
villain from victim, wound from welcome opening.

Copyright © 2021 by Luisa A. Igloria. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Linda Hogan

Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff

being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.

The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust. 

The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth

to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes, 
made quickly, and without much suffering.

The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.

We know this, though we forget.

Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world

of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.

Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—

scattered so far beyond reach.

Copyright © 2021 by Danusha Laméris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thirty feet above the ground, in a warehouse 
in the industrial outskirts 
of a city we’d never lived in,
I knelt inside the near-empty container

to contemplate our nomadic misery: 
mismatched chairs, kitchen appliances 
older than me, baby clothes, 
framed diplomas, books in a language 

my father never taught me (it would 
have stunted my assimilation
and in my head, an email from my mother 
that read, “we’re doomed, save what you can.”

So there I was, on the other 
side of nowhere in sunny Italy… Despite 
the technological changes around us, 
disasters still travel in telegrams: Bankrupt. STOP. 

Sorry. STOP. Homeless. STOP… 
Remember, brother, 
when our parents calling us 
‘global citizens’ inspired great hope?

But the world proved too tribal for us
and so your suitcase shall be your only friend 
while Shi Huang’s fantasy of a Godly Wall 
proliferates across the planet. 

Weeks ago, two cops in Catania 
stung a sixteen year old boy from Darfur
with cattle-prods to impart the following lesson, 
whatever the government says, 

you’re not welcome here.’ 
As if one needed the reminder… 
All across the boot, the green-
shirted faithful lift their pitchforks 

to chase the monster of Otherness, 
so don’t ask me why I love 
to leave and hate returning. 
(Is the answer somewhere inside this container?

It isn’t… but remember Cicero’s saying,
there’s no cure for exile except to love 
every city as you would your own, 
but the past is always easier… ) 

When I was young, I fancied 
myself Indiana Jones; later, 
with erudition, came realer idols: 
Petrie, Schliemann, Carter, Kenyon—

but you cannot rescue history from dust—
all you save one day will crumble 
in your hand. “Trash or burn the rest” 
I told the warehouse worker 

as we rode the forklift back to earth. 
Damn whoever said 
that hell was down below;
they clearly never went there.



Copyright © 2021 by André Naffis-Sahely. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I am still the old man with the street organ and cat, turning the same crank and expecting moonlight. What I remember: smoke of houses on the riverbank. Storm on mute. Temple broken, lamb-entered. You loved my bones because they were white. In the gathering blindness, you bandaged my body, and in doing so made it my body. I can’t remember which chord heals visions or causes them. Which summons a cloud of b­­­ees from the stone, or conceals your shape behind a flame. It is every guitar I have found in the gutter. Every name on the edge of being gone.

Copyright © 2021 by Brian Sneeden. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In a meadow  
as wide as a wound 
I thought to stop  
and study the lesser stitchwort’s  
white flowers lacing up  
boot-level grasses 
when I was scolded in song 
by a black and white bird  
whose wings sipped air, 
swallow-like, until he landed  
on the highest tip 
of yellow dock,  
still singing his beautiful warning, 
the brown female  
with him in fear.  
The warning was real: 
the anniversary of my husband’s suicide.  
What was the matter with life? Sometimes 
when wind blows, 
the meadow moves like an ocean, 
and on that day, 
I was in its wake— 
I mean the day in the meadow. 
I mean the day he died.  
This is not another suicide poem. 
This is a poem about a bird 
I wanted to know and so 
I spent that evening looking 
up his feathers and flight,  
spent most of the night 
searching for mating habits  
and how to describe the yellow 
nape of his neck like a bit  
of gothic stained glass, 
or the warm brown 
females with a dark eyeline.  
How could I have known  
like so many species  
they too are endangered? 
God must be exhausted: 
those who chose life; 
those who chose death.  
That day I braided a few 
strips of timothy hay  
as I waited for the pair 
to move again, to lift  
from the field and what,  
live? The dead can take 
a brother, a sister; not really.  
The dead have no one.  
Here in this field  
I worried the mowers 
like giant gorging mouths 
would soon begin again 
and everything would be  
as it will.

