(for E. and G.)

Hello beautiful talented
dark semi-optimists of June,
from far off I send my hopes
Brooklyn is sunny, and the ghost
of Whitman who loved everyone
is there to see you say what
can never be said, something like
partly I promise my whole life
to try to figure out what it means
to stand facing you under a tree,
and partly no matter how angry
I get I will always remember
we met before we were born,
it was in a village, someone
had just cast a spell, it was
in the park, snow everywhere,
we were slipping and laughing,
at last we knew the green secret,
we were sea turtles swimming
a long time together without
needing to breathe, we were
two hungry owls silently
hunting night, our terrible claws,
I don’t want to sound like I know,
I’m just one who worries all night
about people in a lab watching
a storm in a glass terrarium
perform lethal ubiquity,
tiny black clouds make the final
ideogram above miniature lands
exactly resembling ours, what is
happening happens again,
they cannot stop it, they take off
their white coats, go outside,
look up and wonder, only we
who promise everything despite
everything can tell them
the solution, only we know.
 

Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Zapruder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

   Storms are generous.
                                      Something so easy to surrender to, sitting by the window,
 and then you step out into the garden you were so bored of,
                 so bored of you hated it,
                                             but now it needs you.

                          Twang of the rake’s metal tines biting at the dirt.
   You destroy a little camp of mushrooms,
                                                                   pull leaves into a pile,
                                                                              are struck with wonder
                                                                   when there rolls out
                                                                                              a little bird’s nest—
                                                                                                 the garden’s
brain.

    You want to hide in it.
                               Twigs, mud, spit, and woven in:
a magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun,
                                                                                        a sway of color you’ve seen before. 

                 You were a boy.
   You told your grandfather you spotted a snake in the yard between the buckeyes.
He revved his weed whacker,
                                         walked over,
            conjured a rose mist from the grass
                                                            that swelled in the breeze, swirled together, grew dark,
                                                                        shifting through fans of sun,

                                                                                                            magenta, then plum,
blush,
               gone. 

Smell of exhaust. Tannins of iced tea
                                                            you drank together on the porch later,
                                                                                          his spiked with Wild Turkey,

                                                            the tumbler resting on his thigh,
                                    the ice-sweat running off, smearing the dried snake juice,
                                                                                          pooling in a divot of scar tissue.

       A souvenir, he called it,
from the winter spent sleeping in a hole in the ground in a Belgian wood,
                                                                               listening for German voices to start singing
                                                                                                   so he knew he could sleep.

Copyright © 2017 by William Brewer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

tonight I'm cleaning baby portobellos
for you, my young activist

wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth
as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries

for you to adorn your fingertips
before eating each blood-red prize

these days you rarely look me in the eye
& your long shagged hair hides your smile

I don’t expect you to remember or
understand the many ways I’ve kept you

alive or the life my love for you
has made me live

Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Zucker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Shoulders” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
                            —Wisława Szymborska

My handwriting is all over these woods.
No, my handwriting is these woods,

each tree a half-print, half-cursive scrawl,
each loop a limb. My house is somewhere
here, & I have scribbled myself inside it.

What is home but a book we write, then
read again & again, each time dog-earing

different pages. In the morning I wake
in time to pencil the sun high. How
fragile it is, the world—I almost wrote

the word but caught myself. Either one
could be erased. In these written woods,

branches smudge around me whenever
I take a deep breath. Still, written fawns
lie in the written sunlight that dapples

their backs. What is home but a passage
I’m writing & underlining every time I read it.

Copyright © 2018 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

All essences of sweetness from the white
Warm day go up in vapor, when the dark
Comes down. Ascends the tune of meadow-lark,
Ascends the noon-time smell of grass, when night
Takes sunlight from the world, and gives it ease.
Mysterious wings have brushed the air; and light
Float all the ghosts of sense and sound and sight;
The silent hive is echoing the bees.
So stir my thoughts at this slow, solemn time.
Now only is there certainty for me
When all the day's distilled and understood.
Now light meets darkness: now my tendrils climb
In this vast hour, up the living tree,
Where gloom foregathers, and the stern winds brood.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I lie here thinking of you:—

the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
heavily
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—

you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!

