She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.

If she could dance
Naked,
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dish water gives back no images.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Grief is a family going down one by one 

Wild buffalo tread on thin medallions 

It’s a sin to be born poor

It’s treason to stay that way

On the way to work at Fort Hood

Shepherd fell in love with a cherry 

Mother wore a red gingham apron 

While plating macaroni on the base

At home her daughter sat under an eye

That lost her in a blind spot 

Back then work had a weight you could feel it

After the war the father got a son

Quilts are folded like flags in the cupboard 

The morning shepherd left 

We drained a pitcher of cheap wine 

Our ancestors had robbed and been robbed 

And now everything was a mess

Copyright © 2022 by Monica McClure. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

A man who is probably my husband sails by. 
But I just see a sailboat, not who steers it. 
But I picture a man, in the gender of things. 

My husband who you will not meet.
He’s off, I don’t know, marshalling.
Ideas, not soldiers. Sailing helps him think. 

I used to join him. Then we argued.
For a decade we argued. And sometimes 
sailed, though I was admittedly mostly 

decorative, a mermaid on the prow. 
Whether I brought him better luck 
is not my weather to tell. I cost him. 

Time. He costs me. More.

Copyright © 2022 by Jameson Fitzpatrick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

On what would turn out to be Katie’s last good day
she asked to be wheeled outside & helped
into the Lazyboy her brother dragged out back
no one even bothering to remove the tag
from Costco that flapped, wild as a trapped bird 
before the wind surrendered
to a thin cardigan of mid-December sun
as all afternoon we watched
her sleeping while the sky hemorrhaged
quietly down & the small hills of dogshit
arranged along the graying cedar fence
did not blaze into anything
like golden stones, but her hair had grown
back a half inch or so & so glowed
in the last of that tinny glare
& if I thought briefly then of medieval manuscripts
where everyone important grows a halo
it wasn't quite like that either
although the bones of her face did appear
as if at low tide to surface
smooth as driftwood where the injured
bird might light in the moonlight, holding on
for some measures longer than expected.

Copyright © 2022 by Jenny Browne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Your absence is a bisected city 
block where a hospital once stood.
The footprint of a yellow house on Providence’s east side
we once shared. Demolished. A white pickup you drove
decorated with black dice. The ground beneath it
crumbled—poof—then paved over, engraved like verses
into stone. When I was told what happened to you,
I sank to the wet floor of a bar’s bathroom, furious
that you left us to reassemble ourselves
from rubble. To build, between subway stops,
some saccharine monument
pigeons shit on, empty except for a circle of queens 
chattering, furnishing the air like ghosts. Your death
means I’m always equidistant from you, 
no matter where I travel, where I linger, 
misguided, hopeful. Last night, by candle light,
a woman unearthed me. 
Together, she and I grieved 
the impossibility of disappearing 
into one another. Poof. Since you died,
erasure obsesses me. Among the photos at the memorial,
one of a banner that reads WHERE IS YOUR RAGE? 
ACT UP FIGHT BACK FIGHT AIDS, carried by five
young men. Your face in each. Your beautiful face.

Copyright © 2022 by Stefania Gomez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

If you could ask the stars,
Those flickers that visit nightly,
They would tell you it wasn’t them
Who carved us from mud
To marvel at our opposable thumbs.
It wasn’t them who forfeited God
For a watch that didn’t work anyway.
It wasn’t them who sometimes denied
Us the living mirror we named love.
And still you look to them
For stories, for riddles, for answers
That they never possessed.
I’m not saying I’m better than you,
Far from it, if you find me here
Erecting the same elements
With these meager tools,
Wanting even now to give them life,
That they may look upon me with mercy.
I’ve been a prophet. I’ve been a fool.

