Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mahalia Jackson is a genius. Or Mahalia Jackson has genius. The man I am with is trying to make a distinction. I am uncomfortable with his need to make this distinction because his inquiry begins to approach subtle shades of racism, classism, or sexism. It is hard to know which. Mahalia Jackson never finished the eighth grade, or Mahalia’s genius is based on the collision of her voice with her spirituality. True spirituality is its own force. I am not sure how to respond to all this. I change the subject instead.

We have just seen George Wein’s documentary, Louis Armstrong at Newport, 1971. In the auditorium a room full of strangers listened to Mahalia Jackson sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” and stood up and gave a standing ovation to a movie screen. Her clarity of vision crosses thirty years to address intimately each of us. It is as if her voice has always been dormant within us, waiting to be awakened, even though “it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, (and) through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech.”

Perhaps Mahalia, like Paul Celan, has already lived all our lives for us. Perhaps that is the definition of genius. Hegel says, “Each man hopes and believes he is better than the world which is his, but the man who is better merely expresses this same world better than the others.” Mahalia Jackson sings as if it is the last thing she intends to do. And even though the lyrics of the song are, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” I am hearing, Let it begin in me.

Copyright © 2004 by Claudia Rankine. From Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (Graywolf Press, 2004). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

This poem originally appeared in Waxwing, Issue 10, in June 2016. Used with permission of the author.

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.

Copyright © 2016 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 18, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

When we came home across the hill
    No leaves were fallen from the trees;
    The gentle fingers of the breeze
Had torn no quivering cobweb down.

The hedgerow bloomed with flowers still,
    No withered petals lay beneath;
    But the wild roses in your wreath
Were faded, and the leaves were brown.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

            Steamtown National Historic Site was created in 1986 to
            preserve the history of steam railroading in America,
            concentrating on the era 1850 through 1950.

We weren’t supposed to, so we did
      what any band of boys would do
& we did it the way they did in books
      none of us would admit we stole
from our brothers & kept hidden

under bedskirts in each of our rooms:
      dropped our bicycles without flipping
their kickstands & scaled the fence
      in silence. At the top, somebody’s overalls
snagged, then my Levi’s, & for a few deep

breaths, we all sat still—grouse in a line—
      considering the dark yard before
us, how it gestured toward our defiance—
      of gravity, of curfews, of what we knew
of goodness & how we hoped we could be

shaped otherwise—& dared us to jump.
      And then we were among them,
stalking their muscled silhouettes as our own
      herd, becoming ourselves a train
of unseen movements made singular,

never strangers to the permanent way
      of traveling through the dark
of another’s shadow, indiscernible to the dirt.
     Our drove of braids & late summer
lice buzz cuts pivoted in unison

when an engine sighed, throwing the moon
      into the whites of our eyes & carrying it,
still steaming, across the yard to a boilerman,
      her hair tied up in a blue bandana.
Somewhere, our mothers were sleeping

prayers for daughters who did not want women
      to go to the moon, who did not ask
for train sets or mitts. But here—with the moon
      at our feet, & the whistle smearing
the cicadas’ electric scream, & the headlamp

made of Schwinn chrome, or a cat’s eye
      marble, or, depending on who
you asked, the clean round scar of a cigarette
      burn on the inside of a wrist so small
even my fingers could fasten around

it—was a woman refilling the tender
      in each of us. We watched her
the way we’d been told to watch
      our brothers, our fathers:
in quiet reverence, hungry all the while.
 

      

Copyright © 2016 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Another year is coming to an end
but my old t-shirts will not be back—

the pea-green one from Trinity College,
gunked with streaks of lawnmower grease,

the one with orange bat wings
from Diamond Cavern, Kentucky,

vanished
without a trace.

After a two-day storm I wander the beach
admiring the ocean’s lack of attachment.

I huddle beneath a seashell,
lonely as an exile.

My sadness is the sadness of water fountains.
My sadness is as ordinary as these gulls

importuning for Cheetos or scraps
of peanut butter sandwiches.

Feed them a single crust
and they will never leave you alone.

Copyright © 2016 by Campbell McGrath. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

There used to be no one here,
where cypresses and oaks play
shadow puppets on sawgrass.

