Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."
She's all states, and all princes I;
Nothing else is;
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.
This poem is in the public domain.
When the light wakes & finds again
the music of brooms in Mexico,
when daylight pulls our hands from grief,
& hearts cleaned raw with sawdust
& saltwater flood their dazzling vessels,
when the catfish in the river
raise their eyelids towards your face,
when sweetgrass bends in waves
across battlefields where sweat
& sugar marry, when we hear our people
wearing tongues fine with plain
greeting: How You Doing, Good Morning
when I pour coffee & remember
my mother's love of buttered grits,
when the trains far away in memory
begin to turn their engines toward
a deep past of knowing,
when all I want to do is burn
my masks, when I see a woman
walking down the street holding her mind
like a leather belt, when I pluck a blues note
for my lazy shadow & cast its soul from my page,
when I see God's eyes looking up at black folks
flying between moonlight & museum,
when I see a good-looking people
who are my truest poetry,
when I pick up this pencil like a flute
& blow myself away from my death,
I listen to you again beneath the mercy
of a blue morning's grammar.
Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in the Southern Humanities Review, Vol. 49.3. Used with permission of the author.
They say brave but I don’t want it.
Who will we mourn today. Or won’t we.
Black all the windows. Lower
down the afternoon. I barricade
all my belonging. I am mostly never real
American or anything
availing. But I do take. And take
what’s given. The smell of blood.
I breathe it in. The dirt so thick with our good
fortune. And who pays for it. And what am I
but fear, but wanting. I’ll bite
the feeding hand until I’m fed
and buried. In the shining day.
All deadly good
intentions. A catalogue of virtues.
This is how I’ll disappear.
Copyright © 2017 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
So that each
is its own, now—each a fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water,
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren’t
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only
softens further those parts where flesh
There are those
whom no amount of patience looks likely
to improve ever, I always said, meaning
gift is random,
here withheld—almost always
as it’s turned out: how your hands clear
easily the wreckage;
how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved.
From The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips. Copyright © 2004 by Carl Phillips. Reprinted by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. All rights reserved.
A vacant hour before the sun— and with it a valve's pneumatic hush, the deep and nautical clunk of wood, chanson du ricochet of rivet gun, trowel tap, and bolt drawn— the moon sets and water breaks. Curled within a warm pleroma, playing for time, you finally turn and push your face toward November's glint of frost, grains of salt, weak clarities of dawn.
Copyright © 2010 by Devin Johnston. Used with permission of the author.
Wine drunk, ham-faced on the duvet. Cue feelings talk.
Should I have been more detached? Should I not have draped myself
on the heat vent wearing only my socks—like so?
Because he addressed me always by both names. Cooked for me when I wouldn’t eat.
Making Thanksgiving food for himself in October. Patron saint of the head start.
With his dog who spoke English, possibly other languages.
Trailing a red robe in the kitchen like he was waiting for coronation.
If I loved someone like that. A figure of questionable authority
figuring out which relics to preserve under cling wrap.
For the way he smelled like cedar. Mispronounced the names of plants.
There’s an airport & then there’s The Airport
From Which He Called Me On Our Second Anniversary
To Say He Couldn’t Love Me & Would Never Marry Me Ever.
At some gate there’s a specifically culpable airplane he was on for 12 hours, no contact.
There’s another woman & then there’s The Woman
I Knew He Would Leave Me For, there in a hotel with him—
there to soothe him, to believe, as I did, in redemptive sadness.
There’s regret & then there’s being so angry at myself
that I drove all night until I found the water & walked into it, March lakewater
gray & stinging. Muscovy ducks in the shallows, their strange low muttering.
What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify
anyone who leaves me—
I have tried to frame up the cavalry in gravel,
in rectangles, in an honor code
of stamping out the fire. I’m paying attention. Look.
There’s an exchange rate
for bad behavior. It begins with the word until.
I agreed to affirm small kindnesses
until disaster. A risk I could keep now & pay for eventually.
A contract that begets blame begets
guilt. I had to say at every stage I give permission to be hurt. Until.
Once he agreed to stay the night with me
& by morning a small ding in the glass had spidered over
his windshield. The cold shattering it completely.
It’s not anyone’s fault that this world is full of omens.
By all accounts, history is a practice
of ignoring things & hoping for the best. You can drive
yourself crazy with looking. You can expect
bad luck to mark you unfooled, fooled.
Light to mark you with light.
I know in this system I am not blameless.
I used to promise myself
that when we broke up I would tell him
I love you. I thought of it as a punishment.
I dreamed I let him look for me in the woods.
I stayed perfectly quiet. I was covered in rough scales
& my eyelashes dropped burrs when I blinked.
In the dirt below I watched him search for me.
He said Is it enough that I want to be different.
Maple seeds spun out from my hair.
I divorce thee history
of looking at him in the fog
coming up over Scotland.
I divorce thee, North Sea
longing by boat.
I divorce thee, insomnia.
I divorce me driving to him
five hours over ice
& then picking a fight.
I divorce him introducing himself
as my friend, never wanting to be
on the phone; I divorce thee
roasting pan & HGTV, I divorce
staying quiet willing him
to speak. Music for saying things
I wanted to ignore.
Anguish—I divorce thee.
I divorce thee, I divorce thee whole heart:
from the wingbone of a vulture,
I’ve made you a harp.
From Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.
Copyright © 2016 by Alexandra Teague. “Late American Aubade” originally appeared in Cimarron Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.
Copyright © 2018 Mark Wagenaar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Winter 2018.
When sun, light handed, sows this Indian water With a crop of cockles, The vines arrange their tender shadows In the sweet leafage of an artificial France. Awake, in the frames of windows, innocent children, Loving the blue, sprayed leaves of childish life, Applaud the bearded corn, the bleeding grape, And cry: "Here is the hay-colored sun, our marvelous cousin, Walking in the barley, Turning the harrowed earth to growing bread, And splicing the sweet, wounded vine. Lift up your hitch-hiking heads And no more fear the fever, You fugitives, and sleepers in the fields, Here is the hay-colored sun!" And when their shining voices, clean as summer, Play, like churchbells over the field, A hundred dusty Luthers rise from the dead, unheeding, Search the horizon for the gap-toothed grin of factories, And grope, in the green wheat, Toward the wood winds of the western freight.
From In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems ©2005. Reprinted with permission of New Directions Publishing.
And the morning, too,
fog, the pines,
in my bed’s—
on my neck.
and sob buried inside it
like a pulsar
like a larva
in a bean,
for Edward Baugh
Flashing silk phantoms
from the promontory,
when seen at dark
rushing to their beds,
those lights corroding
over Navy Island,
never grow old.
In two enamel basins,
fill water to wash overripe
stars, eaten without
second guess, worm
and all, from veranda
chairs, where no guilt
brims over, whatsoever.
As frost, unknown, intimate
breath bursts hot its kind
silence. Get up, go greet
Errol Flynn’s ghost
at the empty footbridge,
leaning on the breeze.
Maroons hum out
of hills, restless as
“Even days coming
are already gone
too soon,” then return
before the river’s lustre
hides their voices
slow leaves bring
down our morning.
Copyright © 2020 by Ishion Hutchinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.