Copyright © 2022 by José Antonio Rodríguez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

since feeling is first
who pays any attention 
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate 
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

So this is Sunday evening 
under the live oak behind the kitchen 
where the Rose of Sharon 
spills purple tea onto the grass, 
the yellow bells sound yellow alarms 
from tall stalks, and the sunflowers peep
over the fence into the street
where car tires lap at the pavement
and walkers and joggers and dogs and strollers
pass. Our weeping
persimmon makes a small room
under its branches that children
younger than mine could inhabit 
for an afternoon. Squirrels chase 
each other up the live oak trunk, scratching
the bark. Crape myrtle, peach, plum:
our tiny arboretum. 
We had another tree that had room  
for two girls to sit in it, but the winter freeze
killed it. Gone, too,  
the neighbor whose name I never learned
who yelled at speeding cars in her front yard
wearing only a long t-shirt and underwear
with her ageless legs for all to see, 
especially me, from my kitchen, as I waited then,
as I wait now, for my daughters’ tears
to come the way they do every Sunday evening
because we cut down their climbing tree
and tomorrow is a school day, and they don’t care
about the sky dropping pink and orange curtains
around the neighbor’s house, ending an opera
about a house that held a woman’s life
that some tomorrow will scrape down. 

Copyright © 2022 by Cecily Parks. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Cyrus, always I try to put my soul
into building a guitar,
here on Cuesta de Gomerez,
full of sovereign guitar-makers,
street slanting up to an arch
of the colossal Alhambra.
What I worship is the feeling of the wood
in my hardworking hands,
wood selected and dried
for a three-decade minimum,
so I’m refining Mediterranean
or Canadian cypress,
Macassar ebony, and Lebanese cedar
that my paternal grandfather chose,
Abuelo Leonel who perished
the Satan-hot August
right before I was born
into a dynasty of on-fire
flamenco musicians and dancers.

Imagine, a top notch guitar
means perhaps a hundred hours
of dedicated labor, and, so help me,
I don’t work by the clock—
Sometimes it costs me
most of a day to adjust
the nitty-gritty strings and frets,
to insure the vigorous, brave sound
we’re famous for in Granada:
due to the vega’s dry air,
instruments from the Andalusian school
are (no doubt about it!) lighter,
distinctive—like a palace starling
or a peerless voice
that gently breathes and sings
in a stone basilica on Sunday morning—
acoustic splendor and tone to rival
the able makers in Madrid—

At the fabled Moorish citadel’s hem,
I bring my busy-as-hell hands
to the timeless task of planing
and judge the thickness
of my newly launched guitars
with my tried-and-true fingers.
The tradition, I tell you, is to present
your very first guitar as a gift
to the regal, lullaby-whispering woman
who latched you to this bustling,
wondrous world:

Oh what an exhilarating day
when my never-fail mother, Primavera,
carefully inspected my first ever piece,
proclaiming (almost singing it!):

Guitarrero!

Copyright © 2022 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

My native tongue doesn’t allow
imperfect tense, so it’s difficult
to say how something might used
to happen but no more. Elizabeth
used to walk among these trees.
She used to walk among these trees
but doesn’t anymore. Elizabeth
is no more though she used to be.

She doesn’t anymore but she used
to walk among these trees because
she used to be happy but only
for a short while before she descended
in despair. Elizabeth we could say
used to walk among these trees
because they made her happy.
Elizabeth used to be but no more.

Copyright © 2022 by Michael Simms. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Aya, September 2021

Be kind to her. She’s eleven & already
wants to turn you back. She wished this
after she squeezed a drop from her index
& read me the number. She always insists
I close my eyes & guess
what her blood is saying—
sometimes I’m wrong & sometimes not.

I kiss the tiny tears on her fingertips.
I kiss her arms & thighs before the insulin.
When I ask her to inject herself, I’m asking her to live
without me, & she knows it. When her legs trembled,
& I soothed with “I’m here, I’m here,”
she reminded me: “But you can’t do anything.”
Perhaps she meant “undo.”

Who am I kidding. Time, I demanded your undoing too,
that first night in the hospital before dawn,
when I woke up having forgotten, then remembered
where I was, what had happened.
The neon corridor light, the nurses’ chatter,
the potassium’s slow burn in my daughter’s vein.

