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.
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
"Frederick Douglass." Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden. From Collected Poems of Robert Hayden by Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.
WHEREVER YOU ARE
WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING
AT THIS TREE
AIN’ EVEN BEEN
From Directed by Desire: The Complete Poems of June Jordan (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005, 2017 by the June Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.
We are mired in matter until we are not
— Ralph Lemon
I thought we were an archipelago
each felt under our own finessed and gilded wing
let’s make an assumption
let’s make an assumption that the lake has a bottom
let’s make an assumption that everyone will mourn
let’s sack a hundred greenbacks
for the sake of acknowledging they mean something
what does it mean to have worth?
who would dream to drain a lake?
I spent my days staring into the eye of the Baltic
it’s because I am also a body of water
it’s not that onerous
I’ve built a muscle memory
it’s not that heavy
let’s talk about erasure I mean
start with a word that you don’t like
start with a people you didn’t know
start with a neighborhood, rank
start with any miasma dispersed
let’s talk about burden
let’s talk about burden for the weight
it lends us
let’s talk about supplication
about my palms — uplift, patience
let’s celebrate our substance
amber rivulets of stilllife
constellations how you molded me
country how we became it
the longitude is a contested border
my longest muscle I named familiar
Copyright © 2020 by Asiya Wadud. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.