More than a hundred dollars of them.
It was pure folly. I had to find more glass things to stuff them
Now a white and purple cloud is breathing in each corner
of the room I love. Now a mass of flowers spills down my
each fresh-faced, extending its delicately veined leaves
into the crush. Didn’t I watch
children shuffle strictly in line, cradle
candles that dribbled hot white on their fingers,
chanting Latin—just to fashion Sevilla’s Easter? Wasn’t I sad?
Didn’t I use to
go mucking through streambeds with the skunk cabbage raising
bursting violet spears? —Look, the afternoon dies
as night begins in the heart of the lilies and smokes up
their fluted throats until it fills the room
and my lights have to be not switched on.
And in close darkness the aroma grows so sweet,
so strong, that it could slice me open. It does.
I know I’m not the only one whose life is a conditional clause
hanging from something to do with spring and one tall room
and the tremble of my phone.
I’m not the only one that love makes feel like a dozen
flapping bedsheets being ripped to prayer flags by the wind.
When I stand in full sun I feel I have been falling headfirst for
God, I am so transparent.
Copyright © 2016 Noah Warren. Used with permission of the author.
You only watch the news to find out
where the fires are burning, which way
the wind is blowing, and whether
it will rain. Forecast ahead but first:
A mother’s boy laid out
in the street for hours.
These facts don’t wash away.
Copyright © 2016 D. A. Powell. Used with permission of the author.
Dark, and the wind-blurred pines,
With a glimmer of light between.
Then I, entombed for an hourless night
With the world of things unseen.
Mist, the dust of flowers,
Leagues, heavy with promise of snow,
And a beckoning road ‘twixt vale and hill,
With the lure that all must know.
A light, my window’s gleam,
Soft, flaring its squares of red—
I loose the ache of the wilderness
And long for the fire instead.
You too know, old fellow?
Then, lift your head and bark.
It’s just the call of the lonesome place,
The winds and the housing dark.
This poem is in the public domain.
It’s love you left, we’ll say
when you never come back
for bells for the dead, for the grave
stone heads: the only ones
that don’t keep count. Don’t
we know it’s love that keeps you
away, that marks every mile
devotion? You would’ve went
to the end with each one,
made Orpheus turn back.
Would’ve fell / would’ve leapt /
would’ve left. The living is easy
/ the leaving is easy / living
with ghosts, it was easy
to give up your home
to your father, struck
with the same grief
of living, demanding
what are you gonna do
with my mama’s house?
Shorn grass & damp dirt:
they’ll put me in the middle.
I kick the ground like tires,
feeling dumb without flowers /
tokens / grief / anything
in my hands. You’ll bring me
back home, won’t you? Stamp
it down, as if the flat earth
could answer sometimes this,
too, is love. You left.
Copyright © 2016 Gary Jackson. Used with permission of the author.
When it happens the rain
is not black but powder.
A noise bleeds from your ears
and everything quakes
alive inside you:
the circuits of the flowers
lighting up across a meadow,
of a sea years from here
—:And like the flash
across an event horizon,
your thought disappears
:—and then the mind
threshed, and then the brain
a perfume of proto-pollen:
a microscopic cloud
radiating in a geranium
in the meadow of another country:
a powder the elk eat
in the sudden black rain.
Copyright © 2016 Sara Eliza Johnson. Used with permission of the author.
Tonight I’m to occupy a single breath:
to let it slowly out as an open kettle might
release its steam, left long on the stove.
Eventually all substance turns to vapor
& accumulates in the air, then falls
again as a globe under its own weight.
Bodies must be near each other, it seems,
even when the result is simple collapse.
Only the globe is never falling—
it’s the thing that imitates the globe
falls into it, as I now imitate, & fail,
the voice of my father, who sits breathing
with his dog at the mouth of the river.
My breath, too, rises & falls. Listen.
Copyright © 2016 by Martin Rock. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
Not hers but mine. Not hers ever again. Ever
hers, my body pulled through, two
long windows open in the dark of birth,
the gold cord raised too in its wake. Awake,
the first morning. The first morning & all,
all the windows were closed inside. A blindness
scalding broken sight. The silence pulled through
my nostrils & veins, the ether of air failing
flesh. I get up from the shape I once was
& open the white blinds in my brother's house.
