is a field
as long as the butterflies say
it is a field
with their flight
it takes a long time
like light or sound or language
we have more
than six sense dialect
adjusting to time
the distance and its permanence
i have found my shortcuts
where i first took form
in the field
Copyright © 2022 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
More like a basket
of twig and hair,
in a tree
outside my bedroom
something lived in there
you wouldn’t assume
lived in a nest.
Then I knew:
a human lived there.
And once I knew—
the nest, nearly
still in the tree.
It wasn’t about trauma, the perfect
and then the broken
in which a human
Born and lit and broken
Copyright © 2023 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
To live without the one you love
an empty dream never known
true happiness except as such youth
watching snow at window
listening to old music through morning.
Riding down that deserted street
by evening in a lonely cab
past a blighted theatre
oh god yes, I missed the chance of my life
when I gasped, when I got up and
rushed out the room
away from you.
From Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners, edited by Joshua Beckman, CAConrad, and Robert Dewhurst © 2015 John Wieners Literary Trust, Raymond Foye, Administrator. Reprinted with the permission of The John Wieners Literary Trust.
A stream of tender gladness,
Of filmy sun, and opal tinted skies;
Of warm midsummer air that lightly lies
In mystic rings,
Where softly swings
The music of a thousand wings
That almost tones to sadness.
Midway ’twixt earth and heaven,
A bubble in the pearly air, I seem
To float upon the sapphire floor, a dream
Of clouds of snow,
Drift with my drifting, dim and slow,
As twilight drifts to even.
The little fern-leaf, bending
Upon the brink, its green reflection greets,
And kisses soft the shadow that it meets
With touch so fine,
The border line
The keenest vision can’t define;
So perfect is the blending.
The far, fir trees that cover
The brownish hills with needles green and gold,
The arching elms o’erhead, vinegrown and old,
Beneath me far,
Where not a ripple moves to mar
Shades underneath, or over.
Mine is the undertone;
The beauty, strength, and power of the land
Will never stir or bend at my command;
But all the shade
Is marred or made,
If I but dip my paddle blade;
And it is mine alone.
O! pathless world of seeming!
O! pathless life of mine whose deep ideal
Is more my own than ever was the real.
For others Fame
And Love’s red flame,
And yellow gold: I only claim
The shadows and the dreaming.
From Flint and Feather: The Complete Poems of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) (The Musson Book Co., Limited, 1917) by Emily Pauline Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.
Even in the dream, it is long past the possible
when I uncover my breast and hold the baby
close enough to drink. How helpless he is
to resist, helpless as the mind in a deep dream
to stop and change direction. Though, on waking,
the mind remembers our grown daughters
and the room where we sleep, and beyond it,
the outside made white with smoke from a fire.
Remembers, yesterday’s eerie milk-gold light
we walked through, and stopped a moment
beside a baby fox. In the road, wasps lighted on his skull,
their black bodies beading his torn-apart torso,
while gnats and flies sipped at the glistening.
And the work of those winged things seemed a fire
chewing through manzanita and alder,
Douglas fir and cedar, the maggots and flies
and wasps carrying the forest out of the fox,
the way the fire carried the forest out of the world.
You asked then if a mother fox could feel sadness.
And because last night my mind had used a memory
of my body to deceive me, had pressed my son close,
believing if he drank, I could keep him,
I want to believe the dead fox was a twin,
a mirror image following yet behind the vixen,
the way a dream can shadow the mind,
and the mind helpless against our stillborn son
that lives inside my dreams and runs silent
as a wild fox behind our daughters. It was dusk
when we turned to go, so quickly the wasps and flies
rose together, as if the black-and-yellow robes
they carried through the milk-gold light had slipped
from the death they had just been covering. All of us helpless
against the beauty of the hurt world as it burns.
Copyright © 2022 by Julia B. Levine. This poem appeared in Southern Review, 2022. Used with permission of the author.
The lights in the bedroom flickered off and on.
I lay in our bed listening to a heavy thumping
coming from somewhere, quickening.
In a half-dream, I created the idea of walking to the door
and shouting, Who’s doing that?
Even the thought of it was tiring, and I rolled over with eyes half-closed,
lucid enough to be afraid to sleep but longing for it
with the same urgency I longed to take a deep breath
without pain, or to be able to sit up
without my lungs feeling crushed.
I tried to fill my thoughts with something other
than the every-second-of-half-breathing, the crushing and stupor.
Was the sound growing near?
Was it a foot banging a door, my daughter running circles in the living
room, feet pounding in a rhythmic pattern?
Was it the neighbor at some task again that required loud repetitive
pounding and screeching?
The questions were something to latch onto in my mind. I entertained them.
A slit of light broke from the bedroom door and my son crawled in
beside me, wrapping his small limbs around mine
underneath the coat of blankets. He was whispering but I could not
hear because of the thumping.
Who is doing that, I said. I slept.
My husband woke me to feed me soup, water from a straw.
I sat up in bed, the room bluing. Our five-year-old
jumping on the bed, adding a beat to the drumming
that started again when I opened my eyes (though I was sure
I heard it in my sleep).
It had been weeks since I’d left either the bed, or the couch,
laying, blinking, and when awake, staring through the window,
at a wall, at one of the children’s faces.
