Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.

Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.

Open the door, then close it behind you.

Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.

Give it back with gratitude.

If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.

Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.

Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.

Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.

Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.

Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.

The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.

Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.

Do not hold regrets.

When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.

You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.

Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.

Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.

Ask for forgiveness.

Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.

Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.

You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.

Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.

Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.

Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.

Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.

Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.

Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark. 

Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.  Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear,
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion, 
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us. 
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

From In Mad Love and War © 1990 by Joy Harjo. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. 

I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree.

                                                                   —Sandra Cisneros

Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—

Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—

Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—

Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—

I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—

What shall I do with all this heartache?

The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—

I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:

Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .

To drink deep what is undrinkable.

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sun makes the day new.
Tiny green plants emerge from earth.
Birds are singing the sky into place.
There is nowhere else I want to be but here.
I lean into the rhythm of your heart to see where it will take us.
We gallop into a warm, southern wind.
I link my legs to yours and we ride together,
Toward the ancient encampment of our relatives.
Where have you been? they ask.
And what has taken you so long?
That night after eating, singing, and dancing
We lay together under the stars.
We know ourselves to be part of mystery.
It is unspeakable.
It is everlasting.
It is for keeps.

                              MARCH 4, 2013, CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS

Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.  Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Say tomorrow doesn’t come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun’s a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl’s eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon’s a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt’s plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen’s a cow’s corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.

Copyright © 2013 by Ada Limón. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

O day—if I could cup my hands and drink of you,
And make this shining wonder be
A part of me!
O day! O day!
You lift and sway your colors on the sky
Till I am crushed with beauty. Why is there
More of reeling sunlit air
Than I can breathe? Why is there sound
In silence? Why is a singing wound
About each hour?
And perfume when there is no flower?
O day! O Day! How may I press
Nearer to loveliness?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The rising sun had crowned the hills,
            And added beauty to the plain;
O grand and wondrous spectacle!
            That only nature could explain.

I stood within a leafy grove,
            And gazed around in blissful awe;
The sky appeared one mass of blue,
            That seemed to spread from sea to shore.

Far as the human eye could see,
            Were stretched the fields of waving corn.
Soft on my ear the warbling birds
            Were heralding the birth of morn.

While here and there a cottage quaint
            Seemed to repose in quiet ease
Amid the trees, whose leaflets waved
            And fluttered in the passing breeze.

O morning hour! so dear thy joy,
            And how I longed for thee to last;
But e’en thy fading into day
            Brought me an echo of the past.

 ‘Twas this,—how fair my life began;
            How pleasant was its hour of dawn;
But, merging into sorrow’s day,
            Then beauty faded with the morn.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.

Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.

Hand clasped hand,
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed,
There was no gift nor denial.

2.

I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.

You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.

You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.

3.

You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.

Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.

But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.

And go away without fire or lantern.
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.

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

When I come home they rush to me, the flies, & would take me, they would take me in their small arms if I were smaller, so fly this way, that way in joy, they welcome me. They kiss my face one two, they say, Come in, come in. Sit at this table. Sit. They hold one hand inside the other & say, Eat. They share the food, sit close to me, sit. As I chew they touch my hair, they touch their hands to my crumbs, joining me. The rim of my cup on which they perch. The milky lake above which. They ask for a story: How does it begin? Before, I was a child, & so on. My story goes on too long. I only want to look into their faces. The old one sits still, I sit with it, but the others busy themselves now with work & after the hour which maybe to them is a week, a month, I sleep in the room between the open window & the kitchen, dreaming though I were the Sierra, though I were their long lost sister, they understand that when I wake I will have to go. One helps me with my coat, another rides my shoulder to the train. Come with me, come, I say. No, no, it says, & waits with me there the rest whistling, touching my hair, though maybe these are its last seconds on earth in the light in the air is this love, though it is little, my errand, & for so little I left my house again.

Copyright © 2020 by Aracelis Girmay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
    enough
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
    enough
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

I want to mirror your image to its fullest perfection,
never be blind or too old
to uphold your weighty wavering reflection.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere I wish to stay crooked, bent;
for there I would be dishonest, untrue.
I want my conscience to be
true before you;
want to describe myself like a picture I observed
for a long time, one close up,
like a new word I learned and embraced,
like the everday jug,
like my mother's face,
like a ship that carried me along
through the deadliest storm.

English translation, translator's introduction, and translator's notes copyright © 2001 by Annemarie S. Kidder. Published 2001. All rights reserved.

A moment comes to me
and it’s a lot like the dead
who get in the way sometimes
hanging around, with their ranks
growing bigger by the second
and the game of tag they play
claiming whoever happens by.
I try to put them off
but the space between us
is like a country growing closer
which has a language I know
more and more of me is
growing up inside of, and
the clincher is the nothing
for me to do inside here
except to face my dead
as the spirits they are,
find the parts of me in them—
call them back with my words.
Ancestor worship or prayer?
It’s a kind of getting by—
an extension of living
beyond my self my people taught me,
and each moment is a boundary
I will throw this bridge across.

From Across the Mutual Landscape (Graywolf Press, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by Christopher Gilbert. Used with permission of The Permissions Company inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press.

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

From Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

27ú lá Meitheamh, 2012

Because what’s the alternative?
Because of courage.
Because of loved ones lost.
Because no more.
Because it’s a small thing; shaking hands; it happens every day.
Because I heard of one man whose hands haven’t stopped shaking since a market day in Omagh.
Because it takes a second to say hate, but it takes longer, much longer, to be a great leader.
Much, much longer.

Because shared space without human touching doesn’t amount to much.
Because it’s easier to speak to your own than to hold the hand of someone whose side has been previously described, proscribed, denied.
Because it is tough.
Because it is tough.
Because it is meant to be tough, and this is the stuff of memory, the stuff of hope, the stuff of gesture, and meaning and leading.
Because it has taken so, so long.
Because it has taken land and money and languages and barrels and barrels of blood.

Because lives have been lost.
Because lives have been taken.

Because to be bereaved is to be troubled by grief.
Because more than two troubled peoples live here.
Because I know a woman whose hand hasn’t been shaken since she was a man.
Because shaking a hand is only a part of the start.
Because I know a woman whose touch calmed a man whose heart was breaking.
Because privilege is not to be taken lightly.

Because this just might be good.
Because who said that this would be easy?
Because some people love what you stand for, and for some, if you can, they can.
Because solidarity means a common hand.
Because a hand is only a hand; so hang onto it.

So join your much discussed hands.
We need this; for one small second.
So touch.
So lead.

“Shaking Hands” Originally published in Sorry for your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
                         and will be said after me

I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                         lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
                                        to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
                                                          Koktebele
                               formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                        when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                       going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
   his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
   be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
   well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
   say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
   heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
   and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
   rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
   by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
   to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
   watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

                                                     19 April 1962
                                                     Moscow

From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc.

Yesterday: me, a stone, the river,
a bottle of Jack, the clouds
with unusual speed crept by.