Time, I know
I can’t reason with you. You go on and on.
Instead, I’m wishing her
astonishing slowness, softness
inside the arduous & unfair. Like this:

the dog’s limp, the cold coffee, the struggling
baby bougainvillea, the winged ant on the floor,
the half-eaten sandwich, the tenderness
of the 5am light, the daily departures,
the basil plant’s shadow on the wall,
& her hair, the swing of my love’s hair
as she runs, shaking her head
left & right, left & right,
how she always ran like this, always ran
as if swaying, No, No.

Copyright © 2022 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

How you bowed
to the new moon
of every month

Morning brings
the smell of rain
and incense burning

Traveler’s palm
waves at 
the top of the hill

Each spring
we returned to the city
where you were born

What happened
to the pocket watch
from another century

And what became of
the penknife used
to sharpen the pencils

The trees you 
first planted
are all gone now

Reading by
the glowworm light
of a kerosene lamp

The north side of the house
stays cool while the south side
burns with the sun

Not content to love
the singing thrush you
call it by another name

The dogs are silent 
even though
the moon is full

Remembering
when we 
were one

Copyright © 2022 by Dana Naone Hall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 3, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

What goes extinct while grazing on memory’s lawn in the sun? 
When you said, “I’d cut my tongue,” I grew a callus over your mouth.
Once, I tiptoed to catch a glimpse of you though I was not yours, 
but there was recognition through the window, my eyes knocking
on cleansed glass, as I closed further into sleep, into preludes,
away from you. Why am I speaking at all when what’s unsaid
between us is a rosette of moth wings, beating in the sky’s eardrum.  
I don’t flock to passions when I seek you; if all was taken, who would you be?  
Still, I know what I sensed as I watched you swim out from under the bridge
trying to sip the Pacific. If it wasn’t for the undercurrent, I’d have let
you go further, but the hour was a cool blue cluttered with your lips.  
There’s a story you know: it begins with your right hand over mine, 
as I practice my handwriting: I lay my alephs here, like ripe fruit, like a home away. 

Copyright © 2022 by Deema K. Shehabi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by George Dimitri Selim

Zaynab complained against me
to the judge of love.
“He has sly eyes,” she told him,
which roam around me
to devour my beauty.
Judge of love!
I am not safe anymore.

“I think his eyes are two bees
raiding the honey
which sweetens my lips.
I see them as two eagles
hovering in space,
descending to snatch me.
I think, and from my fear,
I think strange things.
God knows how much I suffer from my thoughts.

“He invaded me with his eyes
and, as if this weren’t enough,
he tried to lower my standing among people.
Hypocritically, he said
that I have stolen my beauty from the universe,
and that it was not created naturally in me.
That I have plundered the morning for a face,
the dusk for hair,
uniting both in me.
That from the gardens
I have stolen the flowers for cheeks
—my cheeks are rosy.
That I have covered my neck with pure snow,
and that my eyes are tinted with narcissus.

“When my voice enchanted him
he denied it, and said:
‘It’s a nightingale singing in the garden.’
With sword-like glances I struck him,
he said, and in his deep-red blood
I dyed my finger tips
and in his poems he chanted alluding to me.
So people said:
‘His meanings are necklaces of pearls.’
Lord of verdicts!
Administer your justice between us.
Enough of his straying in love.
I’ve had enough!”

When the time of complaint was over,
the judge asked me:
“What is your answer,
you who are so passionately in love?”
I said:
“I find … that I am a criminal.
My insanity may not be deferred.
She has dispossessed me
of mind and heart.”

From Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Books, 2000). Used with permission of the editors, Gregory Orfalea and Sharif Elmusa, and Interlink Book. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Upon the silent sea-swept land
     The dreams of night fall soft and gray,
          The waves fade on the jeweled sand
               Like some lost hope of yesterday.

