To your voice, a mysterious virtue, 
to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,  

to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,  
to hyacinth and bluebell lily,  

to the train conductor’s donkey on a rope, 
to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.  

Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,  
until each ungovernable heart admits: “I confused myself   

and yet I loved—and what I loved  
I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,  

to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.” 

Copyright © 2014 by Ilya Kaminsky. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2014.

The internal organs were growling
According to them
They did all of the work while
Skin got all of the attention
He’s an organ just like us
They groused
Even the heart, which, a
Century ago, was the Queen
Of metaphors, but now
Was reduced to the greetings
Cards section of CVS,
Chimed in

They decided to call skin
On the carpet.
Skin arrived from Cannes
Where he’d been the subject
Of much fuss as actresses
Fed him luxurious skin
Food prepared by Max Factor
Estée Lauder, L’Oreal,
And Chanel
Caressed him daily
Sometimes for hours before
They made the red carpet

He was petted
And preened

Pleaded with him
To erase wrinkles to
Make them look younger
To tighten their chins

Skin tried to appease the
Critics, greeting them with
His familiar “give me some skin”
But his gesture went unheeded

Brain did all the talking
Brain said, “Here’s the skinny
Why do you get
All of the press
Your color
Your texture discussed
Nicole Kidman never

Did an ad about us

Cole Porter never
Wrote a song about us
Nor were we mentioned
In a Thornton Wilder novel
You’ve given us no
Skin in the game”

“What about the nasty
Things they say about
Me,” skin replied
“What about skin deep
For superficiality
Skin trade
To denote something

How would you
Like acne rashes

That astonish
Even dermatologists

I wear my blemishes
In public while you guys
Hide yours”

“Without me and heart
You’d be nothing,” the brain said
“That’s not true,” protested
The liver, “without me he’d
Be nothing”
“No,” the kidney said
“It’s me who keeps the
Body functioning”
The bladder and
The kidney began
To quarrel with
The lung twins spoke
“Without us
He couldn’t breathe”
Even the esophagus
And the thyroid
And the pancreas
Joined the outbreak
“What about us?”

The eyes said
“Without eyes you
Can’t see”

Their squabble distracted
When they looked
Up from their dust up
Helicopter was up
He was scheduled to
Address a convention of
Plastic surgeons at
The Beverly Hills
Escaping by the skin
Of his teeth
His opponents gave
But above the roar
Of the chopper
They heard him say
“Don’t worry fellas
I got you covered”

Copyright © 2021 by Ishmael Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

     Let’s dance on the land of Chile, 
lovely as Rachel, as Leah, 
the land that breeds a people
sweet of heart and speech. 

     The greenest land with gardens, 
the fairest land with wheat, 
the reddest land with vineyards, 
the gentlest to our feet! 

    Our laughter’s made of its rivers, 
our cheeks of its dusty earth. 
Kissing the feet of the dancers
it groans like a mother in birth. 

    It’s beautiful, and for its beauty
we’ll dance its fields along, 
it’s free, and for its freedom
we’ll drench its face in song. 

    Tomorrow we’ll hew and quarry, 
tend to the trees and plants, 
   tomorrow we’ll build the cities, 
today just let us dance! 

Tierra Chilena 

   Danzamos en tierra chilena,
más bella que Lía y Raquel;
la tierra que amasa a los hombres
de labios y pecho sin hiel...

    La tierra más verde de huertos,
la tierra más rubia de mies,
la tierra más roja de viñas,
¡qué dulce que roza los pies!

    Su polvo hizo nuestras mejillas,
su río hizo nuestro reír,
y besa los pies de la ronda
que la hace cual madre gemir.

   Es bella, y por bella queremos
sus pastos de rondas albear;
es libre y por libre deseamos
su rostro de cantos bañar...

   Mañana abriremos sus rocas,
la haremos viñedo y pomar;
   mañana alzaremos sus pueblos;
¡hoy sólo queremos danzar!

From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press.