That painting with the stack of framed poems,
the one with the stairs that give you a fright
shown just a bit in the left corner,
stairs that lead up to the bell tower
and a panorama of a great religious city
with gold bells like giant overturned cups,

where the pots hang around
like copper-bottomed clouds
and there’s a pitch-black melon on a plate
on a table with two legs under a cracked window,

I bring the whole first stanza in and hang it up
in this bare example of a room,
the spider too. Details of the impasto soup
waft up in dotted lines, reaching
for the painting in which 1.) top poem
is covered with marks of looking
like pieces of packaging tape.

2.)  bottom poem is translated into
an ultraviolet language, Latin.

From The Water Draft (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Alexandria Peary. Used with permission of the author.

for Reuben

When he looks at the edges,
The covers of books and records,
He remembers when and where
He got them, how it felt.
Everything’s a testament
To life lived on the fringe
Of some sense of sanity.

All the vehicles for imbibing
These treasures are obsolete.
Even his eyes and ears, as their
Function fades under each year’s
Mud and tussle to stay alive

The damned fine few who know
Try not to lose the memories,
Talk as if each was there
For the other, laughter supplants tears.
If he can, a story gets written
About each song, how a chord
A lyric, the last line of a book

Make more sense, the same as the
Warnings his mother threw
at fledgling feet like seeds in soil.
He wishes he could buy them all again,
Heed the messages, grow as if
Each signpost was a vitamin
Make what became a recollection
A catalyst for pathfinding and strength.

Copyright © 2022 by Brandon D. Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

                     Bolinao, Philippines
I am worried about tentacles.
How you can still get stung
even if the jelly arm disconnects
from the bell. My husband
swims without me—farther
out to sea than I would like,
buoyed by salt and rind of kelp.
I am worried if I step too far
into the China Sea, my baby
will slow the beautiful kicks
he has just begun since we landed.
The quickening, they call it, 
but all I am is slow, a moon jelly
floating like a bag in the sea.
Or a whale shark. Yes—I could be
a whale shark, newly spotted
with moles from the pregnancy—
my wide mouth always open
to eat and eat with a look that says
Surprise! Did I eat that much?
When I sleep, I am a flutefish,
just lying there, swaying back
and forth among the kelpy mess
of sheets. You can see the wet
of my dark eye awake, awake. 
My husband is a pale blur 
near the horizon, full of adobo
and not waiting thirty minutes 
before swimming. He is free
and waves at me as he backstrokes
past. This is how he prepares
for fatherhood. Such tenderness
still lingers in the air: the Roman
poet Virgil gave his pet fly
the most lavish funeral, complete
with meat feast and barrels 
of oaky wine. You can never know
where or why you hear
a humming on this soft earth.

From Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.m on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, All rights reserved.

for Aya, September 2021

Be kind to her. She’s eleven & already
wants to turn you back. She wished this
after she squeezed a drop from her index
& read me the number. She always insists
I close my eyes & guess
what her blood is saying—
sometimes I’m wrong & sometimes not.

I kiss the tiny tears on her fingertips.
I kiss her arms & thighs before the insulin.
When I ask her to inject herself, I’m asking her to live
without me, & she knows it. When her legs trembled,
& I soothed with “I’m here, I’m here,”
she reminded me: “But you can’t do anything.”
Perhaps she meant “undo.”

Who am I kidding. Time, I demanded your undoing too,
that first night in the hospital before dawn,
when I woke up having forgotten, then remembered
where I was, what had happened.
The neon corridor light, the nurses’ chatter,
the potassium’s slow burn in my daughter’s vein.

Time, I know
I can’t reason with you. You go on and on.
Instead, I’m wishing her
astonishing slowness, softness
inside the arduous & unfair. Like this:

the dog’s limp, the cold coffee, the struggling
baby bougainvillea, the winged ant on the floor,
the half-eaten sandwich, the tenderness
of the 5am light, the daily departures,
the basil plant’s shadow on the wall,
& her hair, the swing of my love’s hair
as she runs, shaking her head
left & right, left & right,
how she always ran like this, always ran
as if swaying, No, No.

Copyright © 2022 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.