Palm-sized and fledgling, a beak
protruding from the sleeve, I
have kept my birds muted
for so long, I fear they’ve grown
accustom to a grim quietude.
What chaos could ensue
should a wing get loose?
Come overdue burst, come
flock, swarm, talon, and claw.
Scatter the coop’s roost, free
the cygnet and its shadow. Crack
and scratch at the state’s cage,
cut through cloud and branch,
no matter the dumb hourglass’s
white sand yawning grain by grain.
What cannot be contained
cannot be contained.

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

When you sang your body invented us
     an alphabet. No one heard it
          but me.

The earth in your eyes
     is the ink in your words.
          Each look writes another line.

Everything I need to know grows wings
     and lands on my skin.
          A thousand tiny plovers

cover the skies, and shine
     like moonlight on us both,
          turning us into your verses.

Last night each dot and curve of the letters of our alphabet
     came to rest on my body while I slept,
          entwined around my hips,

pulled their fingers through my hair.
     I breathed them in. Became the song
          you sang me.

You spell the morning prayer
     uttered by my lips.
          Syntax of attention

at the back of your throat. Each rise in note
     is your hand on my ribs.
          You hold me and no one can see.

Our unholy wholeness hides.
          Your name in the nearness. Says listen.
                    Sentences of rebellion

in the starless night.

From Sister Tongue by Farnaz Fatemi (September, 2022). Copyright © 2022 The Kent State University Press. Reprinted with the permission of  the publisher.

Deliverance is not for me in renuncia-
tion. I feel the embrace of freedom in
a thousand bonds of delight.
    Thou ever pourest for me the fresh
draught of thy wine of various colours
and fragrance, filling this earthen vessel
to the brim.
    My world will light its hundred
different lamps with thy flame and
place them before the altar of thy
    No, I will never shut the doors of
of my senses. The delights of sight and
hearing and touch will bear thy delight.
    Yes, all my illusions will burn into
illumination of joy, and all my desires
ripen into fruits of love.

From Gitanjali (Macmillan and Company, 1916) by Rabindranath Tagore. This poem is in the public domain.