The light is specific. It is the 29th morning
of July. Last night they dragged me howling from her
body in the room. The room had a name,
number 3315, in the cardiac wing. In the room
I saw her winged shape leave, rise, forgive the
vessel that fled her. Now mine or ours, I
stare in the mirror while everyone sleeps
the aggrieved sleep of the living. Behind my eyes
a dead woman looks back at me with no trace
of recognition. I say 'Mother' & my own
feral mouth opens. Closes without any light.
Copyright © 2016 Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Used with permission of the author.
I was not; now I am—a few days hence
I shall not be; I fain would look before
And after, but can neither do; some Power
Or lack of power says “no” to all I would.
I stand upon a wide and sunless plain,
Nor chart nor steel to guide my steps aright.
Whene’er, o’ercoming fear, I dare to move,
I grope without direction and by chance.
Some feign to hear a voice and feel a hand
That draws them ever upward thro’ the gloom.
But I—I hear no voice and touch no hand,
Tho’ oft thro’ silence infinite I list,
And strain my hearing to supernal sounds;
Tho’ oft thro’ fateful darkness do I reach,
And stretch my hand to find that other hand.
I question of th’ eternal bending skies
That seem to neighbor with the novice earth;
But they roll on, and daily shut their eyes
On me, as I one day shall do on them,
And tell me not the secret that I ask.
This poem is in the public domain.
Trying to fall asleep,
I count down stone steps
into the dark, and there they are:
Centaurs, half in and half out
of the woods, hindquarters still trees.
Downstairs in dreams I look
directly into their man-eyes,
which are opaque, absorbent.
They don’t speak. I don’t speak
of the long yellow teeth tearing off
the little dress—just for a glimpse,
no harm done. No hands, no harm.
Their hindquarters still trees.
No words to explain or contain it.
You can’t translate something
that was never in a language
in the first place.
Copyright © 2016 Chase Twichell. Used with permission of the author.
We were all in love
but didn’t know it.
We were all in love
our little hearts,
smoking and drinking
and wrecking things.
Bless our shameless shame.
We were loud, invincible.
We were tough as rails.
We stole street signs
and knocked over bins.
Ripped the boards
off boarded-up stuff.
Slept in towers
filled with pigeon shit
and fluff. We kicked
beer bottles down
Tires and chains.
Chains and wheels
and skin. The world
was always ending
and we the inventors
Copyright © 2016 Melissa Stein. Used with permission of the author.
i.m. Scott David Campbell (1982-2012)
Streetlights were our stars,
hanging from the midnight
in a planetary arc
above each empty ShopRite
through the neon dark—
buzzing like ghost locusts,
trembling in the chrome
trance of an electrical charge
nested in each exoskeleton—
a single syllable of light
from the long braid
of the powerlines
sighing above us as we climbed
through bedroom windows
with our hair combed
and our high-tops carefully untied—
as we clung to vinyl siding,
as we crawled
crablike across rooftops, edging
toe-first toward the gutters
so as not to rouse
the dogs—as we crept down
onto cold drainpipes
through the lightning
in our lungs, leaping at last
into our shadows and at last
onto the lawn,
landing as if in genuflection
to the afterhours fog—
as the breath we left
beside us on the train tracks
as we walked
each toward the others,
toward the barebulb
glow of stardust
on the dumpsters
in the vacant late-night, lost
Copyright © 2016 Malachi Black. Used with permission of the author.
The dead bird, color of a bruise,
and smaller than an eye
is king among omens.
Who can blame the ants for feasting?
Let him cast the first crumb.
We once tended the oracles.
Now we rely on a photograph
a hand we never saw
A man draws a chalk outline
first in his mind
then around the body
of another man.
He does this without thinking.
What can I do about the white room I left
behind? What can I do about the great stones
I walk among now? What can I do
Even a small cut can sing all day.
There are entire nights
I would take back.
Nostalgia is a thin moon,
into a sky like cold,
you were a drowned man, crown
of phosphorescent, seaweed in your hair,
water in your shoes. I woke up desperate
In another dream, I was a field
and you combed through me
searching for something
you only thought you had lost.
What have we left at the altar of sorrow?
What blessed thing will we leave tomorrow?
Copyright © 2016 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
When she stretched her arms
the mist lifted and the red buds opened on the maple trees.
She, in the garden in pajamas,
danced with her friend Isabel,
as the fledgling robins wobbled and flew from branch to ground.
Cells multiplied in her body.
Her fingers spread, the warm cool air,
as the mist disappeared like a curtain, open.
Copyright © 2015 by Jan Freeman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.