The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

From The Wild Iris, published by Ecco Press, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück. All rights reserved. Used with permission. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2020.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

This poem is in the public domain.

& each fish feels solid land before its gills
cease moving. I miss sex but can’t imagine 

dating. Glass shatters in patterns designed 
for a specific aftermath. What confession  

offers isn’t relief. From my bed, coverlet tucked 
under chin, I heard my father’s hand connect 

with my mother’s cheek. A fish slap requires 
actual fish-to-face contact. Windowpanes 

bust in shards. Car windshields spider & smash
into square chunks or mini blocks, so on impact 

they won’t decapitate or slash the face. A tank’s
ideal temperature for tropical fish is 75 to 80 degrees. 

I tried to learn how to stab the worm on the hook 
to bait the prey, but in the end I was only called 

a pussy. Tackle box tipped over, the red & white
striped sleek lure. Don’t they think of everything: 

claims to cover any minor loss, inspections to avert 
damage. Even so, at the health center, the multiple-choice

form omits the oval to fill in adopted so I leave 
the question blank. We’re here to consider my choices

in contraception, how to prevent an itchy rash down there 
& to discuss the definitions of sex & life. What’s hereditary 

gets lost to wonderland, elsewhere a consultant advises 
curators on predation, tells the team which fish to import 

for show-stopping colors & compatibility. But we know 
the inspector misses the crack, walks by the leak, & finally 

without pause someone sweeps & stuffs dozens of trash bags 
with glass & dead fish parts. We want what we want.

Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Audsley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

It is really something when a kid who has a hard time becomes a kid who’s having a good time in no small part thanks to you throwing that kid in the air again and again on a mile long walk home from the Indian joint as her mom looks sideways at you like you don’t need to keep doing this because you’re pouring with sweat and breathing a little bit now you’re getting a good workout but because the kid laughs like a horse up there laughs like a kangaroo beating her wings against the light because she laughs like a happy little kid and when coming down and grabbing your forearm to brace herself for the time when you will drop her which you don’t and slides her hand into yours as she says for the fortieth time the fiftieth time inexhaustible her delight again again again and again and you say give me til the redbud tree or give me til the persimmon tree because she knows the trees and so quiet you almost can’t hear through her giggles she says ok til the next tree when she explodes howling yanking your arm from the socket again again all the wolves and mourning doves flying from her tiny throat and you throw her so high she lives up there in the tree for a minute she notices the ants organizing on the bark and a bumblebee carousing the little unripe persimmon in its beret she laughs and laughs as she hovers up there like a bumblebee like a hummingbird up there giggling in the light like a giddy little girl up there the world knows how to love.

Copyright © 2023 by Ross Gay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

His fisherman’s cap 
is gray as is the sea 
where he stares. He once 
saw a mermaid 

there     near
the shore tangled 
in kelp. She wanted him 
to not see her. She wasn’t 

a gift. He wasn’t. Yet 
he stared. Keeps returning 
to stare at the now
nothing he sees. Nothing 

as in not her.
He once said he loved 
her     sea life.
He’s captured     capturer.

Blame agony.  
Blame perpetual 
return to the kelp 
stuck to his feet     for 

the wind over 
ears     in canals.
She’s singing 
a water hymn  

not to him
but to the air.  
This is where 
he dissolves.  

Copyright © 2024 by Myronn Hardy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The lamp is like a capsized ship

——or like a lantern gone drunk
 

And she’s to sleep by it

——or stare wide-eyed at its light askew
 

And she’s to read to it

——to put it to sleep
 

And she’s to dream in it

——warmly aglow as a leopard
 

whose body is shadow and light

——Whose body isn’t?
 

She’s missing again

——Where did she go?
 

Curled-in

——Is she spiraling?
 

Less energy than that…

——Will the bedsheets accommodate her?
 

She’s alone in them, alone where she can

easily breathe
 

——despite the horrors the stretchers the gasping …?


How can anyone

——breathe easily …. She must
 

be still as a Bradford Pear in uneasy shadow…

——That tree that self-destructs that tree that neuters the real pear trees


What a blow it was so beautiful and erect at first—

——and she so lonely
 

Lonely as a cup

——Here is a card:


She needs the Lion today, the one who leaves

gold footprints in the marsh

Copyright © 2024 by Alessandra Lynch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

Who knows the secrets in my gaze?
What holds me back when I might choke?
Who sees beyond my taut hellos
To see the grief etched on my face?
Nobody knows what lurks within;
Nobody brings me back again.
Who needs to disappear for a while?
Who sings my name beyond the veil?
Who has my memories, my tales?
Who’s lurking in my carpet’s dust?
Nobody feels this weight beneath my skin.
Who knows I’m grieving as I walk?
Who has the list of gravity’s costs?
Nobody but the man I’ve lost.