The dreams of night fall soft and gray
     Upon the summer-colored seas,
          Like some lost hope of yesterday,
               The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze.

Upon the summer-colored seas
     Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,
          The sea-mew’s song is on the breeze
               Lost in the monotone of night.

Sails gleam and glimmer ghostly white,
     They come and slowly drift away,
          Lost in the monotone of night,
               Like visions of a summer-day.

They shift and slowly drift away
     Like lovers’ lays that wax and wane,
          The visions of a summer-day
               Whose dreams we ne’er will dream again.

Like lovers’ lays wax and wane
     The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,
          Like dreams we ne’er will dream again;
               The sea-mews follow on their trail.

The star dawn shifts from sail to sail,
     As they drift to the dim unknown,
          The sea-mews follow on their trail
               In quest of some dreamland zone.

In quest of some far dreamland zone,
     Of some far silent sea-swept land,
          They are lost in the dim unknown,
               Where waves fade on jeweled sand
                    And dreams of night fall soft and gray,
                         Like some lost hope of yesterday.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

For now, we speak only in brooms:
         sweeping sand across the teeth 

of concrete slabs, we brush and repeat 
         each stone syllable of the clearing

where our great grandparents are buried. 

Some words for memory are always here, 
         sounded out by the ant feet 

hefting sand grit and glitter homes, fan-light
         over the blue tongues of plastic flowers— 

the weeds will try to cover all the other ways 
         of saying history. 

But our pronunciation begins with the clearing we make in our bodies first:

where the broom handle widens the oh’s 
         in the mouth of our hands, 

how we shake open the throat 
         to settle each pile of leaves before burning them.

Trust the body to open in our language
         with the rhythm of weight—

one hand pushing sand, 
         the other pulling syllables

in one last sway 
         as we close the gate of the malaʻe 

so the trees can better hiss-hush at the edge of the ancestor 
         speaking in all our names.

Copyright © 2022 by Leora Kava. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I want to write poems for construction workers and dreamers
For revolutionaries
For deadbeats and those on the low
I never want to ask please fix us all
I want for us to want
to patch every heart
and pave every road
and destroy every system
that has ever left us
broken. I want to sing
like frank ocean, like wonder
like sonder, like mereba, like the sea
I want to recite the line
Took the wretched out the earth
Called it baby fanon,
I want to call someone baby.
I want to stop smoking because I want to live,
I can only love my comrades if I live,
and I want to clean my room,
I want to clean my room every week
and make my bed and put peppermint in my hair
to stop needing my inhalers
and to inhale solidarity, and to eat the rich,
I want to eat the rich, to cancel the rents,
to know my neighbors
and to know my neighbors
are safe. I want to move like water, to move
from unity to struggle to unity,
to have no perfect world we haven’t fought for.

Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Jace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was on a walk when I was struck by the precarity of the gender that wore me,
which moved my matter, wrote books, and fell in love. as a child, I scoured 

the forest for brittle cicada skins abandoned on trees. husks present differently now
a pair of nylons caught in the thicket, a beak surviving its decomposing bird, 

a mural of George Floyd with a purple cock spray-painted on his beryl cheek.
among these discreet mutilations, I pull a line of thought through flesh 

where a misled margin slept. I was uninhabitable before I snared a man
for his hide. I was not unlike the skin of a drum thriving under a stamina 

that made music of me before I split. you wouldn’t recognize me now
if you saw me in the trees, played out, scattered to the undergrowth. I took a life 

and returned it to scale and membrane. I foraged a life coated in plastic
and mud from the highway overpass. it reeked of wheatpiss and it was mine.

Copyright © 2022 by Xan Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by The Friend

It’s a massive spider who can’t move;
a colorless spider, whose body—
a head and an abdomen—bleed.

Today I saw her up close. And with what effort
all along her flanks
her innumerable feet stiffened.
I have thought of her invisible eyes
the fatal pilots of the spider.