Copyright © 2021 by Didi Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

can be seen in the tree though the dogs
unmistakably indicate, when clearly 

the canopy calls to them and days
have passed before you’ve even begun,

when nothing in the undergrowth has
prompted so much as a whimper, you

must turn your thoughts to the other bank.
Scent from a living body will be carried

on the wind. Scent from a corpse in the
river spreads like oil. But say 

the return-to-elements has started just
beyond that rise. The body is cold, 

the scent like a river seeks lowest ground
becoming part of the river itself which the

trees in turn imbibe and, drawing upward,
change to living green. 

The one you seek is now an exhalation.
As the dogs, intelligent beyond our wildest

reckoning, have told us. Have
been telling us.


In Basel, on a panel made of limewood,
emphatically unrisen, 

the body of Christ lies in its frame as in
a coffin. Thwarted verticals. And strung

along a fault line where the pigment-
in-egg-yolk old way meets the pigment-

in-linseed new, the flesh
breathes beauty as only

that-which-is-liable-to-perish can breathe.
The green-going-black of face, of feet,

of visible hand confirm: no going back to
what you were. How is it

the linen on which he lies so clearly
discloses a pallet of stone (and hence

the catalog title—entombed) which means
the coffin I’ve imagined (warmer

framewood) must be pity’s crafted after-
thought. Or argument. The wholly

this-world begging to differ
with all we’ve been taught to hope for.


1521: the heretic from Wittenberg
refuses to recant though the question

has not yet turned to presence or real.
Sit down at my table (my body my 

blood) and I on your behalf will paint
a picture. Note the gaping nostril, gaping

mouth, the other mouth of the wound in his
side, the cradle of the abdomen. You see 

how disproportionate I’ve made his length,
the better to seal credulity. It’s fifteen 

hundred twenty one. “It is known,”
writes my informant, “that the artist used 

a body retrieved from the Rhine (citation
needed).” And either

the fish had not eaten the open eye or
Holbein in his studio restored it. Never

elsewhere, says the limewood, never
blind. Behold

the nearer case for mystery. I’m here to praise.

Copyright © 2021 by Linda Gregerson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

but it doesn't break, and neither breaks toward justice
nor away from it. It simply bends, as the bow does
before propelling the arrow where it may, agnostic
to everything but flight. I don't mean to make morality
a weapon in this way, but it already is one and has been
for some time. The shackles, after all, were explained
as saving us from ourselves, our naked savagery,
though it was their whip that licked us and left a kind
of tactile text on our bodies. The Bible will have a man
beating on someone as easily as it will have another
taking one, turning the other cheek, civilly disobedient
even when the bombs blow up in their church, not to say
saying no to violence isn't commendable, just to say
a strong case can be made for cracking a skull or two
like an everyday egg in hopes whatever golden light
resides inside shines through, throughs the crimson tide
for the rest of time so the tide will, mercifully, recede.

Copyright © 2021 by Cortney Lamar Charleston. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

You can’t remember what they did to you. Your loneliness isn’t welcome here, you know, but still you walk the dream-lit village, looking for someone gentle enough. There must be an animal trapped under your shirt, you think, because little claws scratch against your chest and you throb there, but you're afraid to look because looking means remembering. You ask a man passing on the road to lift your shirt and check and he retches at what he sees, says the flesh there overflows, as if grinding its own meat, that strips of skin curl away from the wound like rot mushrooms growing on a tree, and he can't help you, you make him sick, he says, he has to go now, so you wander some more until you reach the gate, which is the end of who you could have been, the end of the dream of your body made full with starmilk, propelled by a heart of sea anemone. You’ll be hungry forever if you stay here, trying to hide your secret mouth from all this light. Before you can cross the gate into that dark valley, you must look at yourself. You can think of other words for red: crimson, cherry, scarlet. But there's no other name for blood, no name for a shame like this, its hiss of pain when you press your finger to it, the sweet stain it leaves on your fingertip. You just have to taste it.