A man was in the middle of me.
I was humbled.
Not by him. The earth,

with its unusual speed,
went from dawn to dusk to dawn.
Just like that. The light

every shade of gold. Gold. I’m
greedy for it. Light is my currency.
I am big with dawn. So hot & so

pregnant with the fire I stole.
By pregnant I mean everything
you see is of me. Daylight

is my daughter. Dusk, my lover’s
post-pleasure face. And the night?
Well. Look up.

Are you ever really alone?

Copyright © 2020 by Katie Condon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

arils loosed from the yellow membrane
pith pocked and pocketed

spread across the plate Aapa 
gave us on our wedding day
my daughter, my panniq, picking at the crimson 
carapace, her graceful small fingers 
examining each aril between finger and thumb
before she consumes it, just so

reminds me of crab cooked in winter
my uncles letting loose
their catch across the tile floor
the clatter as thin tine toes
chased us 
and later the bodies’ 
carapace—craggy corniced interiors
the inner sanctum 
the source of life 
the sacred centering 
cathedral
of appreciation

have I done enough to deserve this

I hold each memory

the December light flickers out
between the dark damp trees

I watch my daughter, my panniq, as she is this moment

Copyright © 2020 by Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m sorry, could you repeat that. I’m hard of hearing.
To the cashier
To the receptionist
To the insistent man asking directions on the street

I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?
At the business meeting
In the writing workshop
On the phone to make a doctor’s appointment

I’m-sorry-I’m-sorry-I’m-so-sorry-I’m-hard-for-the-hearing

Repeat.

           Repeat.

Hello, my name is Sorry
To full rooms of strangers
I’m hard to hear

I vomit apologies everywhere
They fly on bat wings
towards whatever sound beckons

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry
           and repeating
                       and not hearing

Dear (again)
I regret to inform you

I       am

here

 

Copyright © 2020 by Camisha L. Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Stumble to silence, all you uneasy things, 
That pack the day with bluster and with fret.
For here is music at each window set;
Here is a cup which drips with all the springs
That ever bud a cowslip flower; a roof
To shelter till the argent weathers break;
A candle with enough of light to make
My courage bright against each dark reproof. 
A hand’s width of clear gold, unraveled out
The rosy sky, the little moon appears;
As they were splashed upon the paling red,
Vast, blurred, the village poplars lift about. 
I think of young, lost things: of lilacs; tears;
I think of an old neighbor, long since dead. 

“I have no time for those things now,” we say;
“But in the future just a little way,
No longer by this ceaseless toil oppressed,
I shall have leisure then for thought and rest.
When I the debts upon my land have paid,
Or on foundations firm my business laid,
I shall take time for discourse long and sweet
With those beloved who round my hearthstone meet;
I shall take time on mornings still and cool
To seek the freshness dim of wood and pool,
Where, calmed and hallowed by great Nature's peace,
My life from its hot cares shall find release;
I shall take time to think on destiny,
Of what I was and am and yet shall be,
Till in the hush my soul may nearer prove
To that great Soul in whom we live and move.
All this I shall do sometime but not now—
The press of business cares will not allow.”
And thus our life glides on year after year;
The promised leisure never comes more near.
Perhaps the aim on which we placed our mind
Is high, and its attainment slow to find;
Or if we reach the mark that we have set,
We still would seek another, farther yet.
Thus all our youth, our strength, our time go past
Till death upon the threshold stands at last,
And back unto our Maker we must give
The life we spent preparing well to live.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Again the woods are odorous, the lark
Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray
That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark,
Where branches bare disclosed the empty day.

After long rainy afternoons an hour
Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings
Them at the windows in a radiant shower,
And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings.

Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep
By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies;
And cradled in the branches, hidden deep
In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

            , because there was yet no lake
 
into many nights we made the lake
             a labor, and its necessary laborings
to find the basin not yet opened
in my body, yet my body—any body
wet or water from the start, to fill a clay
, start being what it ever means, a beginning—
the earth’s first hand on a vision-quest
wildering night’s skin fields, for touch
             like a dark horse made of air
, turned downward in the dusk, opaquing
a hand resembles its ancestors—
the war, or the horse who war made
             , what it means to be made
to be ruined before becoming—rift
             glacial, ablation and breaking
lake-hip sloping, fluvial, then spilled—
  
I unzip the lake, walk into what I am—
             the thermocline, and oxygen
, as is with kills, rivers, seas, the water
             is of our own naming 
I am wet we call it because it is
a happening, is happening now
 
imagined light is light’s imagination
a lake shape of it
             , the obligatory body, its dark burning
reminding us back, memory as filter
desire as lagan, a hydrology—
             The lake is alone, we say in Mojave
 
, every story happens because someone’s mouth,
a nature dependent—life, universe
             Here at the lake, say
, she wanted what she said
             to slip down into it
for which a good lake will rise—Lake
which once meant, sacrifice
which once meant, I am devoted
 
             , Here I am, atmosphere
sensation, pressure
, the lake is beneath me, pleasure bounded
a slip space between touch and not
slip of paper, slip of hand
             slip body turning toward slip trouble
, I am who slipped the moorings
             I am so red with lack
 
to loop-knot
or leave the loop beyond the knot
             we won’t say love because it is
a difference between vertex and vertices—
the number of surfaces we break
enough or many to make the lake
             loosened from the rock
one body’s dearth is another body’s ache
             lay it to the earth
 
, all great lakes are meant to take
             sediment, leg, wrist, wrist, the ear
let down and wet with stars, dock lights
distant but wanted deep,
             to be held in the well of the eye
woven like water, through itself, in
and inside, how to sate a depression
if not with darkness—if darkness is not
             fingers brushing a body, shhhh
, she said, I don’t know what the world is
 
I slip for her, or anything
, like language, new each time
             diffusionremade and organized
and because nothing is enough, waves
each an emotional museum of water
 
left light trembles a lake figure on loop    
             a night-loop
, every story is a story of water
             before it is gold and alone
before it is black like a rat snake
I begin at the lake
, clean once, now drained
             I am murkI am not clean
everything has already happened
always the lake is just up ahead in the poem
, my mouth is the moon, I bring it down
lay it over the lake of her thighs
             warm lamping ax
hewing water’s tender shell
slant slip, entering like light, surrounded
into another skin
             where there was yet no lake  
yet we made it, make it still
to drink and clean ourselves on

Copyright © 2020 by Natalie Diaz. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative and published in Poem-a-Day on March 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

What the mouth sings, the soul must learn to forgive.
A rat’s as moral as a monk in the eyes of the real world.
Still, the heart is a river
pouring from itself, a river that cannot be crossed.

It opens on a bay
and turns back upon itself as the tide come sin,
it carries the cry of the loon and the salts
of the unutterably human.

A distant eagle enters the mouth of a river
salmon no longer run and his wide wings glide
upstream until he disappears
into the nothing from which he came. Only the thought remains.

Lacking the eagle’s cunning or the wisdom of the sparrow,
where shall I turn, drowning in sorrow?
Who will know what the trees know, the spidery patience
of young maple or what the willows confess?