Copyright © 2024 by Allison Joseph. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

It must have been hard for him on days 
when the sun hit the muddy delta, 
sending up what smelled like failure, 
rotten and man-made. Still, he drove 
his old, rusty car down Pacific to 
the college, where he sat by those 
half his age who knew little of how 
they would begin, how easily beginnings 
turn into a thousand dark miles of water.
But they knew school, much more about it
than he did-which words to use when, 
how to give nothing but the requirement, 
to hide between clauses and commas.
This was his mistake of the essay 
called “What Life Means to Me”:

         My shadow on the ocean’s face, the frayed 
         water behind a boat. Rainbows and valleys 
         and leis for my daughters, that they forgive 
         me for leaving and all that I couldn’t give.

Some nameless face read through it, asking 
for predicates, circling fragments, then went on, 
knowing our father’s tears, yet deeming them
unremarkable. I can see his hands thumbing 
the red-marked page, searching for a glimpse 
of understanding and finding none, his face 
burning with shame for not knowing how much 
it would take to begin again, to go back across 
the water. He must have left that day thinking 
he had to work even harder for our love, to be 
a real father, responsible and clean as grammar.

Copyright © 2008 by Brandy Nālani McDougall. This poem appeared in The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Pa'Akai (Kuleana Oiwi Press, 2008)Used with permission of the author.

Raymond Luczak performs his ASL poem “Otters,” with voiceover and subtitles in English and ASL Gloss.


In English and ASL gloss

[English]

in a documentary
they dove in
into the burble
of river, braiding
around each other
their combed fur
shining in the sun
their eyes twinkling
watching them
I wished my hearing siblings
had been more like them
always pulling me in
to cavort with them


[ASL gloss]

me watch-watch d-o-c-u-m-e-n-t-a-r-y
{creature-wriggle creature-wriggle}
water {cascade-left-right-down}
{creature-dive-down creature-rise-up
around-each-other
fur-lining-arms-chest} wet
sun {on-me}
chest-shine-shine
eyes-shine-shine
me-wish hearing brother-sister
same-same
{creature-dive-down creature-rise-up}
come-on-come-on
join play-play

Copyright © 2023 by Raymond Luczak. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The fox with broken legs has a gift others do not. He removes his paws and they go walking through the woods at night alone. The paws stop to touch pondwater, to brush a blade of saltgrass. They tap the backs of passing beetles in the dark. At dawn, they return to the fox, whispering of rabbits curled in damp caverns, of green oak leaves and sand. The fox listens carefully; he gleans secrets of the world this way. He learns of the earth without lifting his nose from his long, broken limbs. Always, when the paws return they say we missed you, always he listens. How young, how simple they seem beside his face which is mottled and pocked. He gentles the paws like children. He hopes when he dies they live on without him. When his bones rattle and shake in wind, he hopes the paws walk through autumn leaves, pad softly through newfallen snow. He dreams they will drift across a black lake dappled with rain; that, above it, they’ll rise; they’ll glow like four pale moons.

Copyright © 2022 by Dara Yen Elerath. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I hate being hated even though I 
provoke it, not by committing major wrongs 
like murder, more like a regular 
pattern of being selfish or forgetful, 
which is another word for selfish. 
If you hate me, trust me I know—
in fact, I have a ledger of people, like you, 
who hate me, and I rifle through it every 
morning obsessing over the names more 
than they think about mine—a passing 
thought, a microsecond of dislike or worse, 
indifference like the Godzilla rays of fire 
I feel buzz out of your eyes when 
you scroll past my pictures on Instagram. 
I should focus on the people who love me,
every therapist I ever had has told me so, 
but I don’t need them to love me more, 
so that’s pointless. If we hate each other, 
I assure you my hate has a trace of love 
with a dash of hope. It’s the throbbing 
contradiction of hate’s dark thrall. 

Copyright © 2023 by Carmen Giménez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through
living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days.
   —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929


Teeth at the skin. Anticipation.
Then flesh. Grain on the tongue.
Eve's knees ground in the dirt
of paradise. Newton watching
gravity happen. The history
of apples in each starry core,
every papery chamber's bright
bitter seed. Woody stem
an infant tree. William Tell
and his lucky arrow. Orchards
of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels.
Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew.
Cedar apple rust. The apple endures.
Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors.
The first pip raised in Kazakhstan.
Snow White with poison on her lips.
The buried blades of Halloween.
Budding and grafting. John Chapman
in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward
Expansion. Apple pie. American
as. Hard cider. Winter banana.
Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet
by hives of Britain's honeybees:
white man's flies. O eat. O eat.