Copyright © 2021 by Sara Eliza Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The spring warmth steals into me, drying up all the tears of my soul,
And gives me a flight into the vastness,—into a floorless, unroofed reverie-hall.

Lo, such greenness, such velvety greenness, such a heaven without heaven above!
Lo, again, such grayness, such velvety grayness, such an earth without earth below!
My soul sails through the waveless mirror-seas.

Oh, how near to Fairyland!
Blow, blow, gust of wind!
Sweep away my soul-boat against that very shore!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

exists to keep audiences
unsatisfied with
their mundane homelives, yet here
I am pacing my bedroom
and having serious
thoughts about trapeze
eyeliner, powdered
hands—and can you even
apply to be in a traveling act,
or do you need to be
discovered? I don’t want to be
famous, just remembered.
In high school I was
voted most likely to
ignore the demands
of men and gravity,
but it’s a difficult feat
when the two work together.
Like here, or
like in the flying trapeze:
man secures his hold,
gravity improves the swing.

Copyright © 2021 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

When did you first know you were bisexual?

I will never know how the pleasure I give feels as a body receives it. 

I fear strangers, Naomi, even the ones I love. I count their turned backs on the subway.

Some nights I fear even the subway itself—or is it my reflection in the yellowed glass, how I cannot see the city moving beyond me?

I want each round mirror to open as a window might.

Perhaps I always knew, but I mistrusted my knowing. I once stacked my journals to the height of a beloved and embraced them.

Every poem I’ve read to you has been written in this direction. Each word a line on the map I haven’t yet finished that leads me to you.

In college, I got ready for a party with two women I loved who loved each other.

I watched Diana flip Jean’s hair from her freckled shoulders before zipping her into her dress: 

the same gesture I’d made in the mirror, alone, before I arrived at their apartment.

I watched them pass Jean’s mascara wand fluently between them, one’s licked fingers curling the other’s lashes, and a question split me at my spine—

like a hand gently cracking a new book’s cover, ready to understand.

Copyright © 2021 by Rachel Mennies. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I shall never have any fear of love, 
Not of its depth nor its uttermost height,
Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never hesitate to go down
Into the fastness of its abyss
Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss.
I shall never have any fear of love.

Never shall I dread love’s strength
Nor any pain it might give.
Through all the years I may live
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never draw back from love
Through fear of its vast pain
But build joy of it and count it again.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never tremble nor flinch
From love’s moulding touch:
I have loved too terribly and too much
Ever to have any fear of love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Night is for sorrow and dawn is for joy,
Chasing the troubles that fret and annoy;
Darkness for sighing and daylight for song,—
Cheery and chaste the strain, heartfelt and strong.
All the night through, though I moan in the dark,
I wake in the morning to sing with the lark.

Deep in the midnight the rain whips the leaves,
Softly and sadly the wood-spirit grieves.
But when the first hue of dawn tints the sky,
I shall shake out my wings like the birds and be dry;
And though, like the rain-drops, I grieved through the dark,
I shall wake in the morning to sing with the lark.

On the high hills of heaven, some morning to be,
Where the rain shall not grieve thro’ the leaves of the tree,
There my heart will be glad for the pain I have known,
For my hand will be clasped in the hand of mine own;
And though life has been hard and death’s pathway been dark,
I shall wake in the morning to sing with the lark.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

sun beats
  wind leaps

blood memory

apocalyptic self-image crystallized affections of pious solace
                                         emptiness from this ceaseless war

I want to sin
against purity

bliss hovering above the void
haptic fallout feverish blood

sun beats down
wind leaps
blood memory
cheerful obscene boredom


                    singing with a hard fist
          life’s benevolent corruption
everything is hard against the tongue
everything dissolving
into otherworldly paradise
make heaven my home
I never learn my lesson

