Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
If our angels hover above us,
they will see a darkening cornfield, the spectral traces
of lightning bugs, and two brothers
lying among the stalks.
We come because sometimes it is hard to live.
The cornstalks, limp under the tropical sun,
revive in the cool of twilight.
The angels will know we have been here for hours.
They will land and rest their feathers around us
and whisper soothing names of winged things: finch, monarch,
whippoorwill, ptarmigan, Daedalus, Icarus, Gabriel...
The angels will bend down and touch their faces
onto ours and borrow our eyes: Earlier,
a horse slipped, breaking its leg.
A boy stood beside his younger brother.
Their father came into the stable, carrying a gun.
Quails flitted out of a bamboo tree; the boy
traced the trail that had led him here,
the field tilled by the dead horse,
where his brother laid down,
dust on his cheeks.
From Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi (CavanKerry Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the poet.
Three days into his wake my father has not risen. He remains encased in pine, hollowed- out, his body unsealed, organs harvested, then zippered shut like a purse. How strange to see one’s face inside a coffin. The son at my most peaceful. The father at his most peaceful. Not even the loud chorus of wailing family members can rid us of our sleep. My mother sits front center. Regal in black, her eyes sharpened as Cleopatra’s. Her children, grown and groaning, quietly moan beside a white copse of trumpeting flowers. The church is forested with immigrants, spent after their long journey to another country to die. Before the casket is to be closed, we all rise to bid our final farewells. My mother lowers herself, kisses the trinity of the forehead and cheeks, then motions her obedient children to follow. One by one my siblings hover, perch, and peck. I stand over my father as I had done on occasions of safe approach: in his sleep, or splayed like a crushed toad on the floor, drunk. I study him, planetary, distant presence both bodily and otherworldly, a deceptive kind of knowledge. His beauty has waned but not faded, face surface of a moon, not ours, I turn pale, shivering, I place my hand on his, amphibious. While my mother places her hand warm on the cradle of my back, where I bend to fit into my body. Her burning eyes speak, Do it for me, they urge, Kiss your father goodbye. I refuse.
Copyright © 2018 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Dad I’m writing you 10 years later & 2,000 miles Away from Our silence My mouth a cave That had collapsed I’m writing While you You wear the Hospital gown & count failures Such as the body’s Inability to rise I see your fingers Fumbling in the Pillbox as if Earthquakes are in Your hands I think it’s time For us to abandon Our cruelties For us to speak So s o f t We’re barely Human.
Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
A man can’t die where there is no earth because there will be no place to bury him. His body is the sky and understands the language of birds. His body says the earth is made of everything that has fallen from Heaven while no one was looking. He promises to defy gravity and then return home. A man can’t reach for the sky and not feel he is falling. It goes on forever and the birds talk about the awesomeness of flight while the oxen labor in the fields, while the cows eat grass and dream of slaughter. A man can’t talk about flight because one day, there will be no sky, just the body covered in earth. And now the sky is empty of birds. And now the earth is covered in flowers.
Copyright © 2017 by W. Todd Kaneko. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
translated by Francisco Aragón
and I greet
we sit down
to eat like
yet I know
beneath it all
y yo nos
en un campo
a comer como
yo sé que
en el fondo
From From the Other Side of Night/del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems by Francisco X. Alarcón. © 2002 The Arizona Board of Regents. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.
Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.
We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.
From Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Saeed Jones. Used with permission of The Permissions Company on behalf of Coffee House Press.