anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

From Complete Poems: 1904–1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

It’s neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn’t melt
or turn over,
break or harden,
so it can’t feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn’t have 
a tip to spin on,
it isn’t even
shapely—
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute. Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want—

but I can’t open it:
there’s no key.
I can’t wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel. Here,
it’s all yours, now—
but you’ll have
to take me,
too.

Copyright © 2017 Rita Dove. Used with permission of the author.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This poem is in the public domain.

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

Then Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.
    And he said:
    You would know the secret of death.
    But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
    The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
    If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
    For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

    In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
    And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
    Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
    Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
    Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
    Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

    For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift, 
  The road is forlorn all day, 
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift, 
  And the hoof-prints vanish away. 
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
  Expend their bloom in vain. 
Come over the hills and far with me, 
  And be my love in the rain. 

The birds have less to say for themselves 
  In the wood-world’s torn despair
Than now these numberless years the elves, 
  Although they are no less there: 
All song of the woods is crushed like some 
  Wild, easily shattered rose. 
Come, be my love in the wet woods; come,
  Where the boughs rain when it blows. 

There is the gale to urge behind 
  And bruit our singing down, 
And the shallow waters aflutter with wind 
  From which to gather your gown.    
What matter if we go clear to the west, 
  And come not through dry-shod? 
For wilding brooch shall wet your breast 
  The rain-fresh goldenrod. 

Oh, never this whelming east wind swells   
  But it seems like the sea’s return 
To the ancient lands where it left the shells 
  Before the age of the fern; 
And it seems like the time when after doubt 
  Our love came back amain.      
Oh, come forth into the storm and rout 
  And be my love in the rain.

This poem is in the public domain.

I.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

II.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

III.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

Written June 12, 1814. This poem is in the public domain.

I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us—that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse that feels a flea, the base—
   ball fan, the statistician—case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”—above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance of their opinion—
   the raw material of poetry in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in poetry.

From Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg. This poem is in the public domain.

Not an act, I’m told, more a leave to live 
where words have no leverage—I’ve a pile 
of words. It was useful to hear actors 
talk shop about how one doesn’t just act 

but live the role—a trick into feeling 
what doesn’t need said. I watch a cast now 
from this seat next to no one asking me
what was said like these two do, one row up. 

Once home, they’ll unwrap each other’s bow-tied 
necks; mouths agape, marvel over their spoils
as if for the first time. Look at the way
one lowers the other’s mask, levies a kiss, 

then worries back its curl over the usher
-hushed laugh, each needling the other to live.

Copyright © 2023 by Tommye Blount. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Always at dusk, the same tearless experience,
The same dragging of feet up the same well-worn path
To the same well-worn rock;
The same crimson or gold dropping away of the sun
The same tints—rose, saffron, violet, lavender, grey
Meeting, mingling, mixing mistily;
Before me the same blue black cedar rising jaggedly to a point;
Over it, the same slow unlidding of twin stars,
Two eyes, unfathomable, soul-searing,
Watching, watching—watching me;
The same two eyes that draw me forth, against my will dusk after dusk;
The same two eyes that keep me sitting late into the night, chin on knees
Keep me there lonely, rigid, tearless, numbly miserable,
       —The eyes of my Regret.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

A firm hand. The shadow waves of satin.
I am not yet flesh. He calls me baby,
and I touch my face. I’m searching for god
when I oil my body in the mirror. To love it
means to love a man means an opening
to another man. When I take my glasses off
all the lines blur. A body is a body without
language, I tell my girlfriend and she laughs,
mouth wide enough to hide in. She shows me
my softest parts. I dissolve into what. I forget
hiding also means a good beating, the way
passion can be suffering. I can’t believe
my whole life I never touched what made me
holy. We have bread, butter and nowhere to be.

Copyright © 2022 by Dujie Tahat. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Remember not the promises we made
In this same garden many moons ago.
You must forget them. I would have it so.
Old vows are like old flowers as they fade
And vaguely vanish in a feeble death.
There is no reason why your hands should clutch
At pretty yesterdays. There is not much
Of beauty in me now. And though my breath
Is quick, my body sentient, my heart
Attuned to romance as before, you must
Not, through mistaken chivalry, pretend
To love me still. There is no mortal art
Can overcome Time’s deep, corroding rust.
Let Love’s beginning expiate Love’s end.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.