It’s a spider that trembled stuck
at the edge of a stone;
abdomen to one side,
to the other the head.

With so many feet the poor thing, she still can’t
work herself out. When seeing her,
stunned in some trance,
what grief this traveler gave me today.

An enormous spider who blocks
the abdomen from following the head.
I’ve thought about her eyes,
considered her numerous feet...
What grief this traveler’s given me today.

 


 

La Araña 

 

Es una araña enorme que ya no anda;
una araña incolora, cuyo cuerpo,
una cabeza y un abdomen, sangra.

Hoy la he visto de cerca. Y con qué esfuerzo
hacia todos los flancos
sus pies innumerables alargaba.
Y he pensado en sus ojos invisibles,
los pilotos fatales de la araña.

Es una araña que temblaba fija
en un filo de piedra;
el abdomen a un lado,
y al otro la cabeza.

Con tantos pies la pobre, y aún no puede
resolverse. Y, al verla
atónita en tal trance,
hoy me ha dado qué pena esa viajera.

Es una araña enorme, a quien impide
el abdomen seguir a la cabeza.
Y he pensado en sus ojos
y en sus pies numerosos...
¡Y me ha dado qué pena esa viajera!

Copyright © 2022 by The Friend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ah, how poets sing and die! 
Make one song and Heaven takes it; 
Have one heart and Beauty breaks it; 
Chatterton, Shelley, Keats, and I—
Ah, how poets sing and die! 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2022 by the Academy of American Poets.

I talk to a screen who assures me everything is fine.

I am not broken. I am not depressed. I am simply

in touch with the material conditions of my life. It is

the end of the world, and it’s fine. People laugh

about this, self-soothing engines sputtering

through a nosedive. Not me. I’ve gone and lost my

sense of humor when I need it most. This is why I

speak smoke into a scene. I dance against language

and abandon verse halfway through, like a broken-

throated singer. I wander around the front yard,

pathless as a little ant at the tip of a curled-up

cactus. Birds flit in and out of shining branches.

A garden blooms large in my throat. Color and life

conspire against my idea of the world. I have to

laugh until I am crying, make an ocean to land

upon in this sea of flames. Here I am.  

Another late-winter afternoon,

            the sunset and the purple-flowered tree

trying their best to keep me alive.

Copyright © 2022 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

—AP News headline

The teacher remembers pulling the door
closed. She thought the door
would lock because that door
is always supposed to lock. The door
failed to lock. They say when god closes a door
the shooter will fire through the door’s

windows. At first they said she left the door
open and the shooter got through the door.
She remembers she had opened the door
to carry in supplies, propping the door
open with a rock. But she closed the door
when she heard the shooter just outside the doors.

I ran back into the building. I still had the rock in the door.
So—I opened the door—
kicked the rock—and then locked the door.
Later, they verified she had closed the door
and the door
did not lock. Later, there will be a closed-door

inquiry at the state Capitol. It’s through the closed door
that all the men with guns will enter. The classroom doors
have windows above the knobs. The glass on one door
shatters from gunfire and a man walks through the door-
frame and fires more than 100 rounds. A thin blue door
connects one classroom to another. He shot the door,

a girl in the classroom tells the 911 dispatcher. Through the door
bullets graze two officers and they retreat farther from the door.
No other men with guns will go near the classroom door
for another forty minutes. They said they needed the door’s
key from the janitor. It remains unclear if they tried the door
to see if it was locked. The girl calls again and watches the door

and covers herself in her dead friend’s blood and this is how the door
between heaven and hell cracks open. The door-
way is a thin blue line. The men with guns unlock the door
and shoot the shooter who shoots back from the closet door-
frame. The governor orders all the schools to check their doors
each week and all the doors everywhere come unhinged and every door

is a door is a door is a door is a door
is a door is a door is a door is a door
is a door is a door is a door is a door.

