Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast . . . The slob beside her     feasts . . . What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes.  She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

We’ve lived the life of an unbridled boy 
Mastering the higgledy-piggledy metro, 

Tapping the fast-moving window,
Loving the a cappella names 

Of the heralded stations:
Saint-Paul, Bastille, Gare de Lyon—


The life of a downtrodden clochard,  
Sly, indigent alley crone, 

Still wrestling to recover 
A long-deterred tune:  

Chevalier, dauphin, Parisian charmer,
Don’t you know I’m blue without your wink?


The life of a pendant, park-facing willow, 
Oh sweet, avuncular life—


Incarnation of a curling swan—


The life of an insouciant schoolgirl 
Boulevard-prancing then skipping

In the candle-pale voile of her lark-
Light Corpus Christi dress—


Life of a heartfelt nun whispering novenas
And bidding God’s blessèd day adieu—


The taciturn, time-and-again life 
Of a ringlet-haired racehorse

On a raucous kids’ carousel:
Its red-gold, undignified Sundays—  


Fat life of a tantalized basilica tomcat
Chasing a fly-by-night sparrow in the pews—


The jubilant life of a sweetheart, answering 
Yes, oh yes, I will,

Mon amour, trésor,
You can toss your hat now into the air—

Copyright © 2021 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We dress my daughter in amarillo, not butter
or sunlight or mirasol, maybe an Easter yellow,
maybe a Dia de los muertos yellow, a baby chick
yellow, it doesn’t matter. She flickers
around the house all bare-foot.  She takes you
by the hand and makes you play
La Suavecita on repeat, her hair in brown
bouncy pig-tails. All day. She watches 
your mouth, the way you say tambores,
the way you say cumbia. She won’t stop smiling. 

When she laughs I hear my mother. I am 
back in her house, all bare-foot, dancing 
to the same song. 

My mother dresses in a teal bata, not Miami
or peacock or Tiffany Blue, maybe an Easter teal,
maybe a Dia de los muertos teal, a robin egg 
teal, it doesn’t matter. She flitters
around the house. She takes me
by the hand and teaches me how to spring
my arms, how to move my hips,
how to follow the beat already in my legs.
She tells me,
ay mijo, one day, las muchachas
will want to spend the night with you
on the dance floor. Find those feather feet. 

Carry a smile and laugh, mijo laugh. 
I ask to play the song again and run
to rewind the cassette tape. All day.
My mother is all baila, baila,
all brown curls of bobbing hair
abriendo sus brazos the moment
I learn how to spin her in
our shot-gun house.  She won’t stop smiling.

My mother loves the color yellow.
There is a sing, a flow around inside.
My daughter ooooos the color teal.

When they lay eyes on each other, they watch
each others’ mouths, see just who smiles first.
I’m just here, waiting to see who wants to dance
si no la invito, me invita ella.

Copyright © 2021 by Lupe Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Jack Hirschman (1933-2021)

The words always came running out of your mouth
Tumbling, galloping
Pushing against one another as they took the final turn
The last hundred meters
Where form is lost 
& everyone becomes a futurist
Sacred words split into syllables & break apart
Yours never had wings affixed to them
Only the hammer & sickle 
Harnessed with gumshoe & printing press
Long gray hair alighting from your form
& that gait you had
As if you’d been riding motorcycles all night long
Bowlegged, rickety even 
Probably from kicking fascists in your sleep 
& the other death-headed sorts
You had the sparkle, loud & lavish laughter
Bellowing even
A clamor to stoke awake the fires inside
& push against the fulcrum of the dreadful state
In time, overtaken by the glow & tether of your arcanes
Where life mingled with apparitions 
It’s how you made memory & the present inseparable
Obsecrating all those pages turned 
Dog-eared & brittle after a stretch
To lay words before us, like crumbs
Four thousand pages later
Leaving a richer trail
I remember the raddled years
When you lived like a pauper
Grinning wide & showing off your crooked teeth
More beautiful than any others
The final words I whispered to you
That was wonderful 
Are still ringing in your ears
Though vibrating waves of compression
& rarefactions are dust now
Just in case, let me say it again
That was wonderful

Copyright © 2022 by Matt Gonzalez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Oray

We sat Indian style, & sang our pledge
to Audubon, painted birds on every wall,
& heard mirage when our teachers said
mural. We stole soccer balls from French
exchange, spiked them on the walkway
& yelled touchdown. My friend, where
are you now? We tripped over tree roots
racing to the playground, walked the sea
of wood chips to the plastic ship’s eye
& wheel. We bartered Super Donuts for
extra cartons of chocolate milk, played
duck, duck, duck, duucck, duuuuccckkk
goose. We vamoosed around a sunken
circle of laughter. We were hedgehogs,
were road runners & sombrero mice.
We were bullets, the Flash & every Green
Lantern; the Black ones, the White ones,
the alien ones too.

