A firm hand. The shadow waves of satin.
I am not yet flesh. He calls me baby,
and I touch my face. I’m searching for god
when I oil my body in the mirror. To love it
means to love a man means an opening
to another man. When I take my glasses off
all the lines blur. A body is a body without
language, I tell my girlfriend and she laughs,
mouth wide enough to hide in. She shows me
my softest parts. I dissolve into what. I forget
hiding also means a good beating, the way
passion can be suffering. I can’t believe
my whole life I never touched what made me
holy. We have bread, butter and nowhere to be.

Copyright © 2022 by Dujie Tahat. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I tried to write about hope
But wasn’t sure I had the audacity
The pandemic took a toll
And our last president was a fascist
Said he did more for Christianity
Than Jesus
And between the BLM protest and right wing hatred we just
Stayed inside and tried to live
Contemplating if loans would be forgiven
To provide a little relief
We were safe at home but had to march in the streets
To beats
Of Black Lives Matter
See I was flattered
To be part of the Healthcare Hero’s
Until I start telling the truth and the death toll added zeros
And zeros
Until the number reached 100000
And still people believed it was a hoax
And wouldn’t wear masks in public places
The deck was stacked against us and the government held
But they underbid as the death toll continued to rise
But as the number grew there were fewer tears from eyes
Of the privileged
Because big business needed that money
Propaganda had normal people acting funny
Yet still I dared to hope
Until I couldn't breathe as
George Floyd choked and his killer walked the streets free
We're going back into summer
But instead of George Floyd the name we will march to is
Daunte Wright
And we again will wear our masks as we continue to fight
Systems of oppression
The National Guards were called and wore bullet proof vest
When we said Black Lives Matter
But were nowhere to be seen when the right wing
Unhinged the government’s seat of power
And the hours
Continued to tick on
525600 deaths but rent wasn’t on
But Nurses were on
The verge of a mental break down every day
Saving lives of the people who claimed don’t tread on me
And yet I say I’m going to write about hope
As a black woman in America it’s impossible not to choke
On the repetitious contradictions
Vaccines vs quarantine things while the seams are bursting
On the national debt
“Make 600 dollars enough” because it’s all you gone get
As you try to survive this crisis
Going hungry while giving the nation its slice is
Your patriotic duty
I’m a poet and I know it sounds looney
That I can’t write about hope
2020 had me riding a high worse than dope
And when I came down it was comparative to death
Knowing that nothing would change
So I inhale and deep breath
And continue to think about hope

Copyright © 2022 by Ashanti Files. Used with permission of the author.

                The world is a beautiful place 
                                                           to be born into 
if you don’t mind happiness 
                                             not always being 
                                                                        so very much fun 
       if you don’t mind a touch of hell
                                                       now and then
                just when everything is fine
                                                             because even in heaven
                                they don’t sing 
                                                        all the time

             The world is a beautiful place
                                                           to be born into
       if you don’t mind some people dying
                                                                  all the time
                        or maybe only starving
                                                           some of the time
                 which isn’t half so bad
                                                      if it isn’t you

      Oh the world is a beautiful place
                                                          to be born into
               if you don’t much mind
                                                   a few dead minds
                    in the higher places
                                                    or a bomb or two
                            now and then
                                                  in your upturned faces
         or such other improprieties
                                                    as our Name Brand society
                                  is prey to
                                              with its men of distinction
             and its men of extinction
                                                   and its priests
                         and other patrolmen
                                                         and its various segregations
         and congressional investigations
                                                             and other constipations
                        that our fool flesh
                                                     is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
                                                           for a lot of such things as
         making the fun scene
                                                and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
                                         and singing low songs of having 
and walking around 
                                looking at everything
                                                                  and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
                              and even thinking 
                                                         and kissing people and
     making babies and wearing pants
                                                         and waving hats and
                                                and going swimming in rivers
                              on picnics
                                       in the middle of the summer
and just generally
                            ‘living it up’

   but then right in the middle of it
                                                    comes the smiling


From A Coney Island of the Mind, copyright ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.