Let me be water. The heart pours out in waves.
Listen to what the water says.
Wind, be a friend.
There’s nothing I couldn’t forgive.

From Gratitude (American Poets Continuum, 1998). Copyright © 1998 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

“Remember.” Copyright © 1983 by Joy Harjo from She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

1

One summer night, walking from our house after dinner, stars make the sky almost white.

My awe is like blindness; wonder exchanges for sight.

Star-by-star comprises a multiplicity like thought, but quiet, too dense for any dark planet between.

While single stars are a feature of the horizon at dusk, caught at the edge of the net of gems.

Transparence hanging on its outer connectedness casts occurrence as accretion, filling in, of extravagant, euphoric blooming.

Then, being as spirit and in matter is known, here to there.

I go home and tell my children to come out and look.

The souls of my two children fly up like little birds into branches of the Milky Way,  
chatting with each other, naming constellations, comparing crystals and fire.

They exclaim at similarities between what they see in the sky and on our land.

So, by wonder, they strengthen correspondence between sky and home.

Earth is made from this alchemy of all children, human and animal, combined 
with our deep gratitude. 

2

I see his dark shape, moving and shifting against night’s screen of stars.

My little girl reaches for his lighted silhouette.

Human beings are thought upward and flown through by bright birds.

We believe stars are spirits of very high frequency.

We feel proud our animals come from stars so dense in meaning close to sacrament.

We describe time passing in stories about animals; star movement is named for seasonal migrations of deer, wolf, hummingbird, dolphin, and as animals stars walk among us.

Our snake Olivia, for example, tells me there’s no conflict between humans and rain, because resource is all around us.

A coyote loved night, and he loved to gaze at the stars.

“I noticed one star in Cassiopeia; I talked to her, and each night she grew brighter and closer, and she came to life here, as a corn snake, my friend.”

“She looks like a dancer on tiptoe, stepping around pink star-blossoms surging up after rain.”

3

Constellations are experienced emotionally as this play of self through plant and animal symbols and values.

A dream atmosphere flows; everything represented is sacred; being moves in accord, not of time.

Returning from the Milky Way, she realized crystals had fallen from her bag and looked up.

My story links a journey to sky with the creation of stars, in which place accommodates becoming.

Chama River flows north-south to the horizon, then straight up through the Milky Way, like water moving beneath a riverbed that’s dry.        

Abiquiu Mountain, El Rito Creek, coyote, snake, rainbow and rain, spider and hummingbird identify equivalent spiritual placements above, so wherever we go, there is company, nurture, from every star in our regard.

4

I start up to ask my birds to return home, and find our land continuous with a starry sky mapped as entities who set into motion occurrence, here.

Place awaits an imprint from this potential, even though starlight arriving now already happened; what happens is a depth of field, before and after drought, fire, storm disruption.

I move at high speed, but I’m still standing beside my house in the dark. 

To go there, I find the place on our mesa that correlates to their tree in the sky and leap up.

Space stirs as star trilliums emerge through darkness like humus.

I ask one blossom to please in the future renew these bonds between sky and my children, so they will always hold light in the minerals of their eyes.

5

Sun on its nightly underground journey weaves a black thread between white days on the cosmic loom, cord or resonance between new experience and meaning.

The origin of stars expresses the underlying warp of this fabric; summer solstice draws a diagonal across my floor, precession, weaving ground of informing spirit, so therefore, life is fundamental to stars.

The reverse is well known.

That’s why I don’t use a telescope, star charts or glasses when I go out; I think of a place; I wait, then fly to my children.

When the star-gate is raised, there’s a narrow door between sky and ground.

But when I arrive, I find the sky solid; I can’t break through to visit my starbirds and stand there wondering, before dawn.

Then sky vault lifts; maybe I can slip through to find the Milky Way and see its blossoms.

Then our sun appears in the crack and pushes through to the day.

It’s so bright, so hot, I step back and cover my eyes; I hear my mother calling.

Copyright © 2020 by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

All night the cocks crew, under a moon like day,
And I, in the cage of sleep, on a stranger's breast,
Shed tears, like a task not to be put away---
In the false light, false grief in my happy bed,
A labor of tears, set against joy's undoing.
I would not wake at your word, I had tears to say.
I clung to the bars of the dream and they were said,
And pain's derisive hand had given me rest
From the night giving off flames, and the dark renewing.

From The Blue Estuaries: Poems 1923-1968 by Louise Bogan, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Copyright © 1968 Louise Bogan. Used with permission.

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer. 
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath. 
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

Copyright © 2015 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

America, Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful
For being first, he alone, Walker Percy tells us, has access to it
and can see it for what it is. And doesn’tevery child call
its imagined pony by its secret name? A word to summon a large
& gentle wildness from empty air, its long face & warm breath
visible in that moment before it touches its muzzle to the dreaming
brow. In one metaphor, America, the tips of your right hand
might be The Aleutians; those of your left, The Florida Keys.

Today, everyone has come to see the horses, who have been here
for four hundred years. In myth, they descend from of a herd
brought on a Spanish galleon & swim ashore to their astonishing
freedom after the ship hits a sandbar in a storm & goes down.
America, this is a scene you have seen before: a dark hull of flesh.
Or they are the descendants of horses set out to graze by farmers
& inexplicably forgotten. You are an assemblage. Natural.
Unnatural. So little of you is not from somewhere else.

In the woods, where we cannot see them, the small spotted elk
from Taiwan—renamed deer, though their DNA would reveal
that that is not what they are—are settling down to sleep. The sky
& marsh purple & flood with the perfectly familiar: the bat,
the house mouse, the raccoon, the Norway rat, the least shrew,
the meadow jumping mouse, the possum, the fox, the vole.

And birds: eagles, ospreys, egrets, merlins & mallards, pin-tails
& even the remarkable & invasive Canada geese. So that
if I were pulled from my bed in the night to identify your body,
I might look here, to this island, half-north, half-south, as one does
to the pale, beloved & often-fingered freckle on the cocked hip
of a lover, where, even in twilight, a band of feral horses stirs
in the cordgrass & briar. The last light awing around their dark
eyes is an elegy to that species of shouting wonder emitted only
by toddlers before our wonder falls silent & reverential. Animals,
John Berger asserts, first entered the imagination not as leather
or meat but as messengers and promises, an elegy, or an augur,
for our tongues, before both our desire & outrage became crude.

Copyright © 2016 by Kathleen Graber. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

We travel carrying our words.
We arrive at the ocean.
With our words we are able to speak
of the sounds of thunderous waves.
We speak of how majestic it is,
of the ocean power that gifts us songs.
We sing of our respect
and call it our relative.

 

Translated into English from O’odham by the poet.

 

’U’a g T-ñi’okı˘


T-ñi’okı˘ ’att ’an o ’u’akc o hihi
Am ka:ck wui dada.
S-ap ‘am o ’a: mo has ma:s g kiod.
mat ’am ’ed.a betank ’i-gei.
’Am o ’a: mo he’es ’i-ge’ej,
mo hascu wud.  i:da gewkdagaj
mac ’ab amjed.  behě g ñe’i.
Hemhoa s-ap ‘am o ’a: mac si has elid, mo d.  ’i:mig.