Copyright © 2021 by Precious Okoyomon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

in your thirties everything needs fixing. i bought a toolbox
for this. filled it with equipment my father once owned
to keep our home from crumbling. i purchased tools with
names & functions unknown to me. how they sat there
on their shelf in plastic packaging with price tags screaming:
hey lady, you need this!  like one day i could give my home
& everything living inside it the gift of immortality, to be
a historical monument the neighbors would line up
to visit even after i’m gone & shout: damn that’s a nice house!
i own a drill now, with hundreds & hundreds of metal pieces
i probably won’t use or use in the wrong ways but what
i’m certain of, is still, the uncertainty of which tools repair
the aging dog, the wilting snake plant, the crow’s feet
under my eyes, the stiff knee or bad back.
& maybe this is how it is—how parts of our small universe
dissolve like sugar cubes in water—a calling to ask us
to slow our busy breathing so we can marvel
at its magic. because even the best box of nails are capable
of rust. because when i was a child i dropped
a cookie jar in the shape of noah’s ark,
a family heirloom that shattered to pieces.
the animals broke free, zebras ran under
the kitchen table, the fractured lion roared by
the front door & out of the tool cabinet
i snagged duck tape & ceramic glue. pieced each beast
back to their intended journey.  because that afternoon
when my father returned from work i confessed
& he sat the jar on the counter only to fill it with
pastries. how the cracks of imperfection mended by
my hands laid jagged. chipped paint sliced across a rhino’s neck.
every wild animal lined up against the boat—
& a flood of sweet confections waiting inside.

Copyright © 2021 by Karla Cordero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Wind rising in the alleys
My spirit lifts in you like a banner
  Streaming free of hot walls.
You are full of unspent dreams . . .
You are laden with beginnings . . .
There is hope in you . . . not sweet . . .
    acrid as blood in the mouth.
Come into my tossing dust
Scattering the peace of old deaths,
Wind rising in the alleys
Carrying stuff of flame.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

As if the tender body is. As if the will is tender

And like any creature that has its hood up, you

take a photo of yourself in front of a window, rain

so dark, the day/perspective so desired. You are so

desperate for beautiful adventure, the lights shut off

and the sweat of some hot stranger in your mouth. As if

to say “before” is to enter a house filled with teenagers

piled on top of each other. Did I tell you that it’s raining?

It’s not hard to think that it’s already night and necessary,

how any green is a wild form, and lastly, I don’t want to

inspire devotion if it means the I becomes separated from the world.

To travel into and out of place […] swift unnature of staying

becomes a frequency […] you can no longer hear, the construct

of happiness, for example, how we long for a heartbeat.

Cement lot […] aching willow tree, our bodies [before] beneath

splay, all sinew and glean, black drape and raw confidence. It’s 1986

and freedom is something inevitable, the way brown boys run

shirtless, invisible siren roaring toward a fit mouth to bit it, O

from saying lightness, from—

What is the opposite of devastation? Fruit?

Copyright © 2021 by Dawn Lundy Martin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

           is the sound of me thinking
in a language stolen from my
ancestors. I can’t tell you who the
first slave in my family was, but we
are the last. Descendants
of the sun. Rye skinned
and vibrant, wailing to
a sailing tomb. We twist
creoled tongues. Make English
a song worth singing. You erase
our history and call it freedom.
Take our flesh and call it fashion.
Swallow nations and call it
humanity. We so savage
we let you live. 
           I can’t tell you who the first slave
in my family was, but we remember
the bodies.   Our bodies remember.
We are their favorite melody. Beat
into bucket. Broken
into cardboard covered
concrete. Shaken
into Harlem. The getting over
never begins, but there
is always the get down. Our DNA
sheet music humming
at the bottom
of the ocean.

