In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.

From The Wild Iris, published by The Ecco Press, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück. All Rights reserved. Used with permission.

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone's initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
"home" to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn't know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother's
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

"Persephone the Wanderer" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

translated by Esther Allen

     Times of gorge and rush are these:
Voices fly like light: lightning,
like a ship hurled upon dread quicksand,
plunges down the high rod, and in delicate craft
man, as if winged, cleaves the air.
And love, without splendor or mystery,
dies when newly born, of glut.
The city is a cage of dead doves
and avid hunters! If men’s bosoms
were to open and their torn flesh
fall to the earth, inside would be
nothing but a scatter of small, crushed fruit!

     Love happens in the street, standing in the dust
of saloons and public squares: the flower
dies the day it’s born. The trembling
virgin who would rather death
have her than some unknown youth;
the joy of trepidation; that feeling of heart
set free from chest; the ineffable
pleasure of deserving; the sweet alarm
of walking quick and straight
from your love’s home and breaking
into tears like a happy child;—
and that gazing of our love at the fire,
as roses slowly blush a deeper color,—
Bah, it’s all a sham! Who has the time
to be noble? Though like a golden
bowl or sumptuous painting
a genteel lady sits in the magnate’s home!

     But if you’re thirsty, reach out your arm,
and drain some passing cup!
The dirtied cup rolls to the dust, then,
and the expert taster—breast blotted
with invisible blood—goes happily,
crowned with myrtle, on his way!
Bodies are nothing now but trash,
pits and tatters! And souls
are not the tree’s lush fruit
down whose tender skin runs
sweet juice in time of ripeness,—
but fruit of the marketplace, ripened
by the hardened laborer’s brutal blows!

     It is an age of dry lips!
Of undreaming nights! Of life
crushed unripe! What is it that we lack,
without which there is no gladness? Like a startled
hare in the wild thicket of our breast,
fleeing, tremulous, from a gleeful hunter,
the spirit takes cover;
and Desire, on Fever’s arm,
beats the thicket, like the rich hunter.

     The city appals me! Full
of cups to be emptied, and empty cups!
I fear—ah me!—that this wine
may be poison, and sink its teeth,
vengeful imp, in my veins!
I thirst—but for a wine that none on earth
knows how to drink! I have not yet
endured enough to break through the wall
that keeps me, ah grief!, from my vineyard!
Take, oh squalid tasters
of humble human wines, these cups
from which, with no fear or pity,
you swill the lily’s juice!
Take them! I am honorable, and I am afraid!


Amor de Cuidad Grande

     De gorja son y rapidez los tiempos.
Corre cual luz la voz; en alta aguja,
Cual nave despeñada en sirte horrenda,
Húndese el rayo, y en ligera barca
El hombre, como alado, el aire hiende.
¡Así el amor, sin pompa ni misterio
Muere, apenas nacido, de saciado!
Jaula es la villa de palomas muertas
Y ávidos cazadores! Si los pechos
Se rompen de los hombres, y las carnes
Rotas por tierra ruedan, ¡no han de verse
Dentro más que frutillas estrujadas!

     Se ama de pie, en las calles, entre el polvo
De los salones y las plazas; muere
La flor que nace. Aquella virgen
Trémula que antes a la muerte daba
La mano pura que a ignorado mozo;
El goce de temer; aquel salirse
Del pecho el corazón; el inefable
Placer de merecer; el grato susto
De caminar de prisa en derechura
Del hogar de la amada, y a sus puertas
Como un niño feliz romper en llanto;—
Y aquel mirar, de nuestro amor al fuego,
Irse tiñendo de color las rosas,—
Ea, que son patrañas! Pues ¿quién tiene
tiempo de ser hidalgo? Bien que sienta,
Cual áureo vaso o lienzo suntuoso,
Dama gentil en casa de magnate!

     O si se tiene sed, se alarga el brazo
Y a la copa que pasa se la apura!
Luego, la copa turbia al polvo rueda,
Y el hábil catador—manchado el pecho
De una sangre invisible—sigue alegre
Coronado de mirtos, su camino!
No son los cuerpos ya sino desechos,
Y fosas, y jirones! Y las almas
No son como en el árbol fruta rica
En cuya blanda piel la almíbar dulce
En su sazón de madurez rebosa,—
Sino fruta de plaza que a brutales
Golpes el rudo labrador madura!