Used with the permission of the author.

Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto,
President of The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976

1
I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
                                     Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
cart
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
accelerating
rhythms
But
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
Regularly
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:
fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or 
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.

2
How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
retaliation?
Shall we pick a number? 
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?

I must become a menace to my enemies.

3
And if I 
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
completely
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
                   terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I 
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
                   wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me
out.
I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

Not songs of loyalty alone are these,
But songs of insurrection also,
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over.
             —Walt Whitman

I see the dark-skinned bodies falling in the street as their ancestors fell
before the whip and steel, the last blood pooling, the last breath spitting.
I see the immigrant street vendor flashing his wallet to the cops,
shot so many times there are bullet holes in the soles of his feet.
I see the deaf woodcarver and his pocketknife, crossing the street
in front of a cop who yells, then fires. I see the drug raid, the wrong
door kicked in, the minister's heart seizing up. I see the man hawking
a fistful of cigarettes, the cop’s chokehold that makes his wheezing
lungs stop wheezing forever. I am in the crowd, at the window,
kneeling beside the body left on the asphalt for hours, covered in a sheet.

I see the suicides: the conga player handcuffed for drumming on the subway,
hanged in the jail cell with his hands cuffed behind him; the suspect leaking
blood from his chest in the backseat of the squad card; the 300-pound boy
said to stampede bare-handed into the bullets drilling his forehead.

I see the coroner nodding, the words he types in his report burrowing
into the skin like more bullets. I see the government investigations stacking,
words buzzing on the page, then suffocated as bees suffocate in a jar. I see
the next Black man, fleeing as the fugitive slave once fled the slave-catcher,
shot in the back for a broken tail-light. I see the cop handcuff the corpse.

I see the rebels marching, hands upraised before the riot squads,
faces in bandannas against the tear gas, and I walk beside them unseen.
I see the poets, who will write the songs of insurrection generations unborn
will read or hear a century from now, words that make them wonder
how we could have lived or died this way, how the descendants of slaves
still fled and the descendants of slave-catchers still shot them, how we awoke
every morning without the blood of the dead sweating from every pore.

Reprinted from Vivas to Those Who Have Failed. Copyright © 2016 by Martín Espada. Used with permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. and Frances Goldin Literary Agency.

What the mouth sings, the soul must learn to forgive.
A rat’s as moral as a monk in the eyes of the real world.
Still, the heart is a river
pouring from itself, a river that cannot be crossed.

It opens on a bay
and turns back upon itself as the tide come sin,
it carries the cry of the loon and the salts
of the unutterably human.

A distant eagle enters the mouth of a river
salmon no longer run and his wide wings glide
upstream until he disappears
into the nothing from which he came. Only the thought remains.

Lacking the eagle’s cunning or the wisdom of the sparrow,
where shall I turn, drowning in sorrow?
Who will know what the trees know, the spidery patience
of young maple or what the willows confess?

Let me be water. The heart pours out in waves.
Listen to what the water says.
Wind, be a friend.
There’s nothing I couldn’t forgive.

From Gratitude (American Poets Continuum, 1998). Copyright © 1998 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.

            for the Women of the 19th Amendment 

 

Praise their grit and gospel, their glistening
brains, their minds on fire. Neurons, numbering the stars.

Praise their bones. Their spines and skulls,
the axis, the atlas: I will not and I shall.

Their mouths, praise. Ridged palates
and smart muscular tongues, teeth, sound or pitted,
their wit and will. Their nerve,

and founded within the body. Honor
now their wombs and hearts, biceps and blood,
deep mines of the flesh where passion is tested.

Thank all twenty-six bones of their feet,
arches, heels, bunions, sweat,

marching the streets in high buttoned boots. Praise
the march. Praise justice.
Though slow and clotted. 

Their hands at the press. The grease and clatter,
the smell of ink. Feel the sound
of their names in our mouths:

Susan B. Anthony

Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee

Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Wilhelmina Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett

Praise their eyelids that close
and give rest
at the end of each long day.

Praise the work that goes on.

Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative.

For breakfast a man must break an egg. Then not all the king's horses and all the king's men can do very much about it.

Past perfect the broken egg no longer breaks, a dead man no longer dies...

And as he spills the broken egg into a frying pan he murmurs, Ah, well, too bad about Humpty Dumpty...

From See Jack by Russell Edson. Copyright © 2009 by Russell Edson. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

translated from the Spanish by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.
And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.
And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


Como Tú

Yo, como tú,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.
También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.
Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.
Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

From Poetry Like Bread: Poets of the Political Imagination (Curbstone Press, 2000), edited by Martín Espada. Used with the permission of Northwestern University Press.

From the window the river rinses
the dark. I twist
the wedding beads around my neck. I’ve lost
my ring, silver and antique, bought from the night market
in the other world across
the ocean, color of dull lead,
color of the pan I scrub and burn
in the sink.

*

Catullus wrote, I hate and love, and he wasn’t talking about marriage.

*

Not talking about the blacked-out
window crossed with hurricane tape,
like a movie screen, a page redacted,
your hand erasing a blackboard
with an eraser’s soft compliant body.

Copyright © 2014 by Nicole Cooley. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 23, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Graceful son of Pan! Around your forehead crowned with small flowers and berries, your eyes, precious spheres, are moving. Spotted with brownish wine lees, your cheeks grow hollow. Your fangs are gleaming. Your chest is like a lyre, jingling sounds circulate between your blond arms. Your heart beats in that belly where the double sex sleeps. Walk at night, gently moving that thigh, that second thigh and that left leg.

From Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud, published by W.W. Norton. Copyright © 2011 by John Ashbery. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Large sea turtles and some whales
will outlive us, water a manifestation of wind in

   another dimension.
I had to use the shovel to hack at the wood, had to grab

a hatchet, down deep in the hole. The oak pitched around
like a ship’s mast, or I was no longer alive; perhaps I was yet

    to be
all over again, though I kept recalling your name. The verdurous roots.

Copyright @ 2014 by David Dodd Lee. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 16, 2014.

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired 

           She meant
                      No more turned cheek
                      No more patience for the obstruction
                      of black woman’s right to vote
                      & plant & feed her family

           She meant
                      Equality will cost you your luxurious life
                      If a Black woman can’t vote
                      If a brown baby can’t be fed
                      If we all don’t have the same opportunity America promised

           She meant
                      Ain’t no mountain boulder enough
                      to wan off a determined woman

           She meant
                      Here
           Look at my hands
                      Each palm holds a history
                      of the 16 shots that chased me
                      harm free from a plantation shack

           Look at my eyes
                      Both these are windows
                      these little lights of mine

           She meant
                      Nothing but death can stop me
                      from marching out a jail cell still a free woman

           She meant
                      Nothing but death can stop me from running for Congress

           She meant
                      No black jack beating will stop my feet from working
                      & my heart from swelling
                      & my mouth from praying

           She meant
                      America! you will learn freedom feels like
                      butter beans, potatoes & cotton seeds
                      picked by my sturdy hands

           She meant

           Look
           Victoria Gray, Anna Divine & Me
           In our rightful seats on the house floor

           She meant  
                      Until my children
                      & my children’s children
                      & they babies too
                      can March & vote
                      & get back in interest
                      what was planted
                      in this blessed land

           She meant
                      I ain’t stopping America
                      I ain’t stopping America

Not even death can take away from my woman’s hands
what I’ve rightfully earned

Copyright © 2019 by Mahogany Browne. Originally featured in Vibe. Used with permission of the author. 

