The New Year comes—fling wide, fling wide the door
Of Opportunity! the spirit free
To scale the utmost heights of hopes to be,
To rest on peaks ne’er reached by man before!
The boundless infinite let us explore,
To search out undiscovered mystery,
Undreamed of in our poor philosophy!
The bounty of the gods upon us pour!
Nay, in the New Year we shall be as gods:
No longer apish puppets or dull clods
Of clay; but poised, empowered to command,
Upon the Etna of New Worlds we’ll stand—
This scant earth-raiment to the winds will cast—
Full richly robed as supermen at last!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some deaths take                  the slow turn            in the light from dusk to night.

My father takes his               time                            is trying to befriend him.

When he goes                        with it                         he will go.

He will trust death                as a friend                 near the end of his life.

There were not many           late nights                  he did his drinking at home.

And worked one job             for 50 years                 he didn’t gamble or cheat.

Was home for dinner           every night                 he listened to us talk in silence.

Now death walks by             his side                        of the bed sinks, his body

Weighs the mattress            down                           the hall it breaks into a sprint.

I witness it encroach            step by step                he eases into lethargy.

Hair and skin looking so     thin                              was he always so thin?

A creaking sound walks       around the house     I hear the weight of delirium.

He can’t sleep with               the noise                     of him gasping echoes.

When he awakes                   he dreams                  his father yelling, Get Up.

Someone’s at the door         knocking.

Copyright © 2022 by Celeste Guzmán Mendoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

That time
in Aagam when father, a child then, picked
fresh walnuts with the mountain girls;
they showed him the fleshy green
skin over shell & nut he rubbed
on his lips & cheeks, giggling.

The girls circled around him, clapped
in unison & teased. In a hand mirror,
he saw himself stained pink,
a delicious trick that kept
its color a full week—

That time
so long ago, in the
season of walnuts.

Copyright © 2022 by Zohra Saed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

You’re humming through the streets,
self-lit. I have to correct strangers
who touch your head without asking,
as if to bless you or to take a blessing from you.

When we leave the city, you become
a boy hunting locusts. Nature stuns you—
you load up your pockets and want to bring it
home with us, but Nature stays with nature, I say,
a refrain learned from another mother.

You cannot be unpuzzled by things,
but you marshal all your sweet bravado for me,
who tries but never beats you in a game of chess.
I witness the rook and Queen
moving inside your thinking, squaring
and hewing 
to pathways of wins, losses.

Childhood’s end is always menacing,
apparent places of stars mark its outer limits.
It heaves up in you when you lose,
when you rage, 
when you’re afraid.

Glowering out of a fever dream, your eyes shine
as you confess in the dark I was the monster.

You show me a hornet’s nest on a bed of cotton,
hold it up as an offering. I wonder with you
at what you hold—
            summer rivers that show bracken corners,
            eye agate marbles,
            daggerwings of our days in the city
            built of strangers,
                         in a country built of sky.

When I pull you close,
what will flee trembles in you.

Copyright © 2022 by KC Trommer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 13, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for David Fagen
Corporal, U.S. Army (1898-1899); Captain, Philippine Republican Army (1899-1901)

Our worst enemy is General May:
rainy season, the lieutenant means, monsoon
much like Tampa’s summer storms. Roads become marsh;
not just flooding but fever, a fire
that hollows me out. We throw lifelines
to overturned ferries; casualties grow long.

Incessant drizzle. Letters take too long
to reach home. I prefer carousal, cards: dismay
in officers’ faces when I cross the line.
The guardhouse my second home. My fines soon
add up: a month’s pay. Most of it earned, so far,
by killing time, not ladrones: we march

to summits, spy gugus drilling below; march
back down to find the enemy long
gone—only grinning farmers left. Hellfire
spits the lieutenant, scanning ridges, amazed
to have been rolled by shoeless bandits again. Soon
he’ll snap, like the officers in Samar who lined

up boys young as ten—sympathizers, aligned
with insurgents. (So said General Smith.) Marshaled
them, blindfolded, to clearings. Too soon
for them to swell the soil; long
rest for short lives. Their will bewilders me—
faced with Gatlings, Krags, methodical shellfire

they ambush hand to hand. Bolos; sniper fire
in enfilades. Harass our lines
then beat back to boondocks, a maze
of jungle, cordilleras, rice fields, marsh.
Land surely rich with poetry—tulang
in their tongue—land like home: typhoon

cousin to hurricane. When the monsoon
shifts, so do I—I snap, desert for foreign fires.
Rope can kill black soldiers but not disease, lungs
like ours grittier, the C.O.s say; we’re maligned
but nicknamed “Immunes.” My old unit marches,
black against brown. Under white. As if to make

the Far East a second South. I captain a line
for the Filipino side: a turncoat, merging
nations. Our flag has no color. Soon it may.