     ¡La edad es ésta de los labios secos!
De las noches sin sueño! ¡De la vida
Estrujada en agraz! Qué es lo que falta
Que la ventura falta? Como liebre
Azorada, el espíritu se esconde,
Trémulo huyendo al cazador que ríe,
Cual en soto selvoso, en nuestro pecho;
Y el deseo, de brazo de la fiebre,
Cual rico cazador recorre el soto.

     ¡Me espanta la ciudad! ¡Toda está llena
De copas por vaciar, o huecas copas!
¡Tengo miedo ¡ay de mí! de que este vino
Tósigo sea, y en mis venas luego
Cual duende vengador los dientes clave!
¡Tengo sed,—mas de un vino que en la tierra
No se sabe beber! ¡No he padecido
Bastante aún, para romper el muro
Que me aparta ¡oh dolor! de mi viñedo!
¡Tomad vosotros, catadores ruines
De vinillos humanos, esos vasos
Donde el jugo de lirio a grandes sorbos
Sin compasión y sin temor se bebe!
Tomad! Yo soy honrado, y tengo miedo!

From Selected Writings by José Martí, published by Penguin Classics, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Translation copyright and selection © 2002 by Esther Allen. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2020. 

“to touch and at once be touched”
            —Joshua Beckman

to touch and at once be touched
that’s what the poem does
reaches out w/ its long spindly arms its grandmother arms to hold you    but you are the arms also in the act of reaching, enfolding in yourself all the primness and solidarity and creakiness of the grandparent as it holds you thru the reaches of time  and you are time itself  grandfather time grandparent time  the grandiosity of time ticking away in its grandparent clock, the clock that haunted the halls of your grandparents and the further forebears that measure things not by clocks, but by the sun.  as the dawn rang out, everything was ok, we—our forebears—noted where the light of the sun first fell on the earth at dawn, bitole the sun’s rays, these were holy holy and where they fell is where we placed our firepit, and around that pit laid four stones, and those stones were the four directions, and from them measured out four tipi poles at equal distance, and between these eight more fanning out, and atop it erected a tipi the home of the holy person, and atop the tipi a crown of evergreens and other plants, yaa da’a’ah, the tops of the poles unshorn of their leaves, blessings were conferred, songs happened in time, to the beat of the deerhoof rattle, not to a beat itself  since a rattle’s noise is disparate, spread out, but to the idea or the sense of a beat nestled at the center of the shaking of the rattle and its small collection of sounds, thrill of the pulsatile universe unfolding across time, ‘across’ as if time were a length of thread, or a thing traversed in space    songs, poetry happened across the pulse of time, they were not like a painting making its ‘same damn face whether the Louvre was open or closed,’ but like music    happening in time, so that you couldn’t look at the whole thing all at once, you couldn’t look at its face headon    you had to perceive it apace, at a pace     it didn’t matter whether time was a thing you believed in or not, whether time was a thing that was real or not, whether it coalesced with space, the space you moved through with your foot on the real earth.        you spoke to your lover on a thing called ‘facetime’ because you were far apart in space, hours apart in time, you could not hold each other but you could see each other’s face, you could see the face but not touch it, it was a face as represented by a screen, your faces appeared to each other on this screen  and your voices too could be beheld, perceived, in and across time, and across space  they could be beheld but not touched, face-to-face you could be, of a kind, but your cheeks could not touch like in the song where the lovers danced cheek-to-cheek, and your lover said they didn’t want to have a relationship through this thing through this ‘face’ and this ‘time’ and you agreed.    a thing that everafter sterilized your concern into a thing seen but untouchable, like the painting in the museum, which could be looked and looked at only. ‘touch me only with thine eyes’ some prim poet probably once said.  ‘look but don’t touch’ one of my parents said to the other, speaking of attractive people.  that the gaze is said to touch, it is said to do violence.  take that sunmote out of your eye when you look at me.  take that beam out of your eye.  i am a crap.  i am a happenstance.  i am holy holy.  christ’s eyebeams pierced thomas too you know.    a woman wore the feather of a flicker on the top of the red blanket she wore around her shoulders in the peyote meetings of the lipan, who kept the beat first by a bow they hit with a stick, a stick not an arrow and then by various drums of water.  