Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

This poem is in the public domain.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This poem is in the public domain.

                 And sometimes, yes, I’d beg for it—
           he’d make me beg: Shy moon, 
                      why shy tonight? 

I heard the geese before I saw them again this morning—
this time, flying north. Above them, thunderheads like doomed 
zeppelins, like whales when sounding, though they brought 
no rain. That’s how I used to write, insisting on ordinary things 
being somehow more than that, that they had to mean something, 
the way disruption can punctuate with meaning an established 

pattern, or as when finding out one’s silence has been mistaken 
for arrogance or, worse, indifference, when all you meant 
was to be kind—retreat, not exile; less the monsters, than 
how we lived beside them, our lives not leaves not trash on an 
updraft that at random carries them then refuses them, can a wind 
refuse. And yet… 

                        Shy moon --

As if doing what we’d always done were enough to be grateful for, 
as if to keep doing it were itself to be grateful. You just forgot, 
that’s all. It’s harder not to forget. How the yard gave way 
like a ragged imperative to a forest of scrub-pines and oak, mostly, 

how a stand of ferns there almost looked, from above, like a boat 
of shadows, coming at last unmoored, and the forest a sea—that 
endless-seeming, that steeped in night-dark, beg for it, why shy
tonight?

Copyright © 2021 by Carl Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Thou sing’st alone on the bare wintry bough,
As if Spring with its leaves were around thee now;
And its voice that was heard in the laughing rill,
And the breeze as it whispered o’er meadow and hill,
Still fell on thine ear, as it murmured along
To join the sweet tide of thine own gushing song.
Sing on—though its sweetness was lost on the blast,
And the storm has not heeded thy song as it passed,
Yet its music awoke in a heart that was near,
A thought whose remembrance will ever prove dear;
Though the brook may be frozen, though silent its voice,
And the gales through the meadows no longer rejoice,
Still I felt, as my ear caught thy glad note of glee,
That my heart in life’s winter might carol like thee.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

My body is
perfect and
imperfect and
Black and
girl and
big and
thick hair and
short legs and
scraped knee and
healed scar and
heart beating and
hands that hold and
voice that bellows and
feet that dance and
arms that embrace and
my momma’s eyes and
my daddy’s smile and
my grandma’s hope and

my body is masterpiece and
my body is mine.

From Watch Us Rise (Bloomsbury, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Renée Watson. Reprinted by permission of the author. 

Who would have the sky any color but blue,
     Or the grass any color but green?
Or the flowers that bloom the summer through
     Of other color or sheen?

How the sunshine gladdens the human heart—
     How the sound of the falling rain
Will cause the tender tears to start,
     And free the soul from pain.

Oh, this old world is a great old place!
     And I love each season’s change,
The river, the brook of purling grace,
     The valley, the mountain range.

And when I am called to quit this life,
     My feet will not spurn the sod,
Though I leave this world with its beauty rife,—
     There’s a glorious one with God!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I love you for your brownness,
And the rounded darkness of your breast,
I love you for the breaking sadness in your voice
And shadows where your wayward eyelids rest.

Something of old forgotten queens
Lurks in the lithe abandon of your walk
And something of the shackled slave
Sobs in the rhythm of your talk.

Oh, little brown girl, born for sorrow's mate,
Keep all you have of queenliness,
Forgetting that you once were slave,
And let your full lips laugh at Fate!

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922) edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

                        Part I 

Night       
                  The moonlight: 
                  Juice flowing from an over-ripe pomegranate 
                  bursting 

                   The cossack-crested palm trees: 
                   motionless

                   The leopard spotted shade: 
                   inciting fear

                   silence seeds sown. . . 

 

                       Part II 

Medicine Dance 

                        A body smiling with black beauty 
                        Leaping into the air 
                        Around a grotesque hyena-faced monster: 
                        The sorcerer—
                        A black body—dancing with beauty 
                        Clothed in African moonlight, 
                        Smiling more beauty into its body. 
                        The hyena-faced monster yelps! 
                        Echo! 
                        Silence—
                        The dance 
                        Leaps—
                        Twirls—
                        The twirling body comes to a fall
                        At the feet of the monster. 
                        Yelps—
                        Wild—
                        Terror-filled—
                        Echo—
                        The hyena-faced monster jumps 
                        starts, 
                        runs, 
                        chases his own yelps back to the wilderness. 
                        The black body clothed in moonlight 
                        Raises up its head, 
                        Holding a face dancing with delight. 

                        Terror reigns like a new crowned king. 

This poem is in the public domain. 

You are in the black car burning beneath the highway
And rising above it—not as smoke

But what causes it to rise. Hey, Black Child,
You are the fire at the end of your elders’

Weeping, fire against the blur of horse, hoof,
Stick, stone, several plagues including time.

