Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don't always die,
but dazzled, they can't forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!--
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death's a sad Bone; bruised, you'd say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit, a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love, whatever it was, an infection.

From The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton. Used with permission.

were the unsent letters she’d left me years ago 
and which I hadn’t had the heart to read.
I’d found everything else. Or rather,
everything that could be found 
on paper, loose and bound, large, small,
smaller still, the size of fortunes fluttering to the floor
like moths, a message on each wing.
So many poems, by me but mostly others, 
some on slick paper I’d cut poorly from a page. 
My mother always said I was bad at scissors,
and I’ve often accidentally cut myself 
as if to prove her point. But now, both parents dead, 
it was time, I thought, I had the time and
courage, I thought, and I found the letters—
I was going to say, in the last place I looked, 
but of course, where else?—and when I read them
they were a marital memoir full of disappointments 
as familiar to me as my own
skin, and the bitter recriminations she was desperate 
to impart so that I might . . . avenge her? forgive her? 
I can’t say for sure. All I know is
I buried them both, in separate graves. I held their bodies
and most of their words and made my own from theirs.
I lay them down on this white field, another, another,
and another. If you look for us, look behind 
the letters, beneath the field to the blood.

Copyright © 2023 by Kathy Fagan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Like the Japanese cherry blossoms wedded to the soil’s palm
planted in front of the train station; or the yellow-black dance
of the tiger swallowtail’s wings as it flees; or the echoes that follow
after I thunder loud against the kitchen cabinets; or the summer fire
hitched to the air we breathe—the chuckle of ash sneaking into our lungs;
or the way your eyes elope when you’ve had enough of my
tit-for-tat-I’m-right-your-wrong song; or wind—always, there is wind—
that kicks the kink of the whine and wail of the German shepherd left behind;
or the night’s bat wing splashed against the living room window
as I sleep on the couch; or the final five-hundred pairs of northern spotted owls
married to the asylum of pine and bark and nest and play in the State we claim,
the owls now near-threatened with their thirteen hoots and barks and whistles,
with their shabby dresses and dark-in-love stares, their piece of the American pie—
don’t they, too, deserve the kickshaws of what this handsome planet
has to offer, don’t we? . . . Don’t leave me. We may not be a pair of owls
nested in the forest of Douglas firs trying to make muss a home
humans made of this land, timber harvestings and land conversions.
I may have farmed a muck of our land, too,
but Babe, no matter the season of fresh lavender and children playing
in the hallway, no matter the bowls of leftover ramen mean with age,
no matter the abysmal cycle of lists I conjure in this poem, no matter
if every last owl has escaped—Lord, let them escape—the foul-fowl lust
of humankind, no matter the huff I hang on your every word,
I love you. You are where I belong.

Copyright © 2022 by Luther Hughes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

In losing you I lost my sun and moon
And all the stars that blessed my lonely night.
I lost the hope of Spring, the joy of June,
The Autumn’s peace, the Winter’s firelight.
I lost the zest of living, the sweet sense
Expectant of your step, your smile, your kiss;
I lost all hope and fear and keen suspense
For this cold calm, sans agony, sans bliss.
I lost the rainbow’s gold, the silver key
That gave me freedom of my town of dreams;
I lost the path that leads to Faërie
By beechen glades and heron-haunted streams.
I lost the master word, dear love, the clue
That threads the maze of life when I lost you. 

This poem is in the public domain.

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.

how it comes from the sky because I am dry   because

I am thirsty    reaching down for roots I can feel

& up for dream & because I need the wet the release

of flood    but not too much   that would have been the daily

April poem then I snuck into a little place for pasta   talked

myself into believing I deserved a treat   thinking I was

anonymous   & there was Meena’s husband David with friends

eating & laughing   we greeted awkwardly   I stayed at my

corner table   red wine & rigatoni   all I could think about was

Meena’s thick shiny nearly black hair    how I didn’t manage

to visit her that last year of illness although I said I would

she sent me poem & photo    told about losing her hair

I said it looks beautiful short   that I was thinking of cutting

mine    don’t do it she said    don’t cut your hair then she 

was gone    her photo in my office so anyone who enters 

will know   her poems moving around like waves    tulip 

stems   high pitched elegant voice articulating 

how the world begins & ends     how verse continues 

                                                                            In memory, Meena Alexander

Copyright © 2021 by Kathy Engel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

This a story
I’ve kept in soft
orange inside
my steel body. I’ve wanted

to wait until I’ve
cooled to hum, until
my touch wouldn’t burn.

I’ve practiced to gentle 

             not to be odd.   To remember
me a calm line transmitting        not artificial

sugar smile melts a rainy spring I do not want
to feel a tug       you wait again for what’s
             dissolved into scent for this week.

Copyright © 2023 by Ching-In Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

After Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (Uffizi, 1620)

Because I know what rough work it is to fight off
a man. And though, yes, I learned tenebroso from
Caravaggio, I found the dark on my own. Know too

well if Judith was alone, she’d never be able to claw
her way free. How she and Abra would have to muster
all their strength to keep him still long enough

to labor through muscle and bone. Look at the old
masters try their best to imagine a woman wielding
a sword. Plaited hair just so. She’s disinterested

or dainty, no heft or sweat. As if she were serving
tea—all model and pose. No, my Judith knows
to roll her sleeves up outside the tent. Clenches

a fistful of hair as anchor for what must be done.
Watch the blood arc its way to wrist and breast.
I have thought it all through, you see. The folds

of flesh gathered at each woman’s wrist, the shadows
on his left arm betraying the sword’s cold hilt.
To defeat a man, he must be removed from his body

by the candlelight he meant as seduction. She’s been
to his bed before and takes no pleasure in this.
Some say they know her thoughts by the meat of her

brow. Let them think what they want. I have but one job:
to keep you looking, though I’ve snatched the breath
from your throat. Even the lead white sheets want

to recoil. Forget the blood, forget poor dead Caravaggio.
He only signed one canvas. Lost himself in his own
carbon black backdrop. To call my work imperfect

would simply be a lie. So I drench my brush in
a palette of bone black—femur and horn transformed
by their own long burning—and make one last

insistence. Between this violence and the sleeping
enemies outside, my name rises. Some darknesses
refuse to fade. Ego Artemitia. I made this—I.


Copyright © 2020 by Danielle DeTiberus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.