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

the quietness
where the child is—seems uneven
within limits—of fragile lightshadows: emptiness!—for
   the world Grows
in her—to Listen
to Itself
in its Fullness

22 January 1983
 

From Child & Rose by Gennady Aygi. Copyright © 2003 by Gennady Aygi and Peter France. Used by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

Dreamed the thong of my sandal broke.
Nothing to hold it to my foot.
How shall I walk?
	        Barefoot?
The sharp stones, the dirt. I would
hobble.
And– 
Where was I going?
Where was I going I can't
go to now, unless hurting?
Where am I standing, if I'm
to stand still now?

"The Broken Sandal" by Denise Levertov, from Poems 1968-1972, copyright © 1970 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

A man leaves the world
and the streets he lived on
grow a little shorter.

One more window dark
in this city, the figs on his branches
will soften for birds.

If we stand quietly enough evenings
there grows a whole company of us
standing quietly together.
overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees  
and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing,
drops her purple hem.
Each thing in its time, in its place,
it would be nice to think the same about people.

Some people do. They sleep completely,
waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds,
the lost and remembered.
They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone,
once for themselves. They dream thickly,
dream double, they wake from a dream
into another one, they walk the short streets
calling out names, and then they answer.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Published by Far Corner. Reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 1995 Naomi Shihab Nye.

Brown love is getting the pat down but not the secondary screening
and waiting after you clear to make sure the Sikh man or
the Black woman or the hijabis behind you get through

Brown love is asking the Punjabi guy working at the starbucks knockoff
if all the tea sizes are still the same price

and he says no,
it hasn’t been like that for at least four years,
but he slips you an extra tea bag without talking about it.

Brown love is the unsmiling aunty
at the disabled immigration line

barking
anything to declare? No? No? Have a good day.
and your rice, semolina, kari karo seeds and jaggary all get through
even though they are definitely from countries
where there are insects that could eat america to the ground

Brown love is texting your cousin on whatsapp asking
if she’s ever had a hard time bringing weed tincture in her carry on 

brown love is a balm
in this airport of life

where, if we can scrape up enough money
we all end up
because we all came from somewhere
and we want to go there
or we can’t go to there but we want to go to the place we went after that
where our mom still lives even though we fight
or our chosen sis is still in her rent controlled perfect apartment
where we get the luxury of things being like how we remember
we want to go to the place we used to live
and even if gentrification snatched the bakery
with the 75 cent coffee where everyone hung out all night
we can still walk the block where it was
and remember

and the thing about brown love is, nobody smiles.
nobody is friendly. nobody winks. nobody can get away with that
they’re all silently working their terrible 9 dollar an hour
food service jobs where tip jars aren’t allowed
or TSA sucks but it’s the job you can get out of the military
and nobody can get away with being outwardly loving
but we do what we can

brown love is the woman who lets your 1 pound over the 50 pound limit bag go
the angry woman who looks like your cousin
who is so tired on the american airlines customer service line
she tags your bag for checked luggage
and doesn’t say anything about a credit card, she just yells Next!
Brown love is your tired cousin who prays you all the way home
from when you get on the subway to when you land and get on another.
This is what we have
we do what we can.

Copyright © 2020 by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.

This poem is in the public domain.

I have come to the borders of sleep, 
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight, 
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose. 

Many a road and track
That, since the dawn's first crack,
Up to the forest brink, 
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink. 

Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends;
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter, 
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter 
Than tasks most noble. 

There is not any book 
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now 
To go into the unknown
I must enter, and leave, alone, 
I know not how. 

The tall forest towers; 
Its cloudy foliage lowers 
Ahead, shelf above shelf; 
Its silence I hear and obey 
That I may lose my way 
And myself.

This poem is in the public domain.

I

Living is no laughing matter:
	you must live with great seriousness
		like a squirrel, for example—
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
		I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
	you must take it seriously,
	so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
	in your white coat and safety glasses,
	you can die for people—
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
	is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
			from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
			about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
		for the latest newscast. . . 
Let’s say we’re at the front—
	for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
	we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.

III

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
	  I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
	  in pitch-black space . . . 
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, published by Persea Books. Copyright © 1994 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Used with the permission of Persea Books. All rights reserved.

 

Throw scissors at it. 
Fill it with straw 
and set it on fire, or set it 
off for the colonies with only 
some books and dinner-
plates and a stuffed bear 
named Friend Bear for me 
to lose in New Jersey. 
Did I say me? Things 
have been getting
less and less hypothetical 
since I unhitched myself 
from your bedpost. Everyone 
I love is too modern 
to be caught
grieving. In order 
to be consumed 
first you need to be consumable, 
but there is not a single 
part of you I could fit 
in my mouth. In a dream
I pull back your foreskin
and reveal a fat vase 
stuffed with crow 
feathers. This seems a faithful
translation of the real thing. Another 
way to harm something is to 
melt its fusebox, 
make it learn to live
in the dark. I still want
to suck the bones out 
from your hands,
plant them like the seeds
we found in an antique 
textbook, though those 
never sprouted and may not 
have even been seeds. 
When I was a sailor I found 
a sunken ziggurat, spent 
weeks diving through room 
after room discovering
this or that sacred 
shroud. One way to bury
something is to bury it 
forever. When I was water
you poured me out
over the dirt.  

Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. From Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

how much history is enough history     before we can agree
to flee our daycares      to wash everything away and start over
leaving laptops to be lost in the wet along with housecats and Christ’s
own mother      even a lobster climbs away from its shell a few
times a life      but every time I open my eyes I find
I am still inside myself     each epiphany dull and familiar
oh now I am barefoot       oh now I am lighting the wrong end
of a cigarette     I just want to be shaken new like a flag whipping
away its dust     want to pull out each of my teeth
and replace them with jewels     I’m told what seems like joy
is often joy     that the soul lives in the throat plinking
like a copper bell       I’ve been so young for so many years
it’s all starting to jumble together     joy jeweling copper   
its plink      a throat    sometimes I feel beautiful and near dying
like a feather on an arrow shot through a neck     other times
I feel tasked only with my own soreness      like a scab on the roof
of a mouth      my father believed in gardens      delighting
at burying each thing in its potential for growth     some years
the soil was so hard the water seeped down slower than the green
seeped up     still he’d say if you’re not happy in your own yard
you won’t be happy anywhere      I’ve never had a yard but I’ve had apartments
where water pipes burst above my head      where I’ve scrubbed
a lover’s blood from the kitchen tile       such cleaning
takes so much time you expect there to be confetti at the end    
what we’ll need in the next life      toothpaste      party hats
and animal bones      every day people charge out of this world    
squealing       good-bye human behavior!      so long acres
of germless chrome!      it seems gaudy for them to be so cavalier
with their bliss      while I’m still here lurching into my labor
hanging by my hair from the roof of a chapel      churchlight thickening
around me     or wandering into the woods to pull apart eggshells     emptying
them in the dirt      then sewing them back together to dry in the sun

Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. From Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

I wouldn’t even know what to do with a third chance,
another halo to shake loose galloping into the crossfire.
     Should I be apologizing? Supposedly, what’s inside my

     body is more or less the same as what’s inside yours—
here, the river girl clutching her toy whistle. There,
the black snake covered in scabs. Follow my neckline,

the beginning will start beginning again. I swear on my
head and eyes, there are moments in every day when
     if you asked me to leave, I would. Heaven is mostly

     preposition—up, above, around—and you can live
any place that’s a place. A failure of courage is still
a victory of safety. Bravery pitches its refugee tent

at the base of my brain and slowly starves, chipping into
darkness like a clay bird bouncing down a well. All night
     I eat yogurt and eggplant and garlic, water my dead

     orchids. In what world would any of me seem credible?
God’s word is a melody, and melody requires repetition.
God’s word is a melody I sang once then forgot.

Copyright © 2018 Kaveh Akbar. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Spring 2018.

“It’s all empty, empty,” 
he said to himself.
“The sex and drugs. The violence, especially.”
So he went down into the world to exercise his virtue,

thinking maybe that would help.
He taught a little kid to build a kite.
He found a cure, 
and then he found a cure 

for his cure.
He gave a woman at the mercy of the weather 
his umbrella, even though 
icy rain fell and he had pneumonia.
He settled a revolution in Spain.

Nothing worked.
The world happens, the world changes,
the world, it is written here, 
in the next line,
is only its own membrane—

and, oh yes, your compassionate nature,
your compassion for our kind.

Copyright © 2018 by Vijay Seshadri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

For the sake of some things
   That be now no more
I will strew rushes
   On my chamber-floor,
I will plant bergamot
   At my kitchen-door.

For the sake of dim things
   That were once so plain
I will set a barrel
   Out to catch the rain,
I will hang an iron pot
   On an iron crane.

Many things be dead and gone
   That were brave and gay;
For the sake of these things
   I will learn to say,
"An it please you, gentle sirs,"
   "Alack!" and "Well-a-day!"

This poem was originally published in Second April (1921). This poem is in the public domain.

She is neither pink nor pale,
    And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
    And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
    In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads,
    Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can, 
    And her ways to my ways resign; 
But she was not made for any man, 
    And she never will be all mine.

From Collected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, published by Harper & Brothers Publishers. Copyright © 1956 by Norma Millay Ellis.

Cruelty has a Human heart
And Jealousy a Human Face,
Terror, the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy, the Human Dress.

The Human Dress is forgéd Iron,
The Human Form, a fiery Forge,
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd,
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

This poem is in the public domain.

There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it’s assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers, that’s Dawn,
which should change its name to Dusk, irony being
the flip side of sentimentality here in the Iron Age,
ironing out the kinks in despair, turning it to hairdo
from hair, to do, vexing infinitive, much better to be
pain’s host, body of Christ as opposed to the Holy
Ghost, when I have been suffering at times I could
step away from it by embracing it, a blues thing,
a John Donne thing, divest by wrestling, then sing.

Copyright © 2017 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Very long ago when the exquisite celadon bowl
that was the mikado's favorite cup got broken,
no one in Japan had the skill and courage
to mend it. So the pieces were taken back
to China with a plea to the emperor
that it be repaired. When the bowl returned, 
it was held together with heavy iron staples.
The letter with it said they could not make it
more perfect. Which turned out to be true.

From All of It Singing. Copyright © 2009 by Linda Gregg. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.

                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.
 

Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.

your body still your body
your arms still wing
your mouth still a gun
 
          you tragic, misfiring bird
 
you have all you need to be a hero
don’t save the world, save yourself
 
you worship too much & you worship too much
 
when prayer doesn’t work:      dance, fly, fire
 
this is your hardest scene
when you think the whole sad thing might end
 
but you live      oh, you live
 
everyday you wake you raise the dead
 
          everything you do is a miracle
 

From Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017) Copyright © 2017 by Danez Smith. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

after Reagan Lothes

Because nothing else is on so early
in the morning when he drinks coffee
in an empty house. Because almanacs

are of limited use compared to satellites.
Because spring will have to come somehow
and cold reminds him which bones

he’s broken. Because every flight delayed
or canceled is one he won’t be on. Because
people should stay where they’re from,

except his children, who were right to leave. 
Because a flood will take what it can
and move uphill. Because just once

he’d like to see a tornado touch down
in an empty field and go away
hungry. Because his wife nearly died

on an icy road. Because he can’t prepare
for disasters he doesn’t understand.
Because wind keeps him awake. Because

his boots are by the door, but his slicker
is in his truck. Because he can’t change
a damn thing forecast and uncertainty aches

like a tired muscle, an unhealed wound.

Copyright © 2013 Carrie Shipers. Originally published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Volume 30, Number 3-4. Used with permission of the author.

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Copyright © 2006 The Czeslaw Milosz Estate.

the hours fly quick on wings of clipped winds
like nonsense blown from mouths of hot air—
people—including my own—form syllables, suds,
words shot through pursed lips like greased sleaze
& bloom inside all these rooms dominated by television’s
babble sluicing idiot images invented in modern test tubes—
clones—blinking, slathering all over controlled airwaves
of an up-for-sale world, blinking a paucity of spirit,
so dance you leering ventriloquists, marionettes,
you greedy counterfeits, dance, dance, dance

Copyright © 2006 by Quincy Troupe. From The Architecture of Language (Coffee House Press, 2006). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

“she’s kicking”
nālani says 
 
holds my
hands against
 
her belly 
so warm! 
 
chicken broth
boils in
 
the crockpot
bones turn
 
in briny 
liquid—baby
 
kicks again
can she
 
feel my
body heat? 
 
magma rises
water into
 
steam—Kīlauea 
drill, turbine
 
Mauna Loa
grid, undersea
 
cables—is
geothermal safe? 
 
baby’s so 
active tonight 
 
nālani presses
my palms
 
deeper into
this skin
 
drum e
Pele e

Copyright @ 2014 by Craig Santos Perez. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 22, 2014.

I

Men, fires, feasts,
steps of temple, fore-stone, lintel,
step of white altar, fire and after-fire,
slaughter before,
fragment of burnt meat,
deep mystery, grapple of mind to reach
the tense thought,
power and wealth, purpose and prayer alike,
(men, fires, feasts, temple steps)—useless.

Useless to me who plant
wide feet on a mighty plinth,
useless to me who sit,
wide of shoulder, great of thigh,
heavy in gold, to press
gold back against solid back
of the marble seat:
useless the dragons wrought on the arms,
useless the poppy-buds and the gold inset
of the spray of wheat.