From A Books of Poems: Al Que Quiere! (The Four Seas Company, 1917).

If there’s one true thing, it’s that 
Google will make money off us no matter what. 
If we want to know 
what percentage of America is white 
(as it seems we do) 
what percentage of the population is gay 
(as it seems we do) 
what percentage of the earth is water: 
the engine is ready for our desire. 
The urgent snow is everywhere
is a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and 
many have asked, apparently, 
where am I right now. Also 
when will I die. Do you love me 
may be up there, generating 
high cost-per-click, but not 
as high as how to make pancakes, 
what time is it in California. 
So many things I wanted to ask you, 
now that you’re gone, and your texts 
bounce back to me 
undeliverable. Praise to 
the goddess of the internet search, who returns 
with her basket of grain, 
67,000 helpful suggestions
to everything we request: 
how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, 
what to do when you’re bored, 
how old is the earth, 
how to clear cache, 
what animal am I, 
why do we dream, 
where are you now, come back.

Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

There is tropical warmth and languorous life
       Where the roses lie
       In a tempting drift
Of pink and red and golden light
Untouched as yet by the pruning knife.
And the still, warm life of the roses fair
       That whisper "Come,"
       With promises
Of sweet caresses, close and pure
Has a thorny whiff in the perfumed air.
There are thorns and love in the roses’ bed,
       And Satan too
       Must linger there;
So Satan’s wiles and the conscience stings,
Must now abide—the roses are dead.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

O God, my dream! I dreamed that you were dead;
Your mother hung above the couch and wept
Whereon you lay all white, and garlanded
With blooms of waxen whiteness. I had crept
Up to your chamber-door, which stood ajar,
And in the doorway watched you from afar,
Nor dared advance to kiss your lips and brow.
I had no part nor lot in you, as now;
Death had not broken between us the old bar;
Nor torn from out my heart the old, cold sense
Of your misprision and my impotence.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Green pincushion proteas grow
in my memory, swaying faintly
in today’s wind. Memory snags me
through the pink pincushions I bought this morning
from the auntie in the doek by the Kwikspar
who added a king protea to the bunch,
all spikes and pins in reds and maroons,
so regal that as a child I didn’t know
they were alive
and did not water them.
My mother’s remembering
remembers them into me.

Do you remember, she asks, and then I do,
green pincushion proteas this small?
She slowly makes her fingers turn and bloom
green flowers the size of large coins
that we found here among the rocks and grey sand
under tall trees unnameable in memory, reaching
their roots into the house’s foundations,
subtle threads stretching closer and closer.

All tangles and snaggings and swayings,
green pincushion proteas prick into my mind,
thicken themselves stitch by stitch
into a place that was not, but is again.
The grey sand of memory now fervent with colour,
green blooms clamber over the rockery
and we, who did not know their beginnings,
move them to another part of the garden,
and they withdraw, and then withdraw
from memory until now, a new species of green
blossoming and unmoved.
They died, she recalls.
They don’t like their roots to be moved.

Do you remember, she asks,
and the green coins bud into the first bush
long preceding us, and careless we wrench them
from their original rocks and they die
a little and then fully.
Why did we move them to another place,
we, who were removed to here?
Do you remember, she asks.

Copyright © 2018 by Gabeba Baderoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

“I would have gone back,” the voice
full of shells, gravel, liquid washing
stones, back meaning lost island

or calendar, a thing rigged
with bones unbending, unfolding past
the hard symmetry of clocks,

vertebrae of thought moving now
in real time, home a word hollow
as the bone of birds—tody, cling cling,

gaulin, euphonia—“That dream was over.”
Such oneiric geometry, “The Blue Room”
built by Miles, his horn a grail from which

you sup the saudade of marine might-have-been
never-will-be, embouchure unthought,
no better than Vidia for leaving.