Copyright © 2022 by Chris Santiago. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

                    I

This wind sighing recalls certain things.
I warned you:
Beware of it:
Passion has wings;
And will return with the year’s return
Like a bird on migrant wings.
This wind sighing recalls
Certain half-remembered things.

                    II

You have left something of you behind.
But you went with eager step,
Fearful, lest what you have left behind
Should halt your eager step.
When the lean years bring you back,
You will be as one
Who has laughed the lean years with strange men;
You will be different then.

                    III

Beyond the gate of the sun
I shall not seek you:
Before the last days are done
You have sung your last song,
You have played your last tune,
You have danced your steps too soon.
It is not easy
When great moments are so few:
Beyond the gate of the sun
I shall not seek you.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Pacific Palisades

We’d stare at horses at Will Rogers Park, then hike
the Loop Trail to Inspiration Point, &
I’d lag back 
to be a kid. Alone. & under that aloofness—hid
vengeance. A rusty burr or two 
in my left sneaker. & under that—anxiety. The salt 
dripping through chaparral 
brows, into my brown lashes. &
under that—rage. A perfectly purple 
shell some kid favored & lost.
& under that—hope. The pounded 
ground. & under that—a vast
clearing on the cosmos, also called Inspiration
Point. A gorgeous, inner hilltop

with a curious figure 
taking in the Pacific view. 
Breathing chicory & chamise. Naming 
every wind-boarder near Catalina 
Island. That high-noon, far-sighted figure—seemed
a bit burnt, but warm. A bit divine. 
But—sometimes—I didn’t find that figure 
wow-ing at a thing 
no one had ever seen—at a new bird 
better than a phoenix. (There’s something better than 
a phoenix!) Sometimes, my hand 
stretched towards some nether new
creation & I was the figure 
who named it.

Copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Jean. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Wilfrid Thorley

The moon grew sad, and weeping seraphim,
Musing among the vaporous flowers aswim,
With slow bows from the sobbing viols drew
White tears that sank in their corónals blue.
It was the blesséd day of your first kiss.
My reverie, eager with new miseries,
Was all a-swoon with perfume of shy grief
That leaves the heart to gather its own sheaf,
And frets not, nor yet sickens of its prize.
I wandered, and the worn way held my eyes
When in the street I saw your sun-girt hair
And you all smiling in the twilit air.
I took you for that elf who, crowned with beams,
Once passed before me in my childish dreams,
And shed white posies of sweet-smelling flow’rs
Star-like for tiny hands in snowy show’rs.

 


 

Apparition 

 

La lune s’attristait. Des séraphins en pleurs
Rêvant, l’archet aux doigts, dans le calme des fleurs
Vaporeuses, tiraient de mourantes violes
De blancs sanglots glissant sur l’azur des corolles.
—C’était le jour béni de ton premier baiser.
Ma songerie aimant à me martyriser
S’enivrait savamment du parfum de tristesse
Que même sans regret et sans déboire laisse
La cueillaison d’un Rêve au cœur qui l’a cueilli.
J’errais donc, l’œil rivé sur le pavé vieilli,
Quand avec du soleil aux cheveux, dans la rue
Et dans le soir, tu m’es en riant apparue
Et j’ai cru voir la fée au chapeau de clarté
Qui jadis sur mes beaux sommeils d’enfant gâté
Passait, laissant toujours de ses mains mal fermées
Neiger de blancs bouquets d’étoiles parfumées.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I shall gather myself into myself again,
   I shall take my scattered selves and make them one,
Fusing them into a polished crystal ball
   Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.

I shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent,
   Watching the future come and the present go,
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
   In restless self-importance to and fro.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Joy shakes me like the wind that lifts a sail,
Like the roistering wind
That laughs through stalwart pines.
It floods me like the sun
On rain-drenched trees
That flash with silver and green.

I abandon myself to joy—
I laugh—I sing.
Too long have I walked a desolate way,
Too long stumbled down a maze
Bewildered.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Mario Gonzalez Arenales (1994-2021)

He’s not doing anything wrong. He’s just scaring my wife.
—call to the Alameda Police Department, April 19, 2021

They watched him from the window of the house, a man at the fence
in a crooked wool cap, chipping at their tree with a comb, liquor bottles
in a shopping basket by his feet. They heard him speak to the wife’s
mother in the yard, tongue thick in his mouth, heavy with lamentation.
He could be the Aztec god of pestilence, no mask, breathing the plague
on them through walls and doors. The Mexican nanny might be able  
to read the hieroglyphics tumbling from his mouth, but she was wheeling 
a stroller through the streets of Alameda, the trees bowing deeply.

On the news, the body-cam clip wobbles like the video at a barbecue.
The cops are cheerful as they encircle him in the park across the street.
He says his name is Mario. One cop scolds this refugee from Oakland about
drinking in our parks, wants ID so they can be on our merry way. Mario says:
Merry-go-round? He steps up on a tree stump as if to ride it. The cops climb off
the spinning horses of Mario’s imagination, tugging at his arms as he peeks
at them under the cap. Now they are cowboys at the rodeo, but Mario is not
a steer, crashing to the applause of hands that would carve him into steaks.

The cops shove him to the ground, facedown. Mario squirms and bucks;
he is the prize at the county fair, a beast who tries to calm his captors,
so he spits all the words he knows to make them stop: oh God, please,
thank you, and sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I forgive you, says one cop,
as the other cop digs his knee into Mario’s back, where it stays even after
they cuff him, even after the first cop says: Think we can roll him on his side?
He asks Mario for his birthday, as if there will be a barbecue in the backyard
at the cop’s house, and Mario, facedown in the wood chips and the dirt,
with the other cop’s knee pressing into his back, wheezes the word: 1994.

There were cries, then silence. There were no last words. In medieval days,
the prisoner at the block would forgive the headsman and drop a coin into
his hand for a clean strike of the blade. In Salem’s Puritan days, a man accused
of witchcraft, after two days of stones stacked on him, sneered: More weight.

There were no last words from Mario when they rolled him over at last.
The last words were in the headlines that same day, jury deliberations
two thousand miles away in Minneapolis, the case of a cop kneeling
on the neck of a Black man, facedown and handcuffed, for nine minutes.

In Alameda, the cops began CPR and their incantation over the asphyxiated body: 
Wake up, Mario, wake up, as if he would be late for school on class picture day, 
as if he would miss his shift at the pizzeria where the paychecks dwindled away, 
as if he had an autistic brother waiting at home for Mario to help him step from 
the shower, button his shirt, comb his hair. His autistic brother still waits for Mario.

The man who called the cops, his wife’s hand gripping his shoulder,
says We greatly regret what happened and never intended, says Terrible
things are being said about us, says Our autistic child is able to read
and is terribly sensitive.
The sign in front of the dark house says: For Sale.

The merry-go-round in Mario’s imagination grinds on, creaking
day after day: the caller who presses the button to make the horses go,
the cops charging like cavalry after the renegade, the dead man galloping
ahead, escape impossible, his horse impaled on a pole, kicking the air.

The Mexican nanny called Crucita blames herself for rolling the stroller back
too late. She visits the altar for Mario across the street from the tree missing
a sliver of bark from his comb. The roses wreathing his face shrivel to plastic,
balloons gone flat, votive candles cold. There is an autopsy after the autopsy.
The coroner keeps the city’s secrets, a priest hiding in the confessional.

In her sleep, Crucita sees Mario, sometimes a body splayed across the street,
breath squeezed from his lungs like the last note from the pipes of a calliope,
sometimes breaking free, the painted horse lunging away, as he rides
along the coast to the deserts of Baja California, down mountain trails
off the maps of Yanqui generals and their armies, deep into the songs about
bandidos too clever to be caught, revolutionaries the bullets cannot kill.