Ah they have wrought me heavy
and great of limb—
she is slender of waist,
slight of breast, made of many fashions;
they have set her small feet
on many a plinth;
she they have known,
she they have spoken with,
she they have smiled upon,
she they have caught
and flattered with praise and gifts.

But useless the flattery
of the mighty power
they have granted me:
for I will not stay in her breast
the great of limb,
though perfect the shell they have
fashioned me, these men!

Do I sit in the market place—
do I smile, does a noble brow
bend like the brow of Zeus—
am I a spouse, his or any,
am I a woman, or goddess or queen,
to be met by a god with a smile—and left?

II

Do you ask for a scroll,
parchment, oracle, prophecy, precedent;
do you ask for tablets marked with thought
or words cut deep on the marble surface,
do you seek measured utterance or the mystic trance?

Sleep on the stones of Delphi—
dare the ledges of Pallas
but keep me foremost,
keep me before you, after you, with you,
never forget when you start
for the Delphic precipice,
never forget when you seek Pallas
and meet in thought
yourself drawn out from yourself
like the holy serpent,
never forget
in thought or mysterious trance—
I am greatest and least.

Soft are the hands of Love,
soft, soft are his feet;
you who have twined myrtle,
have you brought crocuses,
white as the inner
stript bark of the osier,
have you set
black crocus against the black
locks of another?

III

Of whom do I speak?

Many the children of gods
but first I take
Bromios, fostering prince,
lift from the ivy brake, a king.

Enough of the lightning,
enough of the tales that speak
of the death of the mother:
strange tales of a shelter
brought to the unborn,
enough of tale, myth, mystery, precedent—
a child lay on the earth asleep.

Soft are the hands of Love,
but what soft hands
clutched at the thorny ground,
scratched like a small white ferret
or foraging whippet or hound,
sought nourishment and found
only the crackling of ivy,
dead ivy leaf and the white
berry, food for a bird,
no food for this who sought,
bending small head in a fever,
whining with little breath.

Ah, small black head,
ah, the purple ivy bush,
ah, berries that shook and spilt
on the form beneath,
who begot you and left?

Though I begot no man child
all my days,
the child of my heart and spirit,
is the child the gods desert
alike and the mother in death—
the unclaimed Dionysios.

IV

What of her—
mistress of Death?

Form of a golden wreath
were my hands that girt her head,
fingers that strove to meet,
and met where the whisps escaped
from the fillet, of tenderest gold,
small circlet and slim
were my fingers then.

Now they are wrought of iron
to wrest from earth
secrets; strong to protect,
strong to keep back the winter
when winter tracks too soon
blanch the forest:
strong to break dead things,
the young tree, drained of sap,
the old tree, ready to drop,
to lift from the rotting bed
of leaves, the old
crumbling pine tree stock,
to heap bole and knot of fir
and pine and resinous oak,
till fire shatter the dark
and hope of spring
rise in the hearts of men.

What of her—
mistress of Death—
what of his kiss?

Ah, strong were his arms to wrest
slight limbs from the beautiful earth,
young hands that plucked the first
buds of the chill narcissus,
soft fingers that broke
and fastened the thorny stalk
with the flower of wild acanthus.

Ah, strong were the arms that took
(ah evil, the heart and graceless,)
but the kiss was less passionate!

This poem is in the public domain.

Thanks to the morning light,
   Thanks to the foaming sea,
To the uplands of New Hampshire,
   To the green-haired forest free;
Thanks to each man of courage,
   To the maids of holy mind,
To the boy with his games undaunted
   Who never looks behind.
 
Cities of proud hotels,
   Houses of rich and great,
Vice nestles in your chambers,
   Beneath your roofs of slate.
It cannot conquer folly,—
   Time-and-space-conquering steam,—
And the light-outspeeding telegraph
   Bears nothing on its beam.

The politics are base;
   The letters do not cheer;
And ’t is far in the deeps of history,
   The voice that speaketh clear.
Trade and the streets ensnare us,
   Our bodies are weak and worn;
We plot and corrupt each other,
   And we despoil the unborn.
 
Yet there in the parlor sits
   Some figure of noble guise,—
Our angel, in a stranger’s form,
   Or woman’s pleading eyes;
Or only a flashing sunbeam
   In at the window-pane;
Or Music pours on mortals
   Its beautiful disdain.
 
The inevitable morning
   Finds them who in cellars be;
And be sure the all-loving Nature
   Will smile in a factory.
Yon ridge of purple landscape,
   Yon sky between the walls,
Hold all the hidden wonders
   In scanty intervals.
 
Alas! the Sprite that haunts us
   Deceives our rash desire;
It whispers of the glorious gods,
   And leaves us in the mire.
We cannot learn the cipher
   That ’s writ upon our cell;
Stars taunt us by a mystery
   Which we could never spell.
 
If but one hero knew it,
   The world would blush in flame;
The sage, till he hit the secret,
   Would hang his head for shame.
Our brothers have not read it,
   Not one has found the key;
And henceforth we are comforted,—
   We are but such as they. 
 
Still, still the secret presses;
   The nearing clouds draw down;
The crimson morning flames into
   The fopperies of the town.
Within, without the idle earth,
   Stars weave eternal rings;
The sun himself shines heartily,
   And shares the joy he brings.
 
And what if Trade sow cities
   Like shells along the shore,
And thatch with towns the prairie broad
   With railways ironed o’er?—
They are but sailing foam-bells
   Along Thought’s causing stream,
And take their shape and sun-color
   From him that sends the dream.
 
For Destiny never swerves
   Nor yields to men the helm;
He shoots his thought, by hidden nerves,
   Throughout the solid realm.
The patient Dæmon sits,
   With roses and a shroud;
He has his way, and deals his gifts,—
   But ours is not allowed.
 
He is no churl nor trifler,
   And his viceroy is none,—
Love-without-weakness,—
   Of Genius sire and son.
And his will is not thwarted;
   The seeds of land and sea
Are the atoms of his body bright,
   And his behest obey.
 
He serveth the servant,
   The brave he loves amain;
He kills the cripple and the sick,
   And straight begins again;
For gods delight in gods,
   And thrust the weak aside;
To him who scorns their charities
   Their arms fly open wide.
 
When the old world is sterile
   And the ages are effete,
He will from wrecks and sediment
   The fairer world complete.
He forbids to despair;
   His cheeks mantle with mirth;
And the unimagined good of men
   Is yeaning at the birth.
 
Spring still makes spring in the mind
   When sixty years are told;
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
   And we are never old;
Over the winter glaciers
   I see the summer glow,
And through the wild-piled snow-drift
   The warm rosebuds below.

This poem is in the public domain.

Tonight the wind is in your voice.
And the gods are nervous
about the drinking water.
Someone hijacks the background
with three simple dance moves.
Or maybe the clouds
paused on the television
set during a ball game.
The silence inside
the photograph
of you eating alone
in an old yearbook.
This is going to be over
before you know it.
But not before your hands
become small birds
in celebration
of the present snow.
An expressed panic
attack of harmonics.
It’s like listening to your heartbeat
in a club, all the lights off,
all by yourself. 