So we leave, skein of shadows,
silent psalms for how our scourge
was beauty, home; brightboys fleeing

the estate for another on that other
island, jolted by the freight of shame.
Mas Hall, thanks for the company

on the volte-face voyage, stingy-brim
on which we sailed, migration of monarch butterflies.
Landfall at Port of Avonmouth in a scene

from Hardy, landfall at Tilbury Dock
to step off the caravel in white gloves,
stout ties, leave to remain vagrant.

Lonely Oxonians together,
oak hatch of the Bod we’d shade,
then off to All Souls to cram

for mods, toiling in Codrington
we leaf through Thistlewood.
And so we are marked. Is it Marx

or Douglass with that beard? Bound
to become Judas-Brutus, blood
diamonds paid us in arrears to try

the line of Hopkins, Auden, Eliot, Donne.
Evensong at New Chapel to ease
the medieval weight of failure in the refrain

of white robes, one brown seraph alone:
“O hear us when we cry to Thee
for those in peril on the sea.”

’Gainst the towers most colored I feel,
dear Stuart, in these duds, our hide,
sub fusc aeternum. You grasp browning leaflets

on the stump; O betraying beauty of brown:
bankra, Barbancourt, Venetian ducats, dhalpuri,
khaki, Gauguin. Remember the strange fog a night

on Broad St. as if below Friedrich’s Wanderer?
But, as you taught, who more Wanderer than we,
the evicted on the victor’s turf, playing the past,

loss a force centripetal? All praise
to your mind a sextant, darklit as Diwali.
You bless our kin severance. How I wish

to forget your sister strapped to the sugar mill,
charged with spoiling the color scheme:
sedition. Ah, compay, even leaves of the croton

sprout from our eyes. There is no going back.
Thinking translucence you say, “Bend the stick,”
different than Lenin or United Fruit. The rank of Bombay

mangoes exceeds all migrations. The lignum vitae
insists on itself. Navel string toughens to twine
with the rhizome, portal in the ground.

1932-2014

            —with Kara Springer’s “Repositioned Objects, I,” primer on wood.

Copyright © 2018 by Christian Campbell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I worry that my friends 
will misunderstand my silence

as a lack of love, or interest, instead
of a tent city built for my own mind,  

I worry I can no longer pretend 
enough to get through another

year of pretending I know 
that I understand time, though 

I can see my own hands; sometimes, 
I worry over how to dress in a world 

where a white woman wearing 
a scarf over her head is assumed 

to be cold, whereas with my head 
cloaked, I am an immediate symbol 

of a war folks have been fighting 
eons-deep before I was born, a meteor.  

Copyright © 2018 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Who
would decry
instruments—
when grasses
ever so fragile,
provide strings
stout enough for
insect moods
to glide up and down
in glissandos
of toes along wires
or finger-tips on zithers—
   though
   the mere sounds
   be theirs, not ours—
   theirs, not ours,
   the first inspiration—
   discord 
   without resolution—
who 
would cry
being loved,
when even such tinkling
comes of the loving?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Her eyes were mostly shut. She didn’t speak.
The sun’s slow exile crossed the wall above the bed.

But once, when I bent to feed her a drop
of morphine from the little plastic beak,

her hand shot up and gripped my arm. She looked right at me.
When she said the words, it sounded like she meant: Don't leave me.

From the very first, we love like this: our heads turning
toward whatever mothers us, our mouths urgent

for the taste of our name.

Copyright © 2018 by Jenny George. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Moons on the upper visual
field. I replay many springs

                                      for their ripening
                                      heat. Five limb in

                                                                           me: Ornate, Greased,
                                                                           Codling, Luna, 
                                                                                Death’s-head.

                                                  Two supernatural, three
                                                  balance need. I feed on fat

                                                                                      apples, pears: 
                                                                                           Tunnel
                                                                                      toward center, a 
                                                                                           heaven

                                                            in the core. Instinct
                                                            attempts to correct

                                       with a turn
                                       toward light.