Copyright © 2022 by Martín Espada. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The globe on a tilted axis means The News.
As the icon spins the angle seems to shift.

Science has found ancestral Neanderthals.
We have a bit of their blood. They painted caves
Better than sapiens, as we named ourselves.

History has found the Jews who fought for Hitler.
Thousands of Part and what were called Full Jews.
A few were generals.

                                      As the globe revolves

Different mixes keep passing into the light
Or into the dark, and then back out again:
The unexpected, over and over again.

Jefferson’s July 2 draft blamed George III
For violating the liberty of “a People
Who never offended him” shipped off to be
“Slaves in another hemisphere.” For many
“Miserable death in transportation thither.”
On the Fourth of July, that passage was left out. Thither.

In draft after draft of Puddn’head Wilson Twain
Linked and tore apart stories: The conjoined twins
From Italy come to town. In that same town, two
Blue-eyed babies. The nursemaid fair-skinned Roxy
Secretly swops the babies cradle to cradle,
Different nightie to nightie and fate to fate.
The one is her son. He sells her down the river.

Copyright © 2022 by Robert Pinsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Maria

Sitting across the table from you

I think back to when our friendship

came down from the mountains.

It was a cold day and the miners

had not left for work.

 

You break a cookie in half like bread

and this sharing is what we both now need.

That which breaks into crumbs are memories.

Your gray hair cut short and you ask if I notice.

 

How can I tell you that Bolivia will always be

beautiful and everything I notice is you

and yes is you. Our napkins folded in our hands.

Folded as if our meeting now is prayer.

 

Did I ever tell you that your eyes are a map

and I would lose myself if you ever turned away

Copyright © 2022 by E. Ethelbert Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

My friends are dead who were

the arches    the pillars of my life 

the structural relief when

the world gave none.

 

My friends who knew me as I knew them

their bodies folded into the ground or burnt to ash.

If I got on my knees

might I lift my life as a turtle carries her home?  

 

Who if I cried out would hear me?

My friends—with whom I might have spoken of this—are gone.

Copyright © 2022 by Marie Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thomas Jefferson said this, more or less,
After he read the musings of the clever African
Phillis Wheatley, a sensation of both the Colonies
And England, a black patriot, though a slave.
Whatever a black hand can build, he knew,
Could only be guided by a master’s vision,

Like this room of the mansion he probably
Wrote his opinion inwhat black mind could
Dream in these proportions? And gather
The slope of these Virginia hills so lovingly
To his window? God could give her words,
But the subtle turn? Like giving a gull
A sack of gold.

Copyright © 2022 by Cornelius Eady. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

out of the way. It knows that I tend to cling
to potential in the dark, that I am myself only
as I am beguiled by the moon’s lunatic luster,
when the streets are so bare they grow voices.
The sun has lost patience with my craving
for the night’s mass-produced romance, that
dog-eared story where every angle is exquisite,
and ghostly suitors, their sleek smells exploding,
queue up to ravish my waning. Bursting with
bluster, the sun backslaps the moon to reveal
me, splintered, kissing the boulevard face first,
clutching change for a jukebox that long ago
lost its hunger for quarters. It wounds the sun
to know how utterly I have slipped its gilded
clutch to become its most mapless lost cause.
Her eye bulging, she besieges me with bright.
So I remind her that everything dies. All the
brilliant bitch can do for me then is spit light
on the path while I search for a place to sleep.

Copyright © 2022 by Patricia Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The haunting has killed before.
Find words to describe the stone
heavy in the bowels. Before us
are the disasters we make
of our lives. I am a clumsy
journeyman. You find me on
a road that curls across green
plains. You see me with my staff
from so many miles away. We follow
the contours the mountains
make of the road until, hours
later, after two light showers
and a burst of sunlight we
meet. I tell you I am doing
penance. I promise that these
words I am speaking are the breaking
of a long fast, and my voice
sounds alien even to me.
You ask why I wince like that.
“The silence,” I say. “It bruises, as well.”
And after the elation of this meeting,
we part, you towards the light, me
into the gloom you left behind.