You heard the music before
I did: tambourines, pan pipes.
Remember how I woke clean

to meet you each morning?
The dew and the dust?
Remember how you’d catch me

as I fell from trees? Someone
heard and hurt us. I’m Black-Eyed
Pea. You’re just Skull Kid.

We wanted our genius to last.
We never wanted chalkboards
or snow. We never came home

before the streetlights buzzed.
All we do is dance in leaves.
Cackle and Dreaming, we call it.

Our mothers call it grief.

Copyright © 2016 by Derrick Austin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 27, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

How strange, how passing strange, when we awake
        And lift our faces to the light
To know that you are lying shut away
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange, when we lie down
        To sleep, to know that you are quite
Alone beneath the moon, the stars, the little leaves,
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange to know—our eyes
        Will gladden at the fine sweet sight
Of you no more, for now your face is hid
        Within the night.

Strange, strange indeed, these things to us appear
        And yet we know they must be right;
And though your body sleeps, your soul has passed
        Beyond the night.

Ah! friend, it must be sweet to slip from out
        The tears, the pain, the losing fight
Below, and rest, just rest eternally
        Beyond the night.

And sweet it must be too, to know the kiss
        Of Peace, of Peace, the pure, the white
And step beside her hand in hand quite close
        Beyond the night.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Look, you
want it
you devour it
and then, then
good as it was
you realize
it wasn’t
what you
exactly
wanted
what you
wanted
exactly was
wanting

Copyright © 2016 by Noah Eli Gordon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

The city’s streets are densely shelved with rows
of salt and packaged hair. Intent on air,
the funk of crave and function comes to blows

with any smell that isn’t oil—the blare
of storefront chicken settles on the skin
and mango spritzing drips from razored hair.

The corner chefs cube pork, decide again
on cayenne, fry in grease that’s glopped with dust.
The sizzle of the feast adds to the din

of children, strutting slant, their wanderlust
and cussing, plus the loud and tactless hiss 
of dogged hustlers bellowing past gusts

of peppered breeze, that fatty, fragrant bliss
in skillets. All our rampant hunger tricks
us into thinking we can dare dismiss

the thing men do to boulevards, the wicks
their bodies be. A city, strapped for art,
delights in torching them—at first for kicks,

to waltz to whirling sparks, but soon those hearts
thud thinner, whittled by the chomp of heat.
Outlined in chalk, men blacken, curl apart.

Their blindly rising fume is bittersweet,
although reversals in the air could fool
us into thinking they weren’t meant as meat.

Our sons don’t burn their cities as a rule,
born, as they are, up to their necks in fuel.

Copyright © 2016 by Patricia Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lo, even as I passed beside the booth
Of roses, and beheld them brightly twine
To damask heights, taking them as a sign
Of my own self still unconcerned with truth;
Even as I held up in hands uncouth
And drained with joy the golden-bodied wine,
Deeming it half-unworthy, half divine,
From out the sweet-rimmed goblet of my youth.

Even in that pure hour I heard the tone
Of grievous music stir in memory,
Telling me of the time already flown
From my first youth. It sounded like the rise
Of distant echo from dead melody,
Soft as a song heard far in Paradise.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Let’s go to Dawn School
and learn again to begin

oh something different
from repetition

Let’s go to the morning
and watch the sun smudge

every bankrupt idea
of nature “you can’t write about

anymore” said my friend
the photographer “except

as science”      
Let’s enroll ourselves

in the school of the sky
where knowing

how to know
and unknow is everything

we’ll come to know
under what they once thought

was the dome of the world
 

Copyright © 2016 by Maureen N. McLane. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 5, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

I walked to the end of the pier
and threw your name into the sea,
and when you flew back to me—
a silver fish—I devoured you,
cleaned you to the bone. I was through.
But then you came back again:
as sun on water. I reached for you,
skimmed my hands over the light of you.
And when the sky darkened,
again, I thought it was over, but then,
you became water. I closed my eyes
and lay on top of you, swallowed you,
let you swallow me too. And when
you carried my body back to shore—
as I trusted that you would do—
well, then, you became shore too,
and I knew, finally, I would never be through.