Chrysalis hanging on the bough of this night
And the burning world: Burn, Baby, burn.

Anvil and iron be thy name, yea though ye may
Walk among the harnessed heat and huntsmen

Who bear their masters’ hunger for paradise
In your rabbit-death, in the beheading of your ghost.

You are the healing snake in the heather
Bursting forth from your humps of sleep.

In the morning, your tongue moves along the earth
Naming hawk sky; rabbit run; your tongue,

Poison to the filthy democracy, to the gold-
Domed capitols where the ‘Guard in their grub-

Worm-colored uniforms cling to the blades of grass—
Worm on the leaf, worm in the dust, worm,

Worm made of rust: sing it with me,
Dragon of Insurmountable Beauty.

Black Child, laugh at the men with their hoofs
and borrowed muscle, their long and short guns,

The worm of their faces, their casket ass-
Embling of the afternoon, leftover leaves

From last year’s autumn scraping across their boots;
Laugh, laugh at their assassins on the roofs

(For the time of the assassin is also the time of hysterical laughter).

Black Child, you are the walking-on-of-water
Without the need of an approving master.

You are in a beautiful language.

You are what lies beyond this kingdom
And the next and the next and fire. Fire, Black Child.

Copyright © 2020 by Roger Reeves. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Black womxn,
You night sky,
You starless galaxy
You
stars for eyes.

You
are so full of empty
of womb
of creation

You
balance of holy fire
You misunderstanding
You
misunderstood
You
so beautiful
so lawless
so… dark

They branded you that, you know?
“dark”, ”black”, “demon”

You
all reclamation
all “yin”, “rebirth”,

You
beaten spine still straight
you clawed teeth
you rip them apart with rhetoric
and discourse.

You
all community,
all let’s talk this through
all “What is ailing you, my love?”

Them
tired of hearing about how black you are,
How straight your hair is not
Wishing
you’d just blend in
Wishing you’d stop being all bold colored font

You
all redefining black as beautiful
nappy as galaxy

You all proud
them all scared
You not running
them all shaking.

You
You
You
stand tall against the wind
You recognize your skin as baobab tree

You all deeply rooted

You
wondering about your roots
on a land that feels like sand

You clinging onto the depths of empty
You know empty
You’ve claimed it
made it friend

You know what happens here,
in a starless night,
in a planet-less galaxy
in the largest womb ever known.

Here
is where you have always
created best

Copyright © 2020 by Assétou Xango. This poem originally appeared as “A Letter to Black Femmes” on Medium. Used with permission of the author. 

When buffeted and beaten by life’s storms,
When by the bitter cares of life oppressed,
I want no surer haven than your arms,
I want no sweeter heaven than your breast.

When over my life’s way there falls the blight
Of sunless days, and nights of starless skies;
Enough for me, the calm and steadfast light
That softly shines within your loving eyes.

The world, for me, and all the world can hold
Is circled by your arms; for me there lies,
Within the lights and shadows of your eyes,
The only beauty that is never old.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

For Akua

Walking, I drew my hand over the lumpy
bloom of a spray of purple; I stripped away
my fingers, stained purple; put it to my nose,

the minty honey, a perfume so aggressively
pleasant—I gave it to you to smell,
my daughter, and you pulled away as if

I was giving you a palm full of wasps,
deceptions: “Smell the way the air
changes because of purple and green.”

This is the promise I make to you:
I will never give you a fist full of wasps,
just the surprise of purple and the scent of rain.

Reproduced from Nebraska: Poems by Kwame Dawes by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2019 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.

Yea, there are as many stars under the Earth as over the Earth...
Plenty of room to roll around in has our planet...
And I, at the edge of the porch,
Hearing the crickets shrill in the star-thick armies of grass,
And beholding over the spread of Earth the spread of the heavens...
Drink this deep moment in my pilgrimage,
With a sense of how forever I have been alive,
With a conviction that I shall go on, ever safe, ever growing,
The stars to be included in my travels,
And the future sure before me.

This poem is in the public domain.

Between me and the noise of strife 
    Are walls of mountains set with pine;  
The dusty, care-strewn paths of life  
    Lead not to this retreat of mine.  
 
I hear the morning wind awake  
   Beyond the purple height,  
And, in the growing light,  
   The lap of lilies on the lake.  
 
I live with Echo and with Song,  
   And Beauty leads me forth to see  
Her temple’s colonnades, and long 
    Together do we love to be.  
 
The mountains wall me in, complete,  
   And leave me but a bit blue 
Above.    All year, the days are sweet— 
    How sweet! And all the long nights thro’  
 
I hear the river flowing by  
   Along its sandy bars;  
Behold, far in the midnight sky,  
    An infinite of stars!  
 
