In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.

There is no life after death. Why
              should there be. What on

earth would have us believe this.
              Heaven is not the American

highway, blackened chicken alfredo
              from Applebee’s nor the

clown sundae from Friendly’s. Our
              life, this is the afterdeath,

when we blink open, peeled and
              ready to ache. Years ago

my aunt banged on the steering, she
              insisted there had to be a

God, a heaven. We were on our
              way to a wedding. I would

have to sit at the same table as the
              man who saw no heaven

in me. Today I am thinking about
              Mozart, of all people, who

died at 35 mysteriously, perhaps of
              strep. What a strange cloth

it is to live. But that we came from
              death and return to it, made

different by form, shaped again back
              into anti–, anti–. On my run,

I think of Jack Gilbert, who said we
              must insist while there is still

time, but insist toward what. Why we
              must fill the void with light—

isn’t that our human insistence? But
              we drift into a distance of

distance until proximity fails, our
              name lifts away with any

future concerns, the past a flattened
              coin that cannot spin. I am

matter spun from death’s wool—and
              I bewilder the itch, I who am

I am just so happy to go.

Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Into the air like dandelion seed
Or like the spiral of lark into the light
Or fountain into sun. All former sight
From hill or mountain was a mere hint of this.
We gain a new dimension. What had been
Our prison, where we crawled and clung like ants,
We spurn, and vision lying far beneath us.

O naked shape of earth! What green mammelles,
Arteries of gold and silver, turquoise flanks,
Plush jungles now are patterned! As we bank,
The earth tilts; we are level and aloof,
And it spins on and on among the stars.
We poise in air, hang motionless, and see
The planet turns with slow grace of a dancer.

From Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall, edited by Melba Joyce Boyd © 2009 by Dudley Randall. Reprinted with permission of the editor. 

for Linus Chao

Lao Ye sits at the edge of hala trees
where rolls of brown and yellow 
seas eat thorns of dried lauhala. 
He seeks Tai Nainai, finds 
a fishing canoe instead. 

Ma ke kai pōlena o Waimanu
aia ka manu kiko ʻeleʻele
e lele aʻe i ka lewa nuʻu
e lele ana i Kapō‘ula
Aloha aku, aloha mai ē

There are the kiʻi, ready and wet 
from the Qi of a horsehair brush.

Kū ka pae uli huli aku nei
kū ka pali uli huʻi ka makani
aniani ka lehua onaona
kū ka ʻōhiʻa a e ola ka honua
Aloha aku, aloha mai ē

Nā ‘aumakua steer him 
into the breeze that curls
through spines of bamboo trees.

‘O ke ao kea lohe iā ‘oe
hoʻolono kou nānea i ka wao akua
Hao mai ka ua ‘Awa o nā kama ē
Ua lele ‘oe i Kapō‘ula
a ua noa, a ua noa ē.

Lao Ye sits on the back of the fire dragon, 
smokes incense from Shandong to Hawaiʻi.
He stretches from cloud to ka nahele,
paints around the white of sky,
with blue, purple, and red.

Aloha aku, aloha mai ē
Aloha aku, aloha mai ē
No nā kupuna, he inoa.

Copyright © 2022 by Sage Uʻilani Takehiro. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I shall come back without fanfaronade
Of wailing wind and graveyard panoply; 
But, trembling, slip from cool Eternity—
A mild and most bewildered little shade. 
I shall not make sepulchral midnight raid, 
But softly come where I had longed to be 
In April twilight’s unsung melody, 
And I, not you, shall be the one afraid. 

Strange, that from lovely dreamings of the dead 
I shall come back to you, who hurt me most. 
You may not feel my hand upon your head, 
I’ll be so new and inexpert a ghost. 
Perhaps you will not know that I am near,—
And that will break my ghostly heart, my dear. 

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

Ghosts of all my lovely sins,
     Who attend too well my pillow,
Gay the wanton rain begins;
     Hide the limp and tearful willow.

Turn aside your eyes and ears,
     Trail away your robes of sorrow,
You shall have my further years,—
     You shall walk with me tomorrow.

I am sister to the rain;
     Fey and sudden and unholy,
Petulant at the windowpane,
     Quickly lost, remembered slowly.

I have lived with shades, a shade;
     I am hung with graveyard flowers.
Let me be tonight arrayed
     In the silver of the showers.

Every fragile thing shall rust;
     When another April passes
I may be a furry dust,
     Sifting through the brittle grasses.

All sweet sins shall be forgot;
     Who will live to tell their siring?
Hear me now, nor let me rot
     Wistful still, and still aspiring.

Ghosts of dear temptations, heed;
     I am frail, be you forgiving.
See you not that I have need
     To be living with the living?

Sail, tonight, the Styx’s breast;
     Glide among the dim processions
Of the exquisite unblest,
     Spirits of my shared transgressions. 

Roam with young Persephone,
     Plucking poppies for your slumber …
With the morrow, there shall be
     One more wraith among your number.

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.