Copyright © 2022 by Kwame Dawes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Grief is a family going down one by one 

Wild buffalo tread on thin medallions 

It’s a sin to be born poor

It’s treason to stay that way

On the way to work at Fort Hood

Shepherd fell in love with a cherry 

Mother wore a red gingham apron 

While plating macaroni on the base

At home her daughter sat under an eye

That lost her in a blind spot 

Back then work had a weight you could feel it

After the war the father got a son

Quilts are folded like flags in the cupboard 

The morning shepherd left 

We drained a pitcher of cheap wine 

Our ancestors had robbed and been robbed 

And now everything was a mess

Copyright © 2022 by Monica McClure. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Anvil clouds in the west.
My father dies in hospice
while I’m on the highway,
stuck in roadwork. 
Gaunt on the gurney.
Limbs impossibly still.
Mouth slightly open, 
as if surprised, as if saying 
ah! One eye half closed, 
the other looking up,
lit by a further light,
a sky in the ceiling. 
I touch his hand, barely 
cool. It’s only been 
an hour. At the elevator, 
I’m not ready to drop 
down the bright chute.
I go back. Bend & kiss
his hand. Outside, long
soft nails hammer the earth.

Copyright © 2022 by Willa Carroll. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Outside a door in east Maui, a brindled dog sits.
            No cars drive the dirt road.
No child appears with food to share or ask for.
            There is only inside, today.
A telephone cries, and to each caller, a grandmother
            chirps, “Aloha. God bless you.”
In a corner bedroom, a girl is kept in bed,
            surrounded by mosquito nets & women,
who take turns binding her wound.
            Miles of violence in their eyes, they know
how to speed through marrow. They know
            scars & stars, two things
a woman should never count in relation to her body.
            The number of names, maybe,
wired around her stomach. The number of stomachs
            opened like doors and, not so much
cleaned as cleaned of secrets. Yes, there is something
            better than the heart. A whirring
sent deep in the body. Like a girl in a house.
            You are finally home. 
No glorified organ, no heroic heart. Only guts.
            Viscera. Ask any Hawaiian.
Drive the dirt road, follow my grandmother’s voice.
            She will bless you. My aunties & cousins, 
their long fingers pinned to the walls, they point 
            the way to a corner bedroom,
this poem. My sister is closing the mosquito net. 
            I am pooling in a bed of gauze. 
New versions of the Bible will use the word “heart.”
            Ask any of us where it really hurts. 
Even my grandma, god bless you.
            Ask the brindled dog guarding my stomach.

Copyright © 2022 by Noʻu Revilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

it is you who leaves. So I set out 
to read for signs of imminence, 
the same river twice stepped in.
Morning rises gently on the harbor;
our letters come disguised as life. 
We know the score but fracture 
on fact. We sign a dotted line 
made out of promise—the pipes 
in November clanging on with heat,
the window left at night a little open. 
I love you; then what? Hands 
suddenly alive. I plead with time, 
adamant, remorseless. So we begin 
in earnest; what then? I plead 
with time, adamant, remorseless.
Hands suddenly alive. I love you; 
then what? The pipes in November 
clanging on with heat, the window 
left at night a little open. We sign 
a dotted line made out of promise—
we know the score but fracture 
on fact. Our letters come disguised 
as life; morning rises gently on 
the harbor. So I set out to read 
for signs of imminence, the same 
river twice stepped in. One way 
or another, it is you who leaves.

Copyright © 2022 by Maya C. Popa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Aging, at all. I want that. And to fall
perhaps most honestly in love
beside the ocean, in a home I’ve paid
for by doing as I like: drinking good
wine, dusting sugar over a croissant, or
the stage play I’m writing myself into.
Aging Black woman in neutral summer
turtleneck. Known. And jogging. Lonesome
enough. Eating homemade lavender
ice cream, the moon blooming
through the kitchen window. The distant
sound of waves. Learning
French as a second language.
Votre pâte merveilleux, I smile back.
And then, just like that! Falling, cautiously,
for my busy, middle-aged lover,
who needs me, but has never truly seen me
until now. Our Black friends, celebrating
with hors d’oeuvres. Our Black children
growing older.