Breath came as if through a tiny sieve, which I gulped in small pockets.
You’re here, the doctor said one morning on the phone.
Be grateful. So the air like fish eggs, like the meager rationing
in the form of pills.
Sucking, coughing, my chest strained and ready to snap.
Nebulizer hush and burr. Inhaler sip. Eight more times.
Times seven. Again. Times sixty days.
The world shimmered in blue, the faces of my son, my husband
and our girls, cast in that same blue.
One morning or one night, or the next day, or the night that was yesterday
and before, tomorrow, I dreamt of running at full speed
down our street, past the school, toward the bayou ten blocks away.
The banks were filling with rain, ready to break over the edge
of the concrete embarkment, and I ran so hard every part of me
ached and I knew that this feeling, familiar, happened yesterday,
today, and tomorrow. I woke up wheezing and choking.
The thumping in my ears, my own heart racing,
like I was running, every second running.
At the insistence of my husband, I sat outside wrapped in a blanket,
feeling shorn. I watched my children play in the front yard
while the light flickered through the leaves of the tree on the lawn.
Underneath the world—or was it beside it, along it, between it?
(There was no relative space to pin it)—I saw the pulsing of blue,
an under-color to the kaleidoscope of reality’s rough imagery—
my son’s kid sneakers of black and red and white, flashing lights
when he jumped, my-eight-year-old’s plastic sandals, both of the children
dangling off the edge of a spider swing, their small hands flayed out
and waving. The laughter, her sigh.
Underneath it all was this color, not an earthly blue, blue of ocean,
precious stone or gem cut into rock, a sky flanking a horizon. No.
This blue which was not blue was the color of sacred, deep,
with a center to it, blood of childbirth, the whitened lips of the dead,
the infant’s purple wail—
all of it mixed together, long and unraveling, a cruel silence
with a terrifying bell inside.
I rested my head back on the chair and stared at the sky
that was no longer the sky.
I blinked and felt close to that color—this underwater, the blue eggs,
blue veins on an infant’s foot, the black feather of a blue jay that feigned
blue, the blue mouth of a glacier.
Was this what ran parallel and twinned to our lives,
a universe linked with a battered rope to this one,
where I had died, and hanging by a thread
to the universe where I lived.
The giant bell in its cruel silence behind the blue,
and my rollercoaster heartbeat readying me for the terrifying drop
to the ground. I longed to hear the bell.
I would not share it, only save it inside my body,
and never, even to my worst enemies, (but is that true?)
tell anyone the sound it made that killed small parts
all at once with a blow.
I opened my eyes, heavy pinned.
I had already heard the bell.
I had already imagined my children without me.
I sat feeling the holes of it,
Light overhead grew brighter
until wind threw the branches together,
a dark shadow enveloping our family.
Spin faster, I said to my children.
Do it again.
Copyright © 2020 by Leslie Contreras Schwartz. This poem originally appeared in Luna Luna, June 2020. Used with permission of the author.
I saw in dreams a landscape
With not a shadow by,
It seemed so like a promise
Half-hidden in the sky.
There were high hills and mountains
In purple drest and green,
Like shades and shapes fantastic
Only in dreaming seen.
The waters clear and limpid
Had but a speck to mar,
For in the depths was mirrored
The image of a Star.
Only but once there hovered
Indistinct forms and lone,
Calling to mind the faces
I knew in days by-gone.
I seemed to see them falter
As they were lost to view,
They paused and fell to doubting
Which pathway to pursue.
To them faint words were given,
I thought I heard them say,
We know not where to wander,
But cannot choose to stay.
“Over the realms of heaven
We silently must rove,
With but the Star to guide us
Back to the friends we love.”
Ah, fleeting are the fancies,
Deceiving us too well,
Nor sage nor saint can fathom
The mysteries they tell.
From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc.,1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain.
The right to make my dreams come true,
I ask, nay, I demand of life,
Nor shall fate’s deadly contraband
Impede my steps, nor countermand;
Too long my heart against the ground
Has beat the dusty years around,
And now at length I rise! I wake!
And stride into the morning break!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
He predicted froth, and geese
took to the sky like a hurricane.
I trust my captain. He told me
when I turn over on my stomach in sleep
to think of loneliness. I draw a circle
and put an X through it for here, meaning ship.
All I packed was an empty pillowcase and aspirin
and rain I collected. The geese turn their bodies
into clouds for me to pour the rain.
Nights I tuck my fingers into feathers
and repeat a song I was sung as a baby.
Copyright © 2018 Joanna I. Kaminsky. Reprinted with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Autumn 2018.
In what I think is a dream,
I look at some manifestation of the past
& say, I know you’re not real. Someone has to.
As most dream-things do, the past
shapeshifts, reconstitutes itself with new
eyes & a new haircut—the past
made over—& then I forget its name.
I forget what I’m doing with the past.
What is that joke about the river?
It’s not really a joke, no more than the past
is really past—the one about water never
being the same water. As it flows past,
the river’s current—now that’s a joke—
is always flowing now, now, now. Past
seven, when I wake from what I think
is a dream—a dream where I tell the past
the truth about itself—it is the present
as it always is. There is no past.
Copyright © 2018 Maggie Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Summer 2018.