Copyright © 2022 by Clemonce Heard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

A boy, prettier than me, who loved me because
my vocabulary and because my orange pills, once asked me
to translate my father’s English.

blank square

This poem wants me to translate it too.
Idiot poem, idiot hands for writing it

an accent isn’t sound.
Only those to whom it seems alien
would flatten an accent to sound.

blank square

My poem grew up here, sitting in this American chair
staring out at this lifeless American snow. 

Black grass dying up out of this snow,
through a rabbit’s

long tracks, like a ghost
sitting upright
saying oh.

blank square

But even that’s a lie.

Just black grass, blue snow.
I can’t write this

without trying to make it
beautiful. Submission, resistance, surrender.

blank square

On first
inspecting Adam, the devil entered his lips,

Watch: the devil enters Adam’s lips
crawls through his throat through his guts
to finally emerge out his anus.

He’s all hollow! the devil giggles.
He knows his job will be easy, a human just one long desperation
to be filled.

blank square

My father’s white undershirt peeking out
through his collar. My father’s hand slicing skin, gristle,
from a chicken carcass I hold still against the cutting board.

Sometimes he bites his bottom lip to suppress
what must be
rage. It must be rage

because it makes no sound. My vast
terror at what I can’t hear,

at my ignorance, is untranslatable.
My father speaks in perfect English.

Copyright © 2021 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

For now, we speak only in brooms:
         sweeping sand across the teeth 

of concrete slabs, we brush and repeat 
         each stone syllable of the clearing

where our great grandparents are buried. 

Some words for memory are always here, 
         sounded out by the ant feet 

hefting sand grit and glitter homes, fan-light
         over the blue tongues of plastic flowers— 

the weeds will try to cover all the other ways 
         of saying history. 

But our pronunciation begins with the clearing we make in our bodies first:

where the broom handle widens the oh’s 
         in the mouth of our hands, 

how we shake open the throat 
         to settle each pile of leaves before burning them.

Trust the body to open in our language
         with the rhythm of weight—

one hand pushing sand, 
         the other pulling syllables

in one last sway 
         as we close the gate of the malaʻe 

so the trees can better hiss-hush at the edge of the ancestor 
         speaking in all our names.

Copyright © 2022 by Leora Kava. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mountains, a moment’s earth-waves rising and hollowing; the earth too’s an ephemerid; the stars—
Short-lived as grass the stars quicken in the nebula and dry in their summer, they spiral
Blind up space, scattered black seeds of a future; nothing lives long, the whole sky’s
Recurrences tick the seconds of the hours of the ages of the gulf before birth, and the gulf
After death is like dated: to labor eighty years in a notch of eternity is nothing too tiresome,
Enormous repose after, enormous repose before, the flash of activity.
Surely you never have dreamed the incredible depths were prologue and epilogue merely
To the surface play in the sun, the instant of life, what is called life? I fancy
That silence is the thing, this noise a found word for it; interjection, a jump of the breath at that silence;
Stars burn, grass grows, men breathe: as a man finding treasure says ‘Ah!’ but the treasure’s the essence;
Before the man spoke it was there, and after he has spoken he gathers it, inexhaustible treasure.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by H. D.

Birds from Parnassus,
you dart
from the loftiest peaks;
you hover, dip,
you sway and perch
undaunted on the gold-set cornice;
you eagle,
god’s majestic legate,
who tear, who strike
song-birds in mid-flight,
my arrow whistles toward you,
be off;

ah drift,

ah drift
so soft, so light,
your scarlet foot so deftly placed
to waft you neatly
to the pavement,
swan, swan
and do you really think
your song
that tunes the harp of Helios,
will save you
from the arrow-flight?
turn back,
to the lake of Delos;

lest all the song notes

pause and break
across a blood-stained throat
gone songless,
turn back,
ere it be too late,
to wave-swept Delos.

Alas, and still another,

you’d place your mean nest
in the cornice?
sing, sing
my arrow-string,
tell to the thief
that plaits its house
for fledglings
in the god’s own house,
that still the Alpheus
whispers sweet
to lure
the birdlets to the place,
that still the Isthmus
shines with forests;
on the white statues
must be found
no straw nor litter
of bird-down,
Phœbos must have his portal fair;

and yet, O birds,

though this my labour
is set,
though this my task is clear,
though I must slay you,
I, god’s servant,
I who take here
my bread and life
and sweep the temple,
still I swear
that I would save you,
birds or spirits,
winged songs
that tell to men god’s will;

still, still

the Alpheus whispers clear
to lure the bird-folk
to its waters,
ah still
the Isthmus
blossoms fair;
lest all the song notes
pause and break
across a blood-stained throat
gone songless,
turn back,
ere it be too late,
to wave-swept Delos.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.