Copyright © 2022 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The evening I left, I went for a wash
In the neighborhood hammam. Lifted my dress.
Entered the water, which moved in rings
From me as though from a stranger, took a stick
To strip a layer of my old back.
In my bag lay a box of Turkish Delight
Meant for my parents, a book of notes, a passport
But I was holding nothing now as I floated
In pools upon pools of ancient tiled rooms.
There was a pigeon in an alcove making song,
Women in the shadows clucking disapprovingly
At me, unmarried and brazen
And free, in the windows a kind of violet smoke
I understood as twilight taking over the sky.
However hard I tried to erase the blot
My body kept bobbing back up.
I thought that’s what time was, you couldn’t lose it
Like a stone in water, that having been
Myself so long it would be forever.
And now Safranbolu doesn’t exist anymore,
At least not the one where my father
Still has years on the clock,
Where my mother’s unreason hasn’t begun,
The babies not sprung yet from their wherever,
City rich off spice, flame-colored threads of the crocus
That flowers on the hills around like blue light,
Whose gates I will pass through only in the mind:
When I slipped on my dress and reopened the door
Night had closed over the world that I knew.

Copyright © 2022 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The spring has many sounds:
Roller skates grind the pavement to noisy dust.
Birds chop the still air into small melodies.
The wind forgets to be the weather for a time
And whispers old advice for summer.
The sea stretches itself
And gently creaks and cracks its bones….

The spring has many silences:
Buds are mysteriously unbound
With a discreet significance,
And buds say nothing.

There are things that even the wind will not betray.
Earth puts her finger to her lips
And muffles there her quiet, quick activity….

Do not wonder at me
That I am hushed
This April night beside you.

The spring has many silences.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

1. 
Our parents argued in a language 
we didn’t understand. We were born 
in Las Vegas or Teheran, 

twin cities of fantasy and chance. My 
sister and I found our words in Long 
Beach, Big Wheels and Barbies, 

Bluebird troops and kidnap breakfasts. 
A war forced our cousins 
to buy false passports, lose their savings. 

We ate Chef Boyardee after school, 
hot spinach and meatball soup 
on the weekends. I yelled into a phone 

so my Iranian family could hear 
me. I learned I was the silk carpet 
my mother didn’t own, the casino 

payout my father kept chasing. 
I didn’t know until later 
the Persian Leopard was trapped 

in the Zagros mountains after 
the Iran-Iraq war, in danger 
of tripping old mines. 

2. 
I taught myself who I was 
by watching my sister carefully.  
I worried when  

the day came and I wanted 
to say I’m not her. First out the womb,  
she was named and I wasn’t.  

Her name is Iranian but sayable  
by everyone. My name 
would wait. They waited until 

they knew they had it right. 
Not Sheila, my mother’s veto. 
Farnaz, a name that made me lonely.  

We lived in between Iran 
and America, a customs declaration zone.
By the time I was born 

my mute parents wondered 
how to speak as Americans 
as they moved away 

from the people who loved them. 
How could I know the dark 
inside their mouths hurt them, too. 

3. 
My father studied numbers in the racing 
forms, and I bet following my gut. 
I influenced dice at the craps table 

by spinning three times  
in each direction while my father  
placed his bets. Even now, 

I’ll retell stories in my head 
one hundred times to end them right.  
It’s a system.  

I came from the racetrack, ignoring  
all the horses in the flesh. I sounded out  
the names of long shots.  

The odds say Blinding Telegram 
will win, but I like the music 
of Queen the Fox. 

I believed that how I got my name would mean 
something. I am still finding the names for some things: 
the youth my parents brought to parenting, the attention 

I didn’t know I was waiting for, the word for wanting, 
feeling its deep hole. Such naming 
I have been slow to do. I am waiting until I have it right

I know that once named there is a road 
down which that named thing runs, 
and I am not the one who built the road. 

Copyright © 2022 by The Kent State University Press. From the forthcoming book Sister Tongue, by Farnaz Fatemi (September 2022). Published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I chewed into the wreck of the world,
into the neckbone of the past that pursued me.
All the while, I moved toward extinction,
bearing the burden of damage, language of the protector.

A great apocalyptic wheeze adorned me with sand. 
I foraged, first to find light dappling the leaves,
then breathed into an infinite power, feminine rust,
a coppery taste of salvage, leading me into a canopy

of the future. My mother was a mother of mothers,
modern before she was ancestral.
She was a woman who morphed into feline, back
to her human self before I woke each morning.