Copyright © 2021 by Roya Marsh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

When you turned into a hundred rooms,
I returned each month as a door
that opened only one.

When you turned into a hundred rooms
the wind flung through
each of them wailing

and left a hundred songs
in hopes you would return for it
and me and

once, finding a doe locked up,
the trees blued up
the mountain pass, I understood

you had transformed into your multiple,
as the rain is different
each step from the moon. Sleeping

in a hundred rooms, a hundred dreams
of you appear—though by day
your voice has frozen into standing stones.

When you turned into a hundred rooms,
I met with a mirror in each eye
your growing absence.

When I moved, the shadows without you
followed me. In the hundred rooms,
I cannot pick one,

for each combines into the other
where I piece-by-piece the shadows
you have ceased

to remember. As the rain
is different each day of the year,
when I turned for you

and hoped you’d return to me,
was it I who left
and you who remained the same?

For when you changed,
I changed
the furniture in the rooms.

A hundred birds flew over a hundred fields.
A mountain flowed into a hundred rivers
then ended.

In a hundred rooms,
I turned and turned,
hoping to return to you.

O, the chrysanthemums grew
in the hundred rooms!

Far in the past and far in the future
were those numinous and echoing stars.

Copyright © 2021 by Yanyi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I hear you wake before I’m up myself
and snap to ready now before my eyes
crack from their crud to face your face today.
I hear you blunder toward my door. I hear

you crash it wide. The loosened hinges shiver
their frame, and now the house itself, awake
to the world and you, complicit, pulls me hard
as thunder from my sleep. You beat the echoes

to me, blear-faced, awash with night sweat; 
you drag a bunny by the ears to bed
and tumble graceless up the mattress, silent,
a drowsy rocket wanting, wanting something

I’m not awake enough to understand
but will be, soon, my son, and then we’ll go
to blaze the day, to stomp each puddle left
by the rain you never notice as you pull

me into the world, all leap and bowl, all grab
and fall. Today I’ll wake up better, call
the distance order, order it to be
a smaller thing. I’ll stand to make it so.

Copyright © 2021 by Dan Rosenberg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

In a graveyard, Pluto issues out its banner
Stark with god’s red cross telling me what I already know.

From now on, debts and love now have measure.
A hard candy for every time I punched my brother.

A soured apple for every missed dinner at my mother’s table.
A ray of night cuts through the light and I am alone again

in a bed ever shrinking to the size I allow myself.
I eat the apples and pucker further into my bound shape.

I crack the hard candies that glue themselves to my crowns;
A bitter nourishment weighs in my belly

While everything I have done now curdles:
the price of action. All my solace unravels as a feast.

Copyright © 2021 by Dan Lau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have made grief a gorgeous, queenly thing,
And worn my melancholy with an air.
My tears were big as stars to deck my hair,
My silence stunning as a sapphire ring.
Oh, more than any light the dark could fling
A glamour over me to make me rare,
Better than any color I could wear
The pearly grandeur that the shadows bring.
What is there left to joy for such as I?
What throne can dawn upraise for me who found
The dusk so royal and so rich a one?
Laughter will whirl and whistle on the sky—
Far from this riot I shall stand uncrowned,
Disrobed, bereft, an outcast in the sun.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Dan Bellm

         —For its daily efforts since 1995, offering free food and drink
         to migrants traveling north on the train known as the Beast,
         the Veracruz women’s group known as
Las Patronas has received
         the national Human Rights Award.

                  for Las Patronas, who have more balls than any macho

Storm in La Patrona, Amatlán, Veracruz—

a night lit by oil lamps,
the sun gone down, the electric light gone out,

rain beating its fury against the roof, sheets of water
pounded to shrapnel-clatter—

coffee made from tortillas burnt charcoal-black
and strained through a rag,

nothing but tortillas to ease hunger,
and beans boiled over the fire.