who tie up a drum in the flick of an eye.    a flicker is so called because the undersides of its wings are yellow, you see them in a golden flash flashing across the forest.  by you i mean me.  my lover once held me creakily in grandparent arms before it became an insect  and one calling all of the old ones of the desert to us, even embarrassed about the beat that it made because it was not native, it being the lover, still it was a holy thing, holy holy, díyín, díyínde, a holy person, singing a double beat, first to the earth and then to me, i am erthes i said, erthes, as two syllables, i felt the pricks the holy pricks of the lauered on the crown of my head and i felt them seeding, i felt them being seeded there, holy holy, there is no god there is only dííyi robert said, but what accounts for that thing we saw in the desert.    i seed and then i saw it, i seed and saw it,  a seesaw is a thing that you see and then you saw, it measures vision across time as the bodily movement of two children going up and going down, sawed in half the measure of my eye, the top of my head took clean off.  looking is not the same as touching.  there is a frog that looks with bifocular vision, the top half of its eye evolved a skill for looking above water, and the bottom half of its eye for looking below water.  when isánáklesh came out of the water she danced on the shore but for a long time she stayed in the water with her face half-submerged.  they didn’t know if it was a man or a woman.  when she came out of the water the bottom half of her face was stained with the minerals of the primordial pond.  the bottom half of her face looked white.  now they paint the girl that way with klesh  the white clay  the earth  on the bottom half of her face.  but she is isánáklesh now she is not the girl anymore.    poetry occurs in time, syllable by syllable.  a trance-state occurs peripherally, serially, over and over and in that state you ‘passed’ time but you didn’t notice the passing of time.  you were as it were beyond time,  though occurring in time and primarily to the beat of the rattle and the rhythm of the singing.    you can touch and be touched in a poem, though it come thru the ear, tho it come through the eye, it touches in the way a person is said to be touched, i’m touched you say when a thing touches you emotionally, and you touch your heart to indicate the heart, to say that that is where you are touched.  the heart is understood to be the seat of love.  a pulse is measured there, a cardiac pulse whose stoppage or whose arrest is death, the stopping or the stoppage of cardiac time.    we saw a snake upon the trail, a smooth green snake undulated into curves, elegant s-like curves upon the moss, hello i said, can i touch you i said, and taking its calm aspect for an acquiescence gently stroked the back of its back   and the snake  straightened out, and faced its face toward me, i do not know what this means in snake language.  perhaps i was touched to touch a snake, touched as in mad, mad as in crazy, feet not on the earth, not on the erthes as the creature itself was, and not its avatar, its whole body upon the earth.    time can have a wrinkle in it,   and wrinkles  can be ironed out.

Copyright © 2020 by Julian Talamantez Brolaski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

No, it wasn’t like that—you didn’t see
He was lying quietly, mouth shut, one hand on his chest,
The other frozen mid-stir

We were be side one another
When they found us
                          Be side, what a wonderful word
Be side is the scent I carry
Be side the first man I touched
And his touching me.
Be side him when I woke.
Fully awake,
                          I hear something,
                          Our baby perhaps or
A kitten crying for a saucer of milk
A kitten crying because she is lost
Because she is forsaken
Because she is left alive.
No, not the cat,

Give me your hand, John Hoggatt
Remember our fishing hole at Byng?
A cold underground stream feeds it,
Gorgeous switch canes at the blue water’s edge 
Make sturdy Cherokee baskets

Give me your hand, John
Together we’ll catch a mess of perch,
Cut the canes and load the wagon
We’ll have the folks over for supper
Just a half day’s wagon ride away,
Not far.

Give me your hand, dearest
Just last fall we helped build the Byng P.O.
Named in honor of Sir Julian Byng,
A British World War I hero.
Your father had a conniption.
You an Irishman, putting an Englishman forward!

Give me your hand, Johnny boy
I call you home now and I call you home tomorrow,
A thousand times as our bodies flake into stars,
Mad or sane, Get up John Hoggatt!
You can’t stay in this death bed
Walk on Iva, says John, softly.
Walk on my girl,
My girl,

Copyright © 2020 by LeAnne Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Yvan Goll

In the absent oils of your eyes two brown ores
resting leisurely on the view of your children.