From The Book of Men, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by Dorianne Laux. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

When I talk to my friends I pretend I am standing on the wings 

of a flying plane. I cannot be trusted to tell them how I am. 
Or if I am falling to earth weighing less 

than a dozen roses. Sometimes I dream they have broken up 

with their lovers and are carrying food to my house. 
When I open the mailbox I hear their voices 

like the long upward-winding curve of a train whistle 

passing through the tall grasses and ferns 
after the train has passed. I never get ahead of their shadows. 

I embrace them in front of moving cars. I keep them away 

from my miseries because to say I am miserable is to say I am like them. 

Copyright© 2005 by Jason Shinder. First published in The American Poetry Review, November/December 2005. From Stupid Hope (Graywolf, 2009). Appears with permission of the Literary Estate of Jason Shinder.

    I have a friend
And my heart from hence
Is closed to friendship,
Nor the gods’ knees hold but one;
He watches with me thru the long night,
And when I call he comes,
Or when he calls I am there;
He does not ask me how beloved
Are my husband and children,
Nor ever do I require
Details of life and love
In the grave—his home,—
    We are such friends.

From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.

A bed should be a tender slab, devoid of insects.

A tired woman should be able to lie across diagonally,
headache to hag feet.

A bed should exist in crystalline silence.

It should have a sleepy blue view.
A nearby window not close to voyeurs.

A bed should have a special pillow to shush the head,
to coddle and safety the amygdala.

If established on the ground, a bed should have
a bioluminescent quilt to redirect the gaze: the prey
is over there.

If established in a tree, the quilt may allow for free feet
or a tossback with luxuriant abandon.

Among other things, do not build your bed on dictionaries
or books of any kind.

A bed is best made from a wood frame, or metal, or dark matter.

A bed should be free of lye, lime, and liars.

One should be able to enter the bed and think
I could fly far away in this. I could die; I could just die.

Copyright © 2023 by Jill Khoury. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

a thousand years of daughters, then me.
what else could i have learned to be?

girl after girl after giving herself to herself
one long ring-shout name, monarchy of copper 

& coal shoulders. the body too is a garment.
i learn this best from the snake angulating 

out of her pork-rind dress. i crawl out of myself 
into myself, take refuge where i flee. 

once, i snatched my heart out like a track 
& found not a heart, but two girls forever 

playing slide on a porch in my chest.
who knows how they keep count

they could be a single girl doubled 
& joined at the hands. i’m stalling.

i want to say something without saying it 
but there’s no time. i’m waiting for a few folks 

i love dearly to die so i can be myself.
please don’t make me say who. 

bitch, the garments i’d buy if my baby
wasn’t alive. if they woke up at their wake 

they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise.

Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith. This poem was first printed in Los Angeles Review of Books, No. 15 (Summer 2017). Used with the permission of the author.

Two years into anorexia recovery, 
when I begin to miss dying more than ever, 
my cat begins to hide. 
She disappears for hours and I find her 
hammocked in the lining of my couch. 
She has hollowed it out with her teeth 
and stares at me through cobwebbed eyes. 

I am startled at my own anger. 
After all the time and love I’ve given her, 
I can’t forgive her turning away like this. 
My partner reminds me that cats 
do not know how to be cruel, 
but they do know survival and fear. 
Each day, I reach into the dark 
mouth of the couch and pull her, 
claws and all, back into life. 

Weeks later, she dies with no one home. 
I discover the body and the urge to blame 
myself glows hot in my chest. 
How could I let her die 
in an empty house? 
How could I be so cruel. 

On the drive to donate her body, 
my partner apologizes with every breath. 
We pull over and he cries into my coat, 
How could I let this happen? 
And I know that if he feels guilty too, 
maybe the blame belongs to neither of us. 

This is the person who tried 
to breathe life back into the cat’s corpse, 
without realizing what he was doing. 
He did it because his instincts told him to, 
because every cell in his body is good. 
For weeks, the memory will make him 
shiver, gag, rinse the moment from his mouth. 

This is the person who gave everything 
to keep me alive, when letting me die 
was the easiest thing to do. 
He never stopped looking for me 
when I hid in the hollows of myself and my heart 
became a shadowy hallway of locked doors. 

This is the person who, if I died 
as the doctor said I would, 
would surely blame himself, 
and I would bang my phantom fists 
against the plexiglass of the living world, 
screaming No! 

I did not die. 
And when I was stuck in the hospital, 
sobbing as I pictured him living our life alone, 
I wrote him a letter asking how 
he could ever forgive me. 
He wrote back saying I would 
rather miss you for a while 
than miss you forever. 

In the car now, he asks how 
we’ll ever survive this 
and I say Together. 

Copyright © 2024 by Nen G. Ramirez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.