Copyright © 2016 by Nicole Callihan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

So much on the verge
of flame.
In a hot
wind anything
is tinder: paper, sage

feverish with bees,
your auburn
hair, my hand
that glows with a thought.
Sunset

or sleepless dawn,
nothing is sure
but what’s already burned—
water that’s ash, steel
that has flowed and cooled,

though in the core
of a star, they too
would fuse and rage,
and even volcanic
glass and char,

and the cold seas,
and even    
what we once were
might burn again—
or in the heart.

Copyright © 2016 by James Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 10, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Opening out
Into the world.
And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.

"For My Mother", from Coming Into Eighty by May Sarton. Copyright © 1994 by May Sarton. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

One day

I will drift

into darkness

and know it

perhaps

the way a son

recognizes a mother

after he has returned

from many years

of travel

understanding

the new distance

is neither

beginning nor

end

only stillness
 

Copyright © 2015 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I loved the things that were ours—pink gloves,
hankies with a pastoral scene in one corner.
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’ 
clothes you would put on or take off—
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
      you had been cured of that.
And some of the dolls had hard-rubber hands, with
dimples, and though you were not supposed to, you could
bite off the ends of the fingers when you could not stand it.
And though you’d never be allowed to, say, drive a bus,
or do anything that had to be done right, there was a
teeny carton, in you, of eggs
so tiny they were invisible.
And there would be milk, in you, too—real
milk! And you could wear a skirt, you could  
be a bellflower—up under its
cone the little shape like a closed
buckle, intricate groove and tongue,
where something like God’s power over you lived. And it
      turned out
you shared some things with boys—
the alphabet was not just theirs—
and you could make forays over into their territory,
you could have what you could have because it was yours,
and a little of what was theirs, because
you took it. Much later, you’d have to give things
up, too, to make it fair—long
hair, skirts, even breasts, a pair
of raspberry colored pumps which a friend
wanted to put on, if they would fit his foot, and they did.

Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Olds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, 
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, 
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry 
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away 
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods, 
At night give praise with starry silences. 

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls 
And the rattle and flap of sails 
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor. 
Give praise with the humpback whales, 
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
 
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas, 
Give praise with hum of bees, 
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over. 

Give praise with mockingbirds, day's nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle 
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.
 
Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning 
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river, 
Wilderness river. 

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities, 
Far even from the towns, 
With piercing innocence 
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes 
And four notes only. 

Give praise with water, 
With storms of rain and thunder 
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar 
That fills the seaside villages, 
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains 

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

From Living Things by Anne Porter, published by Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press of Hanover, New Hampshire. Copyright © 2006 by Anne Porter. All rights reserved.

At night the wide and level stretch of wold,
Which at high noon had basked in quiet gold,
Far as the eye could see was ghostly white;
Dark was the night save for the snow’s weird light.

I drew the shades far down, crept into bed;
Hearing the cold wind moaning overhead
Through the sad pines, my soul, catching its pain,
Went sorrowing with it across the plain.

At dawn, behold! the pall of night was gone,
Save where a few shrubs melancholy, lone,
Detained a fragile shadow. Golden-lipped
The laughing grasses heaven’s sweet wine sipped.

The sun rose smiling o’er the river’s breast,
And my soul, by his happy spirit blest,
Soared like a bird to greet him in the sky,
And drew out of his heart Eternity.

This poem is in the public domain.

Who can make a delicate adventure
Of walking on the ground?
Who can make grass-blades
Arcades for pertly careless straying?
You alone, who skim against these leaves,
Turning all desire into light whips
Moulded by your deep blue wing-tips,
You who shrill your unconcern
Into the sternly antique sky.
You to whom all things
Hold an equal kiss of touch.

Mincing, wanton blue-bird,
Grimace at the hoofs of passing men.
You alone can lose yourself
Within a sky, and rob it of its blue!
 

This poem is in the public domain.

Did you see the sky through me
tonight, carbon blues and clouds like ropes
of wool behind a fringe of branches,
great combs of black stilling in their sap,
stiffening with winter. I like to imagine
love can pull your essence like red thread
through the cold needle of my life now
without you. I was just driving home
from the grocery store and looking up
over the roofs, I remembered once when
I was overthrowing my thoughts
for doubts you said, I know how to love you
because I hitchhiked, and it was never the same sky twice
.
Now, I hear you say, this music is like wind
moving through itself to wind, intricate
as the chimes of light splintering into
everything while glowing more whole.
It is nothing like those dusty chords
on your radio, each an ego
of forced air, heavy with the smells
of onions, mushrooms, sage and rain.
Drink it in, you say, those corded clouds
and throaty vocals. You will miss all this
when you become the changing.

Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Jamison Webster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Taytay, Rizal Province, Philippines
(based on the photo by Noel Celis)

Hardly anything holds the children up, each poised
mid-air, barely the ball of one small foot
kissing the chair’s wood, so
they don’t just step across, but pause
above the water. I look at that cotton mangle
of a sky, post-typhoon, and presume
it’s holding something back. In this country,
it’s the season of greedy gods
and the several hundred cathedrals
worth of water they spill onto little tropic villages
like this one, where a girl is likely to know
the name of the man who built
every chair in her school by hand,
six of which are now arranged
into a makeshift bridge so that she and her mates
can cross their flooded schoolyard.
Boys in royal blue shorts and red rain boots,
the girls brown and bare-toed
in starch white shirts and pleated skirts.
They hover like bells that can choose
to withhold their one clear, true
bronze note, until all this nonsense
of wind and drizzle dies down.
One boy even reaches forward
into the dark sudden pool below
toward someone we can’t see, and
at the same time, without looking, seems
to offer the tips of his fingers back to the smaller girl 
behind him. I want the children
ferried quickly across so they can get back
to slapping one another on the neck
and cheating each other at checkers.
I’ve said time and time again I don’t believe
in mystery, and then I’m reminded what it’s like
to be in America, to kneel beside
a six-year-old, to slide my left hand
beneath his back and my right under his knees, 
and then carry him up a long flight of stairs
to his bed. I can feel the fine bones,
the little ridges of the spine
with my palm, the tiny smooth stone
of the elbow. I remember I’ve lifted
a sleeping body so slight I thought
the whole catastrophic world could fall away.
I forget how disaster works, how it can turn
a child back into glistening butterfish
or finches. And then they’ll just do
what they do, which is teach the rest of us
how to move with such natural gravity.
Look at these two girls, center frame,
who hold out their arms
as if they’re finally remembering
they were made for other altitudes.
I love them for the peculiar joy
of returning to earth. Not an ounce
of impatience. This simple thrill
of touching ground. 
 

Copyright © 2015 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

There is a holiness to exhaustion
is what I keep telling myself,
filling out the form so my TA gets paid
then making copies of it on the hot
and heaving machine, writing
Strong start! on a pretty bad poem.
And then the children: the baby’s
mouth opening, going for the breast,
the girl’s hair to wash tonight
and then comb so painstakingly
in the tub while conditioner drips
in slick globs onto her shoulders,
while her discipline chart flaps in the air
conditioner at school, taped
to a filing cabinet, longing for stickers.
My heart is so giant this evening,
like one of those moons so full
and beautiful and terrifying
if you see it when you’re getting out
of the car you have to go inside the house
and make someone else come out
and see it for themselves. I want every-
thing, I admit. I want yes of course
and I want it all the time. I want
a clean heart. I want the children
to sleep and the drought
to end. I want the rain to come
down—It’s supposed to monsoon
is what Naomi said, driving away
this morning, and she was right,
as usual. It’s monsooning. Still,
I want more. Even as the streets
are washed clean and then begin
to flood. Even though the man
came again today to check the rat traps
and said he bet we’d catch the rat
within 24 hours. We still haven’t caught
the rat, so I’m working at the table
with my legs folded up beneath me.
I want to know what is holy—
I do. But first I want the rat to die.
I am thirsty for that death
and will drink deeply of that victory,
the thwack of the trap’s hard plastic jaw,
I will rush to see the evidence no matter
how gruesome, leaning my body over
the washing machine to see the thing
crushed there, much smaller
than I’d imagined it’d be,
the strawberry large in its mouth.

Copyright © 2015 by Carrie Fountain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
      I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
       And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
       And I can sing.

This poem is in the public domain.