You uncoil casually. My hand slipping
to the west and what was felled fills me

until I fall forward injuring your already dead arm.
I am so sorry. Our wills in a twist. Electric.

Some pulse between the gurney and the distant coffin.
My camera shutter clicking wildly around my neck.

Back home tus rab hlau searches for your hands.
The soil to harden. Rapture on the way. Onions

sprouting passionately as neglected gardens do.
The seven prisms of my blood bursting through my ears.

Your living children still living. Your garden goddess
drying the last goods in her shrine. With spring-like

precision the sun weeps until I boil. My head cracked
in four places. The ribbed earth catching fatal drops

of your blood or mine. You beseech me but in my time
I’ve slept away the sun. The underside of distance.

But I behold you now in this cool church and for a ransom.
I photograph you again and again. Your form crystalizing.

Your parted mouth a new annex to the ancestral house.
Your bones at the table. O how fair the jaundiced skies.

You get up to close that clear brittle door.

Copyright © 2020 by Khaty Xiong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after René Auberjonois

Wet, where all I had longed for             
was the determined touch of softness. Wet, 

             I watched the solids come and go. 
             I counted feet, that ache

and echo of planets, became 
the prosecutor and defense 

             of my own heart, that red-tailed escape 
             from the struggle to represent 

the shapes required of love. 
A rose bud, briefcase 

             or snarling mutt, pea soup, 
             blood blister—I knew hate most

not as these but in my 
formlessness, poured into a coffee cup

            my keeper mimicked to sip. 
             I could not honey my clay. 

The shape of our star days, 
a hum in the rookery of birds 

             I’d know, and never be.
             And when I found my people—

when my people meddled 
with me—they opened a hole 

             to home in the punch-clock 
             of deep space I was destined 

to fall through.

Copyright © 2020 by Halee Kirkwood. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

That’s us: the bruise on my thigh, a Camel
dangling from your beautiful mouth
and this our favorite wedding picture. The vows:
      (1) Do I take thee Wife
as wedge against the fear

of sleeping alone
in Southeast Asia?

      (2) Do I take thee Husband as solace
for all the girls ever wanted? For the ones kissed

and held by and held.

Twenty years later I am queer as
a happy Monday and you dead from cancer—

lung or liver, I no longer know
anyone to ask and made up the cause, cancer 
I say, because the paper said you died at home.
And that there was a child after besides the one before
and nothing to mark the one 
we washed away.
I dream of her sometimes, little toothless sack of skin.
with something, nothing, something 
swimming inside. 
                                     But more often
I dream of a house I once lived in,

a certain room, a street, its light. I wake 
trying to remember which country, 
what language. Not the house
where we lived and its bodies.
How they come and go

late at night, nearly dawn. I am making 
crepes and coffee and the group from the bar 
can’t believe their luck.
What did we talk about? I am trying to remember
and not trying to remember
how I tried or never tried to love you.

Copyright © 2020 by Janet McAdams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

It was snowing on the monuments
My dead father’s name next to my living mothers

You went further back into the cemetery
There where so many lies remain lost to winter

There with the named and the nameless
It was snowing on the monuments

All horizons packed with cloud cover
Some of us left in the vehicles
We came in

Some became some final gesture
Of departure’s sun borne reflect
behind auto glass
heat blowing feeling back into a face

It was snowing on the monuments
Even in the warmth of an engine turning over
You must forget how we came to this place
How we leave

A procession of memory
an immersion in going away

Voices of older songs already
In the broken gone
As some wheel turns us back
Onto a gray road

Copyright © 2020 by Gordon Henry. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Something like a wooden pearl, what gall
forms here, irritation’s
gemstone on the oak-
leaf-underneath I thought was a berry, seed-
case, or oak-faced
scrotum-like excrescence

the oak tree seemed to make of itself
in extremis involved
with power. For no
reason when we were girls plucking these woodland
BBs from the
branch to flick at the back

fence, about so much unsuspecting
I was mistaken by
meticulously more single-minded than
the mere widest
distribution of seed

over the furthest expanse; as I
follow American
history, small and
solitary, intravenously driven
living syringe
mainlined into the green

vein of oakleaf to position with
the earthly pulse of her
otherworldly self-
sufficient piercing ovipositor her
shimmering eggs,
the oak gall wasp is un-