The fire lights up faces, warms the shadows.
The migrants shiver, cups in hand
like little hearth-fires of water,
sugar candle lights for the journey.

They barely speak, they stare at the ground,
at its cracks and crevices, the ash of charred wood
a snow-frost over their feet.
The train shakes the earth as it passes,
and roars deep, and kills the last of the sun.

Two Nicaraguans widen their eyes like street cats—

“Tomorrow—we’ll hop the Beast tomorrow—”

Still, they stand up to go.



Las Patronas 


Por los esfuerzos que implica ofrecer un taco y agua, día a día
desde 1995, sin recibir un peso, a los migrantes que viajan en el tren
conocido como La Bestia, el grupo de mujeres veracruzanas recibe
Premio de Derechos Humanos.

         Para Las Patronas, que tienen más güevos que cualquier gallo

Tormenta en La Patrona, Amatlán, Veracruz.

Es una noche encendida con lámparas de petróleo;
la luz se ha ido—la del sol, la de los cables—.

Riñe con furia la lluvia contra el techo, agua en láminas
vencidas por el tableteo de las metrallas.

Café de tortillas quemadas, negras hasta el carbón,
coladas con un trapo de manta.

No hay más que tortillas para saciar el hambre,
frijoles hervidos con leña.

El fuego ilumina rostros, calienta sombras.

Tiritan los migrantes con tazas en la mano,
pequeñas hogueras de agua, velas de azúcar
para el camino.

Hablan poco, llevan los ojos a la tierra,
a sus grietas, y la ceniza escarcha
los pies con su nieve de madres calcinadas.

Trepida el tren la tierra con sus pasos;
brama profundo, hace morir los restos del sol.

Dos nicas abren las pupilas como salvajes gatos:

“mañana subiremos a La Bestia, mañana”.

Sin embargo, se levantan.

Copyright © 2021 by Balam Rodrigo and Dan Bellm. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I have come
not to beg nor barter but to enter.

                                                                                                  Who are you seeking?

The past
opens and opens, fleshing me
with loss.
I descend
to find my way,
I who am
haunted and a haunting.

                                                                                                 What are you willing to abandon?

In the before, I continue:
a woman carrying on with the dishes,
the dusting, the sweeping. 
But here, I am the voice of the petitioner.
Dearest, who was once of earth,
Dearest, whose departure has cleft me,
Dearest, who was my country,
my soil, my sun and sky,
every migration 
is a bird taking wing. 

                                                                                                 Is this the place you seek?

And if at last I arrive,
will I find you in that room
with every window like the soul
flung open and flooded
with sounds of the distant sea.
And if I spill
out into the yard, will she be still
there, the child who was me
set down in the grass,
watching the stars blinkering
on and off, their light burning
with the knowledge of death.

                                                                                                  How will you carry this?

I will have to use the flowers to address you.
Wild-blooming frangipani (your cloying scent marks me).
Pointillist-starred ixora (I braid you into my hair).
Indigo-blue plumbago (you obliterate the sky).
Lignum vitae (you foretell all histories).
Roses that grow ragged along the shore (stay with me).

                                                                                                  How will you return to the living?

Called back by the susurrating wind and sea.
Called back by the roots of my hair, dirt
beneath my nails, the body’s sweat and stink.
Called back by their voices, yours
still clenched in my fist. Called back
to all that is matter, bone, and skin,
what fragment of you survives in me
as I open my mouth to speak?

Copyright © 2021 by Shara McCallum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

The light retreats and is generous again.
No you to speak of, anywhere—neither in vicinity nor distance, 

so I look at the blue water, the snowy egret, the lace of its feathers 
shaking in the wind, the lake—no, I am lying. 

There are no egrets here, no water. Most of the time, 
my mind gnaws on such ridiculous fictions. 

My phone notes littered with lines like Beauty will not save you
Or: mouthwash, yogurt, cilantro

A hummingbird zips past me, its luminescent plumage 
disturbing my vision like a tiny dorsal fin. 