                        My dress
                        a brief

                                     darkness. Flits
                                     there. Another set

                                                                         of wings to tear.
                                                                         Spiral me in the silk

                                                                                     of my tongue. 
                                                                                          Farm
                                                                                     what is 
                                                                                          economical

                                                             in me: Blood for blood,
                                                             heart for snare.

                                                                          Scent, sweet
                                                                          air: My cedar,

                                                hung juniper, lavender
                                                cross: What holds the body

                         keeps the body blesses the body’s
                         lack.

                                                Is that not a blessing?
                                                What blooms in me:

                                   Trouble. Trouble.
                                   Trouble.

            So I consume. So I feed
            what festers.

When navigating artificial
light, the angle changes

                         noticeably. Angle strict, beloved:
                         My head a mess of moon.

Copyright © 2019 by Carly Joy Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

This poem is in the public domain.

The day feels as thin
as the letters fading from
half a can of spray paint
a decade ago on the brick wall
of the closed down
Suder Feed Supply where we used
to skateboard and think
of all the crimes the police
could punish us with
for being poor, and teenagers,
for wearing skin-tight jeans
and growing our hair
like a girl’s, for almost anything—
at least it felt like it then.
I can’t imagine home
without thinking of the past
and the faintest stir
of indignation. It’s beside the point.
Today, I’m revisiting Miłosz
with a pen pressed to the pages
making notes in the margins.
In 1987, in Berkeley,
he is doing the same, and thinking
back on the end of his countries, their
“posthumous existence.” Like him
I know a place
I can’t return to, and without
much imagination can picture
everything coming apart, one way
or another. When I imagine
how it might go, it is
just like this: I am memorizing
bird calls and wild
plants which become a blur
at the far edge of my yard,
their Latin names tangled
in my mouth. Didn’t I
already show you this?
The country at twilight
and a far-off darkness
of pines, a deep red sky
imagined for this page. What I left out
wasn’t meant to be remarkable—
a bruise faded from the surface,
the wounds buried
like overwintered wasps
plotting assassinations
beneath the snow. So let’s see
if I can draw it into focus,
like the truant daydreaming in class
suddenly with something to say—
the one end I know complete.
Once, I thanked my father
for the gift of this life,
something he didn’t hear.
It was two years before he died
and he was high
on the translucent painkillers
the hospital ordered to keep him
comfortable after surgery.
It was as real as anything
I ever told him. I stood
over him in the hospital bed
and traced the outline of his body
under the gown, the collar and hip bones,
his stomach, his penis, and balls,
numbered the black stars
printed on the cotton and listened
to him breathe, mouth
open, just so, a way
into the hive growing in his chest.
He didn’t hear, and then, he couldn’t.
In those years, I barely spoke to him
and now not an hour can pass
I don’t hear him, now that
what he has to say is always
final, always a last word. And
Miłosz is buried in Kraków
and my father has entered
eternity as ash, and I am
certain what doesn’t last
lasts—Hydrangea quercifolia,
Hypericum densiflorum,
Solidago rugosa

Copyright © 2019 by Matthew Wimberley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

You are never mentioned on Ararat
or elsewhere, but I know a woman’s hand
in salvation when I see it. Lately,
I’m torn between despair and ignorance.
I’m not a vegetarian, shop plastic,
use an air conditioner. Is this what happens
before it all goes fluvial? Do the selfish
grow self-conscious by the withering
begonias? Lately, I worry every black dress
will have to be worn to a funeral.
New York a bouillon, eroded filigree.
Anything but illness, I beg the plagues,
but shiny crows or nuclear rain.
Not a drop in London May through June.
I bask in the wilt by golden hour light.
Lately, only lately, it is late. Tucking
our families into the safeties of the past.
My children, will they exist by the time
it’s irreversible? Will they live
astonished at the thought of ice
not pulled from the mouth of a machine?
Which parent will be the one to break
the myth; the Arctic wasn’t Sisyphus’s
snowy hill. Noah’s wife, I am wringing
my hands not knowing how to know
and move forward. Was it you
who gathered flowers once the earth
had dried? How did you explain the light
to all the animals?

