Because I know
Now: how it feels
To sip that small space
Between becoming
And being found.

Guggenheim Poet-in-Residence presented in association with the Academy of American Poets. Made possible by Van Cleef & Arpels. Reprinted with permission of the poet. 

The sheep get up and make their many tracks
And bear a load of snow upon their backs,
And gnaw the frozen turnip to the ground
With sharp quick bite, and then go noising round
The boy that pecks the turnips all the day
And knocks his hands to keep the cold away
And laps his legs in straw to keep them warm
And hides behind the hedges from the storm.
The sheep, as tame as dogs, go where he goes
And try to shake their fleeces from the snows,
Then leave their frozen meal and wander round
The stubble stack that stands beside the ground,
And lie all night and face the drizzling storm
And shun the hovel where they might be warm.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Our Black bodies, sacred.
Our Black bodies, holy.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Every laugh a miracle.

Piece by piece we stitch ourselves back together.
This Black girl body
that gets dragged out of school desk, slammed onto floor,
tossed about at pool side, pulled over and pushed onto grass,
arrested, never to return home,
shot on doorsteps, on sofas while sleeping 
and dreaming of our next day.

Our bodies, a quilt that tells the story of the middle passage.
Of roots yanked and replanted.

Our bodies, a mosaic of languages forgotten,
of freedom songs and moaned prayers.

Our bodies no longer
disregarded, objectified, scrutinized.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Every laugh a miracle.

Our bodies rising. 
Our feet marching, legs dancing, our bellies birthing, hands raising, 
our hearts healing, voices speaking up.

Our bodies.
So Black, so beautiful.

Here, still.
Rising, rising.

From Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Renée Watson. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

As a quiet little seedling
    Lay within its darksome bed,
To itself it fell a-talking,
    And this is what it said:

“I am not so very robust,
    But I’ll do the best I can;”
And the seedling from that moment
    Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet
    Up into the light of day,
To examine the surroundings
    And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,
    So it called its brother, Stem;
Then two other leaflets heard it,
    And quickly followed them.

To be sure, the haste and hurry
    Made the seedling sweat and pant;
But almost before it knew it
    It found itself a plant.

The sunshine poured upon it,
    And the clouds they gave a shower;
And the little plant kept growing
    Till it found itself a flower.

Little folks, be like the seedling,
    Always do the best you can;
Every child must share life’s labor
    Just as well as every man.

And the sun and showers will help you
    Through the lonesome, struggling hours,
Till you raise to light and beauty
    Virtue’s fair, unfading flowers.

From The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1913) by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This poem is in the public domain. 

How was I supposed to know 
Medgar? I only met the man once 
and even then, freshly fallen,

back flesh a sea split red 
with god’s permission. I do 
as I am asked and no more—

back, chest, window, wall, sinew,
bone glass, brick—as quick as it 
began. For you so loved the son 

of man, you begat the sweat-swaddled
plunk of viscera on concrete. And man 
so loved the silence he begat the close 

hold of a barrel, the blank stare cutting 
clean to the other side: a family and greens
on the table two low beds where

stuffed animals still hold the child-
smell of milk, baby powder, Ovaltine.

Outside, the Magnolias, whispering.
Inside, the silence locking in place.

Copyright © 2021 by Sadia Hassan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

with first line from Gwendolyn Brooks

Surely you stay my certain own, you stay
obtuse. Surely your kisses were little poisons 
gripping tight my lips, my arms, mapping their way
across my unsure body. Surely, this fission

is a gift—a gilded parcel laced like God, scent 
of Mother Mary’s milkbreath and her virgin promise,
that virginal mirror, me. Surely, I was sent—
and, incidentally, that other she, to put you on notice—

hearts aren’t toys for juggling, no, the blood
too sticky to really ever disappear—
surely you know that. Surely, your own beating brick withstood
the blows I tried to strike with my unrelenting care.

The morning opens, now, without your sun-blacked face—
the bluejays and morningbirds sing away your waste.

Copyright © 2021 by Ashley M. Jones. From REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press, 2021). Used with permission of the author.