Come, brothers all!
Shall we not wend
The blind-way of our prison-world
By sympathy entwined?
Shall we not make
The bleak way for each other’s sake
Less rugged and unkind?
O let each throbbing heart repeat
The faint note of another’s beat
To lift a chanson for the feet
That stumble down life’s checkered street.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dark hills at evening in the west,
Where sunset hovers like a sound
Of golden horns that sang to rest
Old bones of warriors under ground,
Far now from all the bannered ways
Where flash the legions of the sun,
You fade—as if the last of days
Were fading, and all wars were done.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 9, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I had not known before
    Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
    I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
    It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
    And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
    Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
    My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
    That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
     I have not heard.
 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

All night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping!—Ping!—and there was not a pin-point of silence between
    them.
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-colored
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed—orange torches against the rain.
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain!

This poem is in the public domain.Published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

All yesterday it poured, and all night long
    I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
    Upon the grass like running children’s feet.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
    Like a strange shape in filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
    And nestled soft against the earth’s wet breast.
But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
    The still air stirred at touch of the faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
    The songsters twittered in the rustling trees.
And all things were transfigured in the day,
    But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
    And I was blind with hunger for your love.

This poem is in the public domain. 

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Fragos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Leisure, thou goddess of a bygone age,
   When hours were long and days sufficed to hold
    Wide-eyed delights and pleasures uncontrolled
By shortening moments, when no gaunt presage
Of undone duties, modern heritage,
    Haunted our happy minds; must thou withhold
    Thy presence from this over-busy world,
And bearing silence with thee disengage
    Our twined fortunes? Deeps of unhewn woods
    Alone can cherish thee, alone possess
Thy quiet, teeming vigor. This our crime:
    Not to have worshipped, marred by alien moods
    That sole condition of all loveliness,
The dreaming lapse of slow, unmeasured time.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m having a feeling
so I check my phone or squint at the window
with a serious look, like someone in a movie
or a mother thinking about how time passes.
Sometimes I’m not sure how to feel so I think
about a lot of things until I get an allergy attack.
I take my antihistamine with beer, thank you very much,
sleep like a cut under a band aid, wake up
on the stairs having missed the entire party.
It was a real blast, I can tell, for all the vases
are broken, the flowers twisted into crowns
for the young, drunk, and beautiful. I put one on
and salute the moon, the lone face over me
shining through the grates on the front door window.
You have seen me like this before, such a strange
version of the person you thought you knew.
Guess what, I’m strange to us both. It’s like
I’m not even me sometimes. Who am I? A question
for the Lord only to decide as She looks over
my résumé. Everything is different sometimes.
Sometimes there is no hand on my shoulder
but my room, my apartment, my body are containers
and I am thusly contained. How easy to forget
the obvious. The walls, blankets, sunlight, your love.

Copyright © 2015 by Matthew Siegel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

This after-sunset is a sight for seeing,
Cliff-heads of craggy cloud surrounding it.
     —And dwell you in that glory-show?
You may; for there are strange strange things in being,
            Stranger than I know.

Yet if that chasm of splendour claim your presence
Which glows between the ash cloud and the dun,
     How changed must be your mortal mould!
Changed to a firmament-riding earthless essence
            From what you were of old:

All too unlike the fond and fragile creature
Then known to me….Well, shall I say it plain?
     I would not have you thus and there,
But still would grieve on, missing you, still feature
            You as the one you were.

This poem is in the public domain.

Wither me to within me:
Welt me to weal me common again:
Withdraw to wear me weary:
Over me to hover and lover again:

Before me to form and perform me:
Round me to rill me liquid incisions:
Behind me to hunt and haunt me:
Down me to drown indecision:

Bury me to seed me: bloom me
In loam me: grind me to meal me
Knead me to rise: raise me to your mouth

Rive me to river me:
End me to unmend me:
Rend me to render me:
 

Copyright © 2015 by Philip Metres. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 22, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

Copyright © 2015 by Marge Piercy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

The birds were louder this morning,
raucous, oblivious, tweeting their teensy bird-brains out.
It scared me, until I remembered it’s Spring.
How do they know it? A stupid question.
Thank you, birdies. I had forgotten how promise feels.

Copyright © 2015 by Michael Ryan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Before you have kids,
you get a dog.

Then when you get a baby,
you wait for the dog to die.

When the dog dies,
it’s a relief.

When your babies aren’t babies,
you want a dog again.

The uses of the body,
you see where they end.

But we are only in the middle,
only mid-way.

The organs growing older in their plush pockets
ticking toward the wearing out.

We are here and soon won’t be
(despite the cozy bed stuffed dog pillows books clock).