But what I want does not appear. Instead, I find the redwoods and pines, 
figs that have fallen and burst open on the pavement, 

announcing that sickly sweet smell,
the sweetness of grief, my prayer for what is gone. 

You are so dramatic, I say to the reflection on my phone, 
then order the collected novels of Jean Rhys. 

She, too, was humiliated by her body, that it wanted
such stupid, simple things: food and cherry wine, to touch someone. 

On my daily walk, I steal Meyer lemons from my neighbors’ yard, 
a small pomegranate. Instead of eating them, 

I observe their casual rot on the kitchen counter, 
this theatre of good things turning into something else.

Copyright © 2021 by Aria Aber. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for my cousins


                      “First the meat disappeared from our rations,
                      then the rice, then the barley and millet,
                      then the rations vanished.




                      “We caught croakers, cuttlefish,
                      hauled creels of eelgrass and whip-wrack
                      until soldiers fired warning shots to keep us from the sea:

                      trapped squirrels, snapped sparrows’ necks,
                      stoned snakes if we were quick, dug mud
                      for frogs, dragged dogs from their holes:

                      and when they were wiped out, gnawed rats raw—
                      until they seemed to grow thinner,
                      the parasites in our guts wither, the lice on our scalps




                                                   하루 두 끼만 먹자!
                                                   [LET’S EAT TWO MEALS A DAY!]




                      “We boiled bracken, ground flour for noodles
                      from bean-stalks, stretched it with sawdust,
                      cooked gruel from grass or moss:

                      stripped pine-trees to chew the green inner bark,
                      picked pigweed, hogweed, horseweed, wort,
                      pounded acorns into a pulp—




                                        고난의 행군에서 승리한 기세로 새
                                                   세기의 진격로를 열어나가자!
                                        [LET’S CHARGE FORWARD INTO THE NEW
                                                        OF THE ARDUOUS MARCH!]




                      “Hunt for spilled grain near shipyards and train stations.
                      Poke through cow-shit for corn.
                      Wash well.




                      “Crush grubs.  Suck leeches.  Swallow
                      the worms that would swallow you.
                      Eat anything alive to stay alive.




                     “Snatch scraps of black-market meat.
                      Mother-meat, father-meat, meat of wandering swallows,
                  meat of tomorrow—?
                      Is-Was.   Eat-Eaten.




                                    오늘을 위해 살지 말고 내일을 위해 살자!
                                    [LET US NOT LIVE FOR TODAY,
                  BUT FOR TOMORROW!]




                      “The children’s skulls swelled, their bellies bloated,
                       their nails fell off,
                       their faces leathered, flesh blackened with infection,

                       hair rusted, eyes ringed with wrinkles
                       as if steel spectacles had been soldered into skin,
                       but what was there to see?




                      “Faster, dig faster! Save face, the aid workers are coming!
                       Hide them, the rotted bodies, lives heaped high as leaves—
                       There is hardly earth enough to bury all the dead.

Copyright © 2021 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Ellen Doré Watson

The spirit of rebellion

also called hopelessness                                                               

has begun another sinister round.    

His dark and cold come straight from hell.

I was expecting happy days from May,

but so far the only sunny thing was Albertina’s news

that she was chosen to sing “Jesus is the bread of heaven.”

That’s bread without butter, Albertina,                                              

just so you know. 

We eat it with bitter herbs.



Previsão do Tempo 


O espírito de rebelião

também chamado de tristeza e desânimo

começou de novo sua ronda sinistra.

Sua treva e seu frio são de inferno.

Por causa de maio, esperava dias felizes;

e ensolarado até agora só o recado de Albertina,

escolhida pra cantar Jesus é o pão do céu.

Pão sem manteiga, Albertina,

é bom que o saiba.

É com ervas amargas que o come.

Copyright © 2021 by Adélia Prado and Ellen Doré Watson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.