Copyright © 2019 by Maya C. Popa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

My love and I are inventing a country, which we 
can already see taking shape, as if wheels were 
passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob-
lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw 
and begin flooding. If we put the river on the bor-
der, there will be trouble. If we forget about the 
river, there will be no way out. There is already a 
sky over that country, waiting for clouds or smoke. 
Birds have flown into it, too. Each evening more 
trees fill with their eyes, and what they see we can 
never erase.

One day it was snowing heavily, and again we were 
lying in bed, watching our country: we could 
make out the wide river for the first time, blue and 
moving. We seemed to be getting closer; we saw 
our wheel tracks leading into it and curving out 
of sight behind us. It looked like the land we had 
left, some smoke in the distance, but I wasn't sure. 
There were birds calling. The creaking of our 
wheels. And as we entered that country, it felt as if 
someone was touching our bare shoulders, lightly, 
for the last time.

From The Afterlife by Larry Levis, published by University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 1977 by the estate of Larry Levis. Reprinted by permission of the estate of Larry Levis. All rights reserved.

We drank coffee and got ready,
listened to 93.3 during our commute

to take our mind off how
every day we die on tv. Every day

down the block, kids in surgical masks
spraypaint Magneto was Right on street signs

and new storefronts waiting to redeem
spa resort passes and avocado toast dreams

until they, too, are forced out of business.
Or not. People can surprise you

like beating cancer or criminal charges,
the 2016 election, the high cost

of middle shelf liquor with a decent view.
If you want to succeed, let them see you

coming, our mothers once said before asking
if we wanted the switch or the belt.

But a whooping beats sitting
at the rooftop bar looking over the steepled skyline

and feeling the pang of worlds we’d rather be,
with two empty seats right beside us

that stay empty for the next two hours
surrounded by people drinking & eating

standing up—the wind threatening
to blow their hats off their sunburned heads.

Somewhere right now
there are two people looking for those seats.

We keep hoping they’ll find them—
find us. Let’s have another drink,

watch the muted news above
a row of decent bourbon,
  
wait to hear, to see
if they make it to us or turn up on tv.

Copyright © 2019 by Gary Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.

Copyright © 2001 Jack Gilbert. From The Great Fires: Poems 1982–1992, 2001, Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission.

arils loosed from the yellow membrane
pith pocked and pocketed

spread across the plate Aapa 
gave us on our wedding day
my daughter, my panniq, picking at the crimson 
carapace, her graceful small fingers 
examining each aril between finger and thumb
before she consumes it, just so

reminds me of crab cooked in winter
my uncles letting loose
their catch across the tile floor
the clatter as thin tine toes
chased us 
and later the bodies’ 
carapace—craggy corniced interiors
the inner sanctum 
the source of life 
the sacred centering 
cathedral
of appreciation

have I done enough to deserve this

I hold each memory

the December light flickers out
between the dark damp trees

I watch my daughter, my panniq, as she is this moment

Copyright © 2020 by Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I like being with you all night with closed eyes.
What luck—here you are
coming
along the stars!
I did a road trip
all over my mind and heart
and
there you were
kneeling by the roadside
with your little toolkit
fixing something.

Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.

Copyright © 2020 by Anne Carson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

On my front door stone, a dead frog.
It’s stretched out long,
its slender legs a mottled green,
its belly cream white,
a blossom of blood on the stone.

How did it get here? Why did it die?

It doesn’t take much to make me see
how little I know
about the simplest things.

I’ll tell you stories, of course—
that it was possibly a fisher cat,
or more likely
was dropped, accidentally by an owl
or a startled hawk,
or a heron.

Or is the dead frog an ambassador
sent from the wetland world?

I lift it gingerly, the frog still
limber, no rigor mortis,
not yet,
and I put it aside, in a paper bag,
to take out later for burial—
I have a dog with a keen nose.

But when I come for it, the paper bag
is rustling, is jumping—
alive!
             And so I carry the frog
far down to the pond’s edge
and settle it into the shade of the cattails.

When death arrives on your door stone,
you think about it.

When death turns out to be life, injured life,
you’re glad.
                     And turn back to your own.