I lived not to sate my appetite but to crush it.
On my haunches, I craved what could not be seen.
I am desire. I am survival.
I sit under the tree waiting for hunger.

Copyright © 2022 by Tina Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Our love is woven
Of a thousand strands—
The cool fragrance of the first lilac
At morning,
The first dew on the grass,
The smell of wild mint in the wood,
The pungent and earthy smell of ground ivy crushed under our feet;
Songs of birds, songs of great poets;
The leaping of the red squirrel in the tree,
The running of the river,
The commotion of stars and clouds in the high winds at night;
And dark stillness.
It is adorned with all the flowers
That stand in our garden;
It holds the night and the day.

Our love is made
Of the South Wind and the West Wind,
And the soft falling of rain;
Of white April evenings;
It is made of trees,
And of the many-coloured fields on the hills;
Of horizons,
Dark sea-blue of the west, thin sky-blue of the east,
With a yellow road between.
The flames of sunset and sunrise
Mingle in the fire of our love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention 
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate 
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

after C. P. Cavafy

You tell me: I’m going to another country,
another city, another body.
Perhaps my heart will stay uncertain,
and I will destroy my history but I am leaving.
Even if on every street, I find the ruins of our bodies,
I’ll roam like a restless soul anyway.

I tell you: you won’t find a new country,
new city, new body. You’ll return to roam
the same ruins, same streets, same quartiere,
return to complain in the same room
of the same house, return to the memory of our intertwined bodies.
You will always end up in Roma: I will always remain in you.
And maybe late, you’ll see, that what you destroyed
is worth more than all the worlds you wasted your time in.

Copyright © 2022 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by George Dimitri Selim

Zaynab complained against me
to the judge of love.
“He has sly eyes,” she told him,
which roam around me
to devour my beauty.
Judge of love!
I am not safe anymore.

“I think his eyes are two bees
raiding the honey
which sweetens my lips.
I see them as two eagles
hovering in space,
descending to snatch me.
I think, and from my fear,
I think strange things.
God knows how much I suffer from my thoughts.

“He invaded me with his eyes
and, as if this weren’t enough,
he tried to lower my standing among people.
Hypocritically, he said
that I have stolen my beauty from the universe,
and that it was not created naturally in me.
That I have plundered the morning for a face,
the dusk for hair,
uniting both in me.
That from the gardens
I have stolen the flowers for cheeks
—my cheeks are rosy.
That I have covered my neck with pure snow,
and that my eyes are tinted with narcissus.

“When my voice enchanted him
he denied it, and said:
‘It’s a nightingale singing in the garden.’
With sword-like glances I struck him,
he said, and in his deep-red blood
I dyed my finger tips
and in his poems he chanted alluding to me.
So people said:
‘His meanings are necklaces of pearls.’
Lord of verdicts!
Administer your justice between us.
Enough of his straying in love.
I’ve had enough!”

When the time of complaint was over,
the judge asked me:
“What is your answer,
you who are so passionately in love?”
I said:
“I find…that I am a criminal.
My insanity may not be deferred.
She has dispossessed me
of mind and heart.”

From Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Books, 2000). Used with permission of the editors, Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, and Interlink Book. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some people presume to be hopeful
when there is no evidence for hope,
to be happy when there is no cause.
Let me say now, I’m with them.

In deep darkness on a cold twig
in a dangerous world, one first
little fluff lets out a peep, a warble,
a song—and in a little while, behold:

the first glimmer comes, then a glow
filters through the misty trees,
then the bold sun rises, then
everyone starts bustling about.

And that first crazy optimist, can we
forgive her for thinking, dawn by dawn,
“Hey, I made that happen!
And oh, life is so fine.”

Copyright © 2022 by Kim Stafford. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 27, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ocean, every so often, a kitchen tile or child’s toy 
rises from you, years after the hurricane’s passed. 

This time, the disaster was somewhere else. 
The disaster was always somewhere else, until it wasn’t. 

Punctuation of the morning after: comma between red sky
and sailors’ warning; white space where a storm cloud lowers. 

Where the bay breaks away, the sentence ends: a waning
crescent of peninsula, barely visible 

but for the broken buildings, the ambulance lights. 
Ocean, even now, even shaken, you hold the memory 

of words, of worlds that failed slowly, then all at once. A
flotilla of gulls falls onto you, mourners draped in slate.

