To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
    Dark like me—
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
    Black like me.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen 
on the black earth is an array of horsemen;
some, men marching; some would say ships; but I say
          she whom one loves best

is the loveliest. Light were the work to make this 
plain to all, since she, who surpassed in beauty
all mortality, Helen, once forsaking
          her lordly husband,

fled away to Troy—land across the water. 
Not the thought of child nor beloved parents 
was remembered, after the Queen of Cyprus
          won her at first sight.

Since young brides have hearts that can be persuaded 
easily, light things, palpitant to passion
as am I, remembering Anaktória
          who has gone from me

and whose lovely walk and the shining pallor
of her face I would rather see before my 
eyes than Lydia's chariots in all their glory
          armored for battle.

Reprinted from Greek Lyrics, edited by Richmond Lattimore, published by the University of Chicago Press, copyright © 1949, 1960 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair use provisions of US and international copyright law and agreement, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires both the consent of the author(s) and the University of Chicago Press.

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I come from the kidnapped,
                                    the assaulted––
my country’tis of reparations as in-store credit
                                    backordered to bankruptcy

It is me & my trophy wife
passing as a dream of some kind

All I want is 40 dead mules
& an acre of land w/ a lighthouse
              right above the porch of the great Atlantic Ocean
              just in case any of my ancestors tasted nasty & made it.

I come from a people who pay a penalty every sunrise
& divinate to paroled gods with rancid hog maws.

The stripes plowed into my grandfather’s back
will have to stand in for our family album.

Somebody threw some stars at my grand-momma’s head
& said ‘betcha won’t ask for no freedom no mo’!

Natives in prison-issue war bonnets say:
I come from a poisoned land that recycles children
           into artillery shells
                      & where dark skin is good as
                                 an invisibility cloak

            until the police arrive.


I am proud to be a _____________
where I can hold my head up and drown
in the downpour of state sanctioned cancer.

I am proud to hold my place
in back of the line.

I come from a land that’s open all night
like a shotgun wound.

& as for ya’ll tired,
                                   ya’ll poor
                                             ya’ll huddled masses
yearning to breathe free

Fuck ya’ll!

I come from a place promising
a burning cross in every yard

& two meth labs in every garage
          & when I say: meth lab

I mean golden
                        retrievers smoking crank.

The country I come from

I can flash all its gang signs
           & beatbox all their anthems.

I come from a place­­––
actually, I don’t know where I come from

I just know I woke up here.

My babies are gone.
My house was on fire.
& I couldn’t breathe.

From Martian: The Saint of Loneliness. Copyright © 2022 by James Cagney. Published by Nomadic Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

When evenings cast pale shadows on the earth,
And silence, like a vast mysterious ghost,
Stifles the land and sea from hill to coast,
And buries all that tropic suns gave birth,
When by myself I pace the darkened shore,
And think of this unhappy lot of mine,
The pain and grief the fates to me assign,
I sigh for you, O mother I adore!
That I could seek your bosom as of old,
And, nestling there, bare secrets that oppress,
Accuse these that my love would disposses,
Whose hearts to cold desires and base are sold!
O mother dear! When death relieves our sighs,
Shall we in heaven, meet, in Paradise?

From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc., 1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain. 

the big fish i live on writhes
knowing its ancestor 
fills up with smoke 
but it’s too cut up to do 
anything but continue to
rest in the sea it’s known
since the jawbone and some
blood brought it
into the world 
of the light
sometimes the sun shines
too brightly  
so it tries to turn 
its body to face the ocean floor

sometimes the flames 
give up their dancing
and turn to a rage 
that rumbles like the 
godly fetus of earthquakes
in the heart of te ikanui o maaui
they wish for safety
for all their children 
spread across this sea of islands
and if they can’t have that
if we can’t have that
then justice

Copyright © 2024 by essa may ranapiri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 13, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.