The boy with his socks on and pajamas.
A series of accidental collisions.

Pressure in the chest. Everyone breathing
for now, in and out, all night.

These sad things, they have to be.
I go into the kitchen thinking to sweeten myself.

Boiled eggs won’t do a thing.
Oysters. Lysol. Peanut butter. Gin.

Big babyface, getting fed.
I am twenty. I am thirty. I am forty years old.

A friend said Listen,
you have to try to calm down.

Copyright © 2015 by Deborah Landau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The Chinese truck driver
throws the rope
like a lasso, with a practiced flick,

over the load:
where it hovers an instant,
then arcs like a willow

into the waiting,
gloved hand
of his brother.

What does it matter
that, sitting in traffic,
I glanced out the window

and found them that way?
So lean and sleek-muscled
in their sweat-stiffened t-shirts:

offloading the pallets
just so they can load up
again in the morning,

and so on,
and so forth
forever like that—

like Sisyphus
I might tell them
if I spoke Mandarin,

or had a Marlboro to offer,
or thought for a minute
they’d believe it

when I say that I know
how it feels
to break your own

back for a living.
Then again,
what’s the difference?

When every light
for a mile turns
green all at once,

no matter how much
I might like
to keep watching

the older one squint
and blow smoke
through his nose?

Something like sadness,
like joy, like a sudden
love for my life,

and for the body
in which I have lived it,
overtaking me all at once,

as a bus driver honks
and the setting
sun glints, so bright

off a windshield
I wince and look back
and it’s gone.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Patrick Phillips. Used with permission of the author.

What people don’t know about my name
is that my grandmother gave me that “k”
                       —my very own unexpected
consonant—
                       those two strong arms and two strong legs,
that broom-handle spine—
                       that letter about no one with a name
same as mine has.

A mis-
           spelling, really—
                      the same botched phonetics of all her
girls’ names,
           misspelled but fancy

as chandeliers—Latonna Lee, Candies La Rayne, Lesi Annett 
            —names that know never to drink
            lemon water from a silver fingerbowl

but names that can be bobbed with a “y”
            and cheerlead.

Now, she called me Koey, so don’t expect me to respond
to the first nasal tone of my name
            but the harsher           cough 

that follows, that typo tambourined
from the back of the throat. I’ll answer to cold & coal & coke
    sometimes 

            even hear that sound as a scoop of coco, something dry

from the tin, but warmed with a little sugar and milk, a name
    snowing
            while it’s safe inside.

Copyright © 2015 by Nickole Brown. Used with permission of the author.

Night fell one year ago, like this.
He had been writing steadily.
Among these dusky walls of books,
How bright he looked, intense as flame!
Suddenly he paused,
The firelight in his hair,
And said, “The time has come to go.”
I took his hand;
We watched the logs burn out;
The apple boughs fingered the window;
Down the cool, spring night
A slim, white moon leaned to the hill.
To-night the trees are budded white,
And the same pale moon slips through the dusk.
O little buds, tap-tapping on the pane,
O white moon,
I wonder if he sleeps in woods
Where there are leaves?
Or if he lies in some black trench,
His hands, his kind hands, kindling flame that kills?
Or if, or if …
He is here now, to bid me last good-night?

This poem is in the public domain.

I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

This poem is in the public domain.

It must be coming, mustn’t it? Churches
and saloons are filled with decent humans.
A mother wants to feed her daughter,
fathers to buy their children things that break.
People laugh, all over the world, people laugh.
We were born to laugh, and we know how to be sad;
we dislike injustice and cancer,
and are not unaware of our terrible errors.
A man wants to love his wife.
His wife wants him to carry something.
We’re capable of empathy, and intense moments of joy.
Sure, some of us are venal, but not most.
There’s always a punchbowl, somewhere,
in which floats a…
Life’s a bullet, that fast, and the sweeter for it.
It’s the same everywhere: Slovenia, India,
Pakistan, Suriname—people like to pray,
or they don’t,
or they like to fill a blue plastic pool
in the back yard with a hose
and watch their children splash. 
Or sit in cafes, or at table with family.
And if a long train of cattle cars passes
along West Ridge
it’s only the cattle from East Ridge going to the abattoir.
The unbroken world is coming,
(it must be coming!), I heard a choir,
there were clouds, there was dust,
I heard it in the streets, I heard it
announced by loudhailers
mounted on trucks.