American mother of the year.
Patriotism, meet
a biochemical je ne sais quoi charms the
of the oakleaf’s force to

form a cradle for each minuscule
egg something like the way
our human flesh scabs
over. And not just any oak—oak gall wasps
an oak known as your own

are implicit in every acorn,
including the sprouting
one you carried home
rolling slowly around the base of a wet
Dixie Cup your
first grade teacher told you

would, with patience, be as tall as you
one day, and capable
in time of crushing
you in bed, unsentimental consequence
of gravity
which is a consequence

of the curvature of spacetime, but
what isn’t? I sold the
house behind which my
son and I once planted such an acorn and
even enclosed
it in a pathetic

ring of prefabricated fencing
I fought counter-clockwise
against the coil to
unspool off a metal roll like a robot
fabric bolt to
shield it from the orphan

fawns. If that oak rises still, witness
to the sleep of someone
else’s child now through
an underestimated August storm, I
do not know, or
in what health, but if rise

it does, safe in her hyperbaric
chamber, as athlete gods
sleep between stages
on the tour de France, there the gall wasp grows in
my divestment.
Such a fundamental

hunger stirs in the oak gall dark, if
you listen you might hear
her chew her way out
of oakleaf where she incubates encrypted
in her first meal.
Unless—and this is life

on earth, as much a miracle of
drudgery and lust as
you or me or the
gall wasp— another even more strategic
to-the-second power

brood parasite wasp oak-injects with
finer, more exacting
a second egg. The two sister together
in the waspworld
prenatal ritual

juices, downloading the vital re-
directed principles
of oak into their
maturing, crackling bodies. You’ve been to sleep-
overs; girls grow
strong touching each other’s

bodies with stories of mutual
incrimination. What
confidence betrayed
then when duplicitous behind her back. To
emerge, as we
learned, wasps chew their exit

through the gall; but in the case of a
hosting wasp, she’s compelled
to stop by something
that most entomologists don’t read enough
novels to understand.

Whether social dynamics are more
or less legible to
an outsider, I’m
too far inside the gall to tell, since it was
I who dug the
hole, placed the acorn, shooed

the beast, and waited for the oak to
leaf that the gall wasp could
deposit there her
egg inspiring thus the oak to cradle it
that a second
wasp could parasitize

the parasite wasp—as is drawn out
over several seasons
of elaborate
out-maneuverings in parish, parlor, and
palace on the
BBC. But this is

an American transition of 
power. Don’t look away.
I don’t want to end
this poem bleeding but the wasp does eat the
wasp, and up through
the top of her head like

the goddess she is, enters the hell-
scape. It’s happening now;
it happened. Unless,
that is, through the bedroom window where sleeps the
child of someone
else now, the beautiful

oak I tenderly tended alread- 
y crashed.

Copyright © 2020 by Robyn Schiff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

We felt nostalgic for libraries, even though we were sitting in a library. We looked around the library lined with books and thought of other libraries we had sat in lined with books and then of all the libraries we would never sit in lined with books, some of which contained scenes set in libraries.   *   We felt nostalgic for post offices, even though we were standing in a post office. We studied the rows of stamps under glass and thought about how their tiny castles, poets, cars, and flowers would soon be sent off to all cardinal points. We rarely got paper letters anymore, so our visits to the post office were formal, pro forma.   *   We felt nostalgic for city parks, even though we were walking through a city park, in a city full of city parks in a country full of cities full of city parks, with their green benches, bedraggled bushes, and shabby pansies, cut into the city. (Were the city parks bits of nature showing through cutouts in the concrete, or was the concrete showing through cutouts in nature?)   *   We sat in a café drinking too much coffee and checking our feeds, wondering why we were more anxious about the future than anxiously awaiting it. Was the future showing through cutouts in the present, or were bits of the present showing through cutouts in a future we already found ourselves in, arrived in our café chairs like fizzled jetpacks? The café was in a former apothecary lined with dark wood shelves and glowing white porcelain jars labeled in gilded Latin, which for many years had sat empty. Had a person with an illness coming to fetch her weekly dose of meds from one of the jars once said to the city surrounding the shop, which was no longer this city, Stay, thou art so fair? Weren’t these the words that had sealed the bargainer’s doom? Sitting in our presumptive futures, must we let everything run through our hands—which were engineered to grab—into the past? In the library, in the post office, in the city park, in the café, in the apothecary... o give us the medicine, even if it is a pharmakon—which, as the pharmacist knows, either poisons or heals—just like nostalgia. Just like the ruins of nostalgia.