Copyright © 2017 by Noah Falck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the worst hour of the worst season
    of the worst year of a whole people
a man set out from the workhouse with his wife.
He was walking—they were both walking—north.

She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.
     He lifted her and put her on his back.
He walked like that west and west and north.
Until at nightfall under freezing stars they arrived.

In the morning they were both found dead.
    Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone.
The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.

Let no love poem ever come to this threshold.
     There is no place here for the inexact
praise of the easy graces and sensuality of the body.
There is only time for this merciless inventory:

Their death together in the winter of 1847.
      Also what they suffered. How they lived.
And what there is between a man and woman.
And in which darkness it can best be proved.

From New Collected Poems by Eavan Boland. Copyright © 2008 by Eavan Boland. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

The recipe invites itself to eat and laughs at its own jokes.
Puns of tripled and quadruped meanings. 
Was I ratting on you?
I invite everyone. Everyone is my friend. 
Would you like some of my sandwich?
I really mean you can come forward
with your mouth open.
Once, I wrote a play. There was only one scene. 
A girl lists the food she wants to eat.
Jasmine rice sautéed in garlic and sesame oil. A fish you caught yourself.
I put gold flecks in the sauce so everyone will know how happy we are.
I call the play Loves You Long Time.
The manuscripts are drying and dying out in mouldering museums.

Pick one:

1.  Filipinos don’t care about their history
2.  Filipinos can’t afford to preserve the manuscripts in this kind of tropical heat.
3.  Los manuscripts no existe. I only told you about them because I love you and you love me.

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

1

Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
	the lamp pole.

Where have the people gone?
There is one light on the mountain.

2

Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell,
The waves not yet high, but even,
Coming closer and closer upon each other;
A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea,
Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot,
The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending,
Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.

A time to go home!—
And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley,
A cat runs from the wind as we do,
Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia,
Where the heavy door unlocks,
And our breath comes more easy,—
Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over
The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating
The walls, the slatted windows, driving
The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer
To their cards, their anisette.

3

We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles,
Bending the trees half-way down to the ground,
Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard,
Flattening the limber carnations.

A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb,
Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
The bulb goes on and off, weakly.
Water roars into the cistern.

We lie closer on the gritty pillow,
Breathing heavily, hoping—
For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater,
The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell,
The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses,
And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

From The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Theodore Roethke, published by Anchor Books. © 1975 by Theodore Roethke. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Thou, born to sip the lake or spring,
Or quaff the waters of the stream,
Why hither come on vagrant wing?—
Does Bacchus tempting seem—
Did he, for you, this glass prepare?—
Will I admit you to a share?

Did storms harass or foes perplex,
Did wasps or king-birds bring dismay—
Did wars distress, or labours vex,
Or did you miss your way?—
A better seat you could not take
Than on the margin of this lake.

Welcome!—I hail you to my glass:
All welcome, here, you find;
Here, let the cloud of trouble pass,
Here, be all care resigned.—
This fluid never fails to please,
And drown the griefs of men or bees.

What forced you here, we cannot know,
And you will scarcely tell—
But cheery we would have you go
And bid a glad farewell:
On lighter wings we bid you fly,
Your dart will now all foes defy.

Yet take not, oh! too deep a drink,
And in this ocean die;
Here bigger bees than you might sink,
Even bees full six feet high.
Like Pharoah, then, you would be said
To perish in a sea of red.

Do as you please, your will is mine;
Enjoy it without fear—
And your grave will be this glass of wine,
Your epitaph—a tear—
Go, take your seat in Charon’s boat,
We’ll tell the hive, you died afloat.

This poem is in the public domain.

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

"How to See Deer," from Lifelines by Philip Booth, copyright © 1999 by Philip Booth. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

In the sky there is nobody asleep. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the stars.

Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead dahlias.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful! Be careful! Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world. No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the night,
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

By Federico García Lorca, translated and edited by Robert Bly, and published by Beacon Press in Selected Poems: Lorca and Jiménez. © 1973 by Robert Bly. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

This poem is in the public domain.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
She's making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.

From If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries . . ., published by Macmillan, 1981. Used with permission.

At last understanding
that everything my friend had been saying
for the thirty-three months since he knew
were words of the dog tag, words of, whatever else, 
the milled and stamped-into metal of what stays behind.
Blackcap Mountain. Blue scorpion venom. Persimmon pudding.
He spoke them.
He could not say love enough times.
It clinked against itself, it clinked against its little chain.

—2016

Copyright © 2018 by Jane Hirshfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

How many seasons are there?
Where was God born?
How many stars?
Who discovered every single one of the Americas and all of the other places?
Do some dwarves live in caves?
Is your mother singing in church tonight?
Is your father setting his hat on his head?
Do those goldfish belong to you?
Why did their God rise from the dead?
Could it be because of a forgotten pencil?
Do you like to study history?
Is this your book?
Where does cotton grow?
Why did the Holy Family go to Egypt. What is the Holy Family?
Do you see frightened ghosts on the streets sometimes?
I see the dog in your eye.
How would you like this to end?
Gone was a dog off to where a dog wants to go.
Who needed some help from old friends?
Do you see the question mark at the end of this sentence?
Somewhat maligned Pandora remains a curious person.



Photo of Dara Wier, James Tate, Guy Pettit & Emily Pettit's beloved Scottie. She goes by Maggie, Maggy, and Magpie, variously, and is "responsible for this poem."

Copyright © 2011 by Dara Wier. Poem and image used by permission of the author.

The pressure of the moment can cause someone to kill someone or something

The leniency of consideration might treat with more kindness

Which is to be desired. Or at least often to be desired.

But if my house is on fire and you notice, I wish you would kill

That fire. But if my hair is on fire, while I'm sure you'll be enjoying

The spectacle of it, act quickly or don't act at all. But if a sudden

Jarring of us all out of existence is eminent, do something.

Copyright © 2011 by Dara Wier. Used with permission of the author.

A wolf had grown tired of his character and sought
to find a means to transform himself into something 
more vicious, more deadly. While his coat was slick,
thick and well-colored, for he was an excellent hunter,
he yearned for something to do that had nothing to do 
with survival or instinct. He no longer killed because
he needed to or could. All that was useless, too practical,
too obvious. He wanted to kill for some other purpose.
For all of his successfully completed kills, his perfect
record of stealth and elusion, he felt nothing. When he
ran into me the other day on his journey to consult the 
oracle of escalated suffering we shared a table in the
shade of a parasol tree in whose branches were preening
half a dozen or so birds with gaudy chromatic feathers.
A few of these fell onto the dome of his forehead but he
was too engrossed in his story to brush them away. He 
didn't look like a very serious wolf. I think he was
missing a real opportunity.

From Selected Poems by Dara Wier. Copyright © 2010 by Dara Wier. Used by permission of Wave Books.