Copyright © 2015 by Thomas Lux. Used with permission of the author.

And who has seen the moon, who has not seen
Her rise from out the chamber of the deep,
Flushed and grand and naked, as from the chamber
Of finished bridegroom, seen her rise and throw
Confession of delight upon the wave,
Littering the waves with her own superscription
Of bliss, till all her lambent beauty shakes towards us
Spread out and known at last, and we are sure
That beauty is a thing beyond the grave,
That perfect, bright experience never falls
To nothingness, and time will dim the moon
Sooner than our full consummation here
In this odd life will tarnish or pass away.

This poem is in the public domain.

Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
But no,
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
“Oh look!”
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?

This poem is in the public domain.

We rinse the glasses
from which we will drink

affordable whiskey
with scotch or absinthe,

my love and I, the less than
a swallow left of good

liquor scenting the whole
cocktail. What intoxication

we afford each other
cannot be excess or impure.

*

A dried-out, overused river
runs through, or rather,

idles in, our small city
where we never intended to settle.

Birds alight on odorous pools stranded
between mudflats, a baptism

in reverse—the body that enters
proclaiming the water clean.

They dip down plumed heads
to say this is enough.

*

The pigeons, so adaptable, delight
in dropped scraps. While we—

however many lovers late in life
—rub the rims of Sazeracs

with an orange’s remaining peel,
arousing a perfume.

Copyright © 2014 by Rose McLarney. Used with permission of the author.

The pigeons ignore us gently as we
scream at one another in the parking
lot of an upscale grocer. The cicadas
are numbed by their own complaints,
so numbed I won’t even try to describe
the noise and tenor of their hum, but hum
they do like a child humming with his
fingers in his ears. Which, coincidentally,
is what our son is doing. Red shopping
carts crash together, and even the humans
walking by do so dumbly, as if to say,
no comment. As if two red-faced adults
in tears is as common as the polluted air
they breathe and keep reading about in
Time and Newsweek, but are clueless
as to what to do about it. Is this why we’re
separating our recycling by glass, by plastic,
by paper? Or why we’re buying organic
produce at a place that smells like patchouli
and port-o-potties? I ask you. Pigeons scoot,
and finches hop, and cicadas shout and shed
themselves into loose approximations of what
we might have in a different time called heaven.

Copyright © 2014 by Nick DePascal. Used with permission of the author.

                                              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.

Catmint—tubular, lavender, an ointment
to blur the scar, bloom the skin. My mouth has begun
the hunt for words that heal.

In the garden, I am startled by a cluster
of sun-colored petals marked, Radiation.
Piles of radiation. Orange radiation, huddled together

like families bound by a hospital-bright morning.
And behind them: a force of yuccas
called Golden Swords. A bush or mound

of sheath-like leaves sprouting from a proud center.
And isn’t that the plot?
First the radiation, then the golden sword.

I remember, incurably,
your mother. The laughter that flowered
from her lips. I’m sorry I have no good words

to honor her war. It crumbled me to watch you
overwhelmed by her face
in the daffodils outside your childhood home.
 

Last night I heard your voice, mother,
      The words you sang to me
When I, a little barefoot boy,
      Knelt down against your knee.

And tears gushed from my heart, mother,
      And passed beyond its wall,
But though the fountain reached my throat
      The drops refused to fall.

'Tis ten years since you died, mother,
      Just ten dark years of pain,
And oh, I only wish that I
      Could weep just once again.

This poem is in the public domain.

Come second heartbeat sounding in the breast
Come prismatic light dissembling
Come familiar spirit  Come bare-chested in the weeds
Come private imposter  Come hidden ballast
Come sudden departures  Come stress without shape
Because belief is odd  Come swaggering answer
Come invisible ink  Come beatific scrawl
Come as squirrels are climbing backwards
Come as dogwood blossoms come apart
Come strumming an unspeakable power ballad
Through a torrent of rain with cheeks flushed scarlet
Come down the rusty metal slide
Come belted kingfisher flapping
Come lavender asters wheeling
Come loose, a sapling lengthening
Come honeysuckle  Come glistening

From In Full Velvet​. Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Johnson. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabande.org.