We’ve turned our walks into finding things
that catch fire easily, like us
our fascination with bush craft—
how to survive in a forest
without the conveniences
we have at home
the first human to discover fire
rubbed two stones together
friction is a good thing.
we have fun starting fires
scratching the Mora knife against the small iron rod
sending sparks into a nest of dried grass and fibrous barks
you put out the flame with the sole of your hiking boot
so we can begin, again
by the time we leave the forest,
we’ve discovered deer poo combusts easily
human hair doesn’t
I’ve given a lock and you’ve won the bet
By the time we leave
we’ve lost count of the fires we’ve started.
Copyright © 2015 Mildred Barya. This poem originally appeared in Poetry Quarterly. Reprinted with permission of the author.
I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it—
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
My face a featureless, fine
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?—
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me
And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see
Them unwrap me hand and foot—
The big strip tease.
These are my hands
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.
It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
That knocks me out.
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--
A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
23-29 October 1962
From The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Used with permission.
How much like angels are these tall gladiolas in a vase on my coffee table, as if in a bunch whispering. How slender and artless, how scandalously alive, each with its own humors and pulse. Each weight- bearing stem is the stem of a thought through which aspires the blood-metal of stars. Each heart is a gift for the king. When I was a child, my mother and aunts would sit in the kitchen gossiping. One would tip her head toward me, “Little Ears,” she’d warn, and the whole room went silent. Now, before sunrise, what secrets I am told!—being quieter than blossoms and near invisible.
Copyright © 2018 by Toi Derricotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What words can you wrap around
a dying brother, still dying, even now.
A man who has not eaten for a month
sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift.
He asks what other gifts God has given him.
I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner.
And he smiles and rasps—
you can only unwrap a child once.
The rest is prayer and even more prayer.
You sing softly to him in a language
only the two of you speak and he
snores softly into your palm, breath and blood.
Copyright © 2018 by Chris Abani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We were stepping out of a reading
in October, the first cold night,
and we were following this couple,
were they at the reading? and because
we were lost, I called out to them,
“Are you going to the after party?”
The woman laughed and said no
and the man kept walking, and she
was holding his hand like I hold yours,
though not exactly, she did not
need him for balance. Then what
got into me? I said, “How long
have you been married?” and she said
“Almost 30 years” and because
we were walking in public, no secret,
tell everyone now it’s official,
I said, “How’s marriage?” The man
kept walking. The woman said,
“It gets better but then it gets different.”
The man kept walking.
Copyright © 2015 by Jillian Weise. Used with permission of the author.