‘Tis sweet, when all is still,  
   When darkness gathers round,  
To hear, from hill to hill,  
   The far, the wandering sound.  
 
The cedar and the pine 
   Have pitched their tents with me.  
What freedom vast is mine!  
    What room! What mystery!  
 
Upon the dreamy southern breeze,  
    That steals in like a laden bee  
And sighs for rest among the trees,  
   Are far-blown bits of melody.  
 
What afterglows the twilight hold,  
    The darkening skies along!  
And O, what rose-like dawns unfold,  
    That smite the hills to song!  
 
High in the solitude of air,  
   The gray hawk circles on and on,  
Till, like a spirit soaring there,  
    His image pales and he is gone!  

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2020. 

            on Gustav Klimt’s painting, 1907-1908

Do you really think if you bend
me, I will love you? You
crack my chin up, your hands
brown pigeons scheming reunion

at my cheek and temple, your jaw
cragged at the end of your thick neck
of longing. I claw onto you
as the only tree here, your

swing. I’m mad for gravity though
I’m bound, diagonally, to
you. Let me. Push from your trunk towards
the edge and my freedom. Leave me

to wither while moss weeps
in the corners, our halo liquid
as yolk, waving from our bodies’ heat,
our divinity melting. My dress

blossoms loudly. You are still
wrestling me closer. If only I could
release to you my mouth just this
once and you would leave me,

but the shadows of your robe are
so haphazard. I know you will try
to smother me again. The poppies scratch. My feet
reach beyond spring.

From For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Sasha Pimentel. Used with the permission of the poet and Beacon Press.

1 bitter melon, seeds and insides removed and cut into thin slices.
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 medium tomatoes diced
2 eggs beaten slightly
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium-sized onion sliced
Salt and pepper
Chopped Parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil

Place the bitter melon in a large bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt. Add white wine vinegar and let stand for six minutes. In a large pan, sauté the garlic and onions in oil until the garlic is golden brown and the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Add the bitter melon and cook for 4 minutes. Pour the eggs over the mixture and stir until eggs are done and bitter melon is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve with white rice.

from Loves You. Copyright © 2019 by Sarah Gambito. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Persea Books.

And a poet said, Speak to us of Beauty.
     And he answered:
     Where shall you seek beauty, and how shall your find her unless she herself be your way and your guide?
     And how shall you speak of her except she be the weaver of your speech?

     The aggrieved and the injured say, “Beauty is kind and gentle. 
     Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.”
     And the passionate say, “Nay, beauty is a thing of might and dread.
     Like the tempest she shakes the earth beneath us and the sky above us.”

     The tired and the weary say, “Beauty is of soft whisperings. She speaks in our spirit.
     Her voice yields to our silences like a faint light that quivers in fear of the shadow.”
     But the restless say, “We have heard her shouting among the mountains,
     And with her cries came the sound of hoofs, and the beating of wings and the roaring of lions.”

     At night the watchmen of the city say, “Beauty shall rise with the dawn from the east.”
     And at noontide the toilers and the wayfarers say, “We have seen her leaning over the earth from the windows of the sunset.”

     In winter say the snow-bound, “She shall come with the spring leaping upon the hills.”
     And in the summer heat the reapers say, “We have seen her dancing with the autumn leaves, and we saw a drift of snow in her hair.”
     All these things have you said of beauty,
     Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
     And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy
     It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
     But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
     It is not in the image you would see nor the song you would hear,
     But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
     It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
     But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.

     People of Orphalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
     But you are life and you are the veil.
     Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
     But you are eternity and you are the mirror. 

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

I gaze into her eyes—their tender light,
And strong, illumes my spirit's darkest night,
And pours rich glory on me as a star
Which brings its silver luster from afar.

Sweet thoughts and beautiful within me burn,
And heaven I see what way soe’er I turn;
In borrowed radiance of her soulful glance
All things grow tenfold lovely and entrance.

I touch her willing hand—as gentle dove
It rests within my own, in trusting love;
And yet it moves me with a power so deep,
My heart is flame, and all my pulses leap.

I breathe her name unto the flowers: they bloom
With rarer hues, and shed more rich perfume!
The skylark hears it, as he floats along,
And adds new sweetness to his morning song.

Oh magic name! deep graven on my heart,
And, as its owner, of myself a part!
It hath in all my daily thoughts a share,
And forms the burden of my nightly prayer!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                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 
                                                                                      inspirations
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
                                     dancing
                                                and going swimming in rivers
                              on picnics
                                       in the middle of the summer
and just generally
                            ‘living it up’

Yes
   but then right in the middle of it
                                                    comes the smiling
                                                                                 mortician

                                           

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

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.