Copyright © Margaret Gibson. Used with permission of the author.

I now replace desire 

with meaning. 

Instead of saying, I want you, I say, 

there is meaning between us.

Meaning can swim, has taken lessons from the river 

of itself. Desire is air. One puncture 

above a black lake and she lies flat.

I now replace intensity with meaning.

One is a black hole of boundless appetite, a false womb,

another is a sentence.

My therapist says children need a “father” for language 

and a “mother” for everything else.

She doesn’t get that it’s all language. There is no else

Else is a fiction of life, and a fact of death.

That night, we don’t touch. 

We ruin nothing. 

We get bagels in the morning before you leave on a train, 

and I smoke a skinny cigarette and think 

I look glam, like an Italian diva.

You make a joke at my expense, which is not a joke, really, 

but a way to say I know you

I don’t feed on you. Instead, I watch you 

like a faraway tree. 

Desire loves the what if, the if only, the maybe in another lifetime

She loves a parallel universe. Or seven. 

Meaning knows its minerals,

knows which volcanic magma belongs 

to which volcanic fleet.

Knows the earth has parents. That a person is raised. 

It’s the real flirtation, to say, you are not a meal. 

To say, I want you 

to last. 

Copyright © 2023 by Megan Fernandes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Up until this sore minute, you could turn the key, pivot away.

But mine is the only medicine now

wherever you go or follow.

The past is so far away, but it flickers,

then cleaves the night. The bones

of the past splinter between our teeth.

This is our life, love. Why did I think

it would be anything less than too much

of everything? I know you remember that cheap motel

on the coast where we drank red wine,

the sea flashing its gold scales as sun

soaked our skin. You said, This must be

what people mean when they say

I could die now. Now

we’re so much closer

to death than we were then. Who isn’t crushed,

stubbed out beneath a clumsy heel?

Who hasn’t stood at the open window,

sleepless, for the solace of the damp air?

I had to get old to carry both buckets

yoked on my shoulders. Sweet

and bitter waters I drink from.

Let me know you, ox you.

I want your scent in my hair.

I want your jokes.

Hang your kisses on all my branches, please.

Sink your fingers into the darkness of my fur.

 

Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

Copyright © 2016 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sometimes I just sit like this at the window and watch
the darkness come. If I’m smart, I’ll put on Bach.

I’m thinking now of how far it always seems there is to go.
Maybe it is too easy that I speak so often

of late last light on a December day,
of that stubborn grass that somehow still remains green

behind the broken chain link fence on the corner.
But the need is so great for the way light looks

as it takes its leave of us. We say
what we can to each other of these things,

we who are such thieves, stealing first
one breath and then the next. Bach, keep going

just this slowly, show me the way to believe
that what matters in this world has already happened

and will go on happening forever.
The way light falls on the last

of the stricken leaves of the copper beech
at the end of the block is something to behold.

Copyright © 2022 by Jim Moore. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The world asks, as it asks daily: 
And what can you make, can you do, to change my deep-broken, fractured?

I count, this first day of another year, what remains. 
I have a mountain, a kitchen, two hands. 

Can admire with two eyes the mountain, 
actual, recalcitrant, shuffling its pebbles, sheltering foxes and beetles.

Can make black-eyed peas and collards.
Can make, from last year’s late-ripening persimmons, a pudding.

Can climb a stepladder, change the bulb in a track light.

For four years, I woke each day first to the mountain, 
then to the question.

The feet of the new sufferings followed the feet of the old, 
and still they surprised.

I brought salt, brought oil, to the question. Brought sweet tea, 
brought postcards and stamps. For four years, each day, something.

Stone did not become apple. War did not become peace. 
Yet joy still stays joy. Sequins stay sequins. Words still bespangle, bewilder. 

Today, I woke without answer. 

The day answers, unpockets a thought from a friend

don’t despair of this falling world, not yet

didn’t it give you the asking

Copyright © Jane Hirshfield. Used with permission of the author.

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

From The Collected Poems by Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton, 2000). Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2014.