Copyright © 2022 by Liza Katz Duncan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I waited on
In the late autumn moonlight,
A train droning out of thought—

The mind on moonlight
And on trains.

Blind as a thread of water
Stirring through a cold like dust,
Lonely beyond all silence

And humming this to children,
The nostalgic listeners in sleep,

Because no guardian
Strides through distance upon distance,
His eyes a web of sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The city breaks in houses to the sea, uneasy with waves,
And the lonely sun clashes like brass cymbals.

In the streets truck-horses, muscles sliding under the steaming hides,
Pound the sparks flying about their hooves;
And fires, those gorgeous beasts, squirm in the furnaces,
Under the looms weaving us.

At evening by cellars cold with air of rivers at night,
We, whose lives are only a few words,
Watch the young moon leaning over the baby at her breast
And the stars small to our littleness.

The slender trees stand alone in the fields
Between the roofs of the far town
And the wood far away like a low hill.

In the vast open
The birds are faintly overheard.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

the way it ricocheted—a boomerang flung 
from your throat, stilling the breathless air.

How you were luminous in it. Your smile. Your hair 
tossed back, flaming. Everyone around you aglow.

How I wanted to live in it those times it ignited us 
into giggles, doubling us over aching and unmoored

for precious minutes from our twin scars—
the thorned secrets our tongues learned too well

to carry. It is impossible to imagine you gone, 
dear one, your laugh lost to some silence I can’t breach,

from which you will not return.

for Fay Botham (May 31, 1968–January 10, 2021)

Copyright © 2022 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Deon

I peer at the ridges of your palm
rested along the crevice of mine,
while tracing your jagged vasculature
with a delicate press of my finger,

and I explore every uneven wrinkle,
every pronounced callus, every rounded
mole like it is the hilly, stone-ridden
backyard of my childhood home in Mongmong.

I know this place. I have been here
before. I read the swirls inscribed
into your firm dark skin, sound out

each node and connecting branch,
sew syllables into words that spell
out gima’: home.

I raise your hand transposed against
the evening sky, clear of clouds, and I
can find the constellations within you.

Did you know our forefathers did this at sea—
placed their arm to the heavens to translate
the stars? Master navigators of the open ocean,

yet you, my love, are more than a map; I dare
not fold nor decipher your complexity. You
are the beloved, longed-for destination at the end

of the journey, the place that our ancestors craved
return, the reason for the expedition—refuge,
promise, hope. You are home.

Copyright © 2022 by Haʻåni Lucia Falo San Nicolas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The sun is lord of life and colour,
Blood of the rose and hyacinth,
Hair of the sea and forests,
Crown of the cornfields,
Body of the hills.
The moon is the harlot of Death,
Slaughterer of the sun,
Priestess and poisoner she goes
With all her silver flock of wandering souls,
Her chant of wailing waters,
The bed of shimmering dust from which she comes
Bound all around with bandages of mist….
The living are as blossoms and fruit on the tree,
The dead are as lilies and wind on the marshes;
The living are as cherries that bow to the morning
Beckoning to the loitering stranger,
The wind, to sing them his eerie ballads.
The dead are as frozen skeleton branches
Whereon the stillness perches like an owl….
The dead are as snow on the cherry orchard.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Little pin-prick geysers, spitting and sputtering; 
Little foaming geysers, that spatter and cough; 
Bubbling geysers, that gurgle out of the calyx of morning glory pools; 
Laughing geysers, that dance in the sun, and spread their robes like lace over the rocks; 
Raging geysers, that rush out of hell with a great noise, and blurt out vast dragon-gulps of steam, and, finishing, sink back wearily into darkness; 
Glad geysers, nymphs of the sun, that rise, slim and nude, out of the hot dark earth, and stand poised in beauty a moment, veiling their brows and breasts in mist; 
Winged geysers, spirits of fire, that rise tall and straight like a sequoia, and plume the sky with foam: 
O wild choral fountains, forever singing and seething, forever boiling in deep places and leaping forth for bright moments into the air, 
How do you like it up here? Why must you go back to the spirits of darkness? What do you tell them down there about your little glorious life in the sun?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.