Copyright © 2020 by Donna Stonecipher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

My mother married a man who divorced her for money. Phyllis, he would say, If you don’t stop buying jewelry, I will have to divorce you to keep us out of the poorhouse. When he said this, she would stub out a cigarette, mutter something under her breath. Eventually, he was forced to divorce her. Then, he died. Then she did. The man was not my father. My father was buried down the road, in a box his other son selected, the ashes of his third wife in a brass urn that he will hold in the crook of his arm forever. At the reception, after his funeral, I got mean on four cups of Lime Sherbet Punch. When the man who was not my father divorced my mother, I stopped being related to him. These things are complicated, says the Talmud. When he died, I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t get a death certificate. These things are complicated, says the Health Department. Their names remain on the deed to the house. It isn’t haunted, it’s owned by ghosts. When I die, I will come in fast and low. I will stick the landing. There will be no confusion. The dead will make room for me.

Copyright © 2020 by Richard Siken. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Maya

We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.

Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

From this low-lying valley; Oh, how sweet 
And cool and calm and great is life, I ween, 
There on yon mountain-throne—that sun-gold crest! 

From this uplifted, mighty mountain-seat: 
How bright and still and warm and soft and green
Seems yon low lily-vale of peace and rest! 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Because the bee
In my bonnet
Is the B in my bed,
Who I can’t and I
Won’t stop bumping;
We do the humpty
Hump. My big nose
Nestled in her sassafras.
At attention, we round
Each other out. At ease, 
Her peach is a galaxy.

Now and later is a square
I quietly hold on my tongue,
My mouth an empty gesture. 
Spaced out between her legs, 
I am an astronaut.
The gravity of my offense
Adds up to a rational number.

When the heavens are free
From light, I sit desire on my lap.
She is stardust; And I, 
As it were, am impossible.  
When she asks for space
She is the future. When she
Asks for a room, it is the end. 
I place before her chutes,
Ladders, and whatever else
Might fall from the sky.

Copyright © 2021 by Alison C. Rollins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

First, he taught us to use the dead as shawls
in the viscous winter escorting his arrival.
Next, he taught us to forget the dead
were dead, our dead, and dead because of a wager
we did not consent him to make with the thin-lipped
savior of his own pantomime. Third, he delivered
on promises that blew off the tops of homes
in places whose names he could not pronounce.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown1
forced to fit a quiet country that has no need

for a crown. Where once was honey unhived
competition. The drones meant for war
prepared for war. We dusted our shoulders
of Shadows’ silent reconnaissance, surveilled
as practice for a slaughter we did not consent to.
The royal parade pride’s malady stomped
its sequence through beat drums of human skin
from which emanated a rhythm impossible
to decipher. I too would shake my ass
to the sound of stars falling night-
wise into a pit of myth-bent nomenclature
if the names sounded like home. Under eroding
circumstances, this kingdom could become home.
Under eroding circumstances my gasp
has become home enough, love not
consented to yet detected from beneath
my mindless right hand pressing its devotion
to ritual over my heart, flag above waving heaven
and blood into the smoke-diffused sky I
quake my way through anthems beneath. Rockets
glaring off my breath forced to evidence I belong.
The crown is crooked. We straighten it
with vote-vapid hands. The crown sits too heavy
for the king to carry on his own. When it falls
“O say can you see,” strikes its inquisition.
My knees, summoned to straighten at the hinges
permission most questionably opens from,
strike the earth with a kiss. Could I
kneel my way to revolution?
Would that goad the king to unzip?

King Henry IV, Part Two

Copyright © 2021 by Phillip B. Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.