Copyright © 2022 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

When the grizzly cubs were caught, collared, and taken away—
relocated they call it—
their mother ran back and forth on the road screaming.
Brutal sound. Torn from her lungs. Her heart,
twisted knot, hot blood rivering
to the twenty-six pounding bones of her feet.
Just weeks before
I watched a bear and her cubs run down a mountain
in the twilight.
So buoyant, they seemed to be tumbling
to the meadow,
to the yarrow root they dug, rocking
to wrest it from the hard ground, fattening for winter.
They were breathing what looked like gladness.
But that other mother . . .
Her massive head raised, desperate to catch their scent.
Each footfall a fracture in the earth’s crust.

Copyright © 2022 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The twilight’s inner flame grows blue and deep,
And in my Lesbos, over leagues of sea,
The temples glimmer moonwise in the trees.
Twilight has veiled the little flower face
Here on my heart, but still the night is kind
And leaves her warm sweet weight against my breast.
Am I that Sappho who would run at dusk
Along the surges creeping up the shore
When tides came in to ease the hungry beach,
And running, running, till the night was black,
Would fall forespent upon the chilly sand
And quiver with the winds from off the sea?
Ah, quietly the shingle waits the tides
Whose waves are stinging kisses, but to me
Love brought no peace, nor darkness any rest.
I crept and touched the foam with fevered hands
And cried to Love, from whom the sea is sweet,
From whom the sea is bitterer than death.
Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more
To thee, God’s daughter, powerful as God,
It is that thou hast made my life too sweet
To hold the added sweetness of a song.
There is a quiet at the heart of love,
And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.
I hold my peace, my Cleïs, on my heart;
And softer than a little wild bird’s wing
Are kisses that she pours upon my mouth.
Ah, never any more when spring like fire
Will flicker in the newly opened leaves,
Shall I steal forth to seek for solitude
Beyond the lure of light Alcæus’ lyre,
Beyond the sob that stilled Erinna’s voice.
Ah, never with a throat that aches with song,
Beneath the white uncaring sky of spring,
Shall I go forth to hide awhile from Love
The quiver and the crying of my heart.
Still I remember how I strove to flee
The love-note of the birds, and bowed my head
To hurry faster, but upon the ground
I saw two wingèd shadows side by side,
And all the world’s spring passion stifled me.
Ah, Love, there is no fleeing from thy might,
No lonely place where thou hast never trod,
No desert thou hast left uncarpeted
With flowers that spring beneath thy perfect feet.
In many guises didst thou come to me;
I saw thee by the maidens while they danced,
Phaon allured me with a look of thine,
In Anactoria I knew thy grace,
I looked at Cercolas and saw thine eyes;
But never wholly, soul and body mine,
Didst thou bid any love me as I loved.
Now I have found the peace that fled from me;
Close, close, against my heart I hold my world.
Ah, Love that made my life a lyric cry,
Ah, Love that tuned my lips to lyres of thine,
I taught the world thy music, now alone
I sing for one who falls asleep to hear.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

A fundamental part of being queer is being erased, I explain at
            the outset of my talk this basic premise requiring 5.7 
            seconds to sink into the minds of my delegation 

At the nightmare board meeting that has derailed my dreams, I’m
            dashing in cobalt suit, white pocket square, a humble 
            multi-tasker before a great glass boardroom, clicker in hand,
            shoulder pads to the wind, I let it rip, my modest proposal: 

                                     STRAIGHT GAY CULTURE
            Savior stories of access and entitlement everyone can love  

It’s already here! I warble, juggling my wagers in perfect sync,
            Big nonsense proclamations followed by primal screams
            always get them to their feet,  

I have in my possession the latest in a genre I call gauche rive
            gauche: a new straight fantasy novel about dead white 
            lesbians written under lockdown while sunbathing in the south of
            France, 

My board members get it—guaranteed mainstream reviews!—but
            they’re genuinely charmed by the true star of the author
            photo, the poetess’s tiny background husband in swim trunks
            near the sea,  

Letters of support stream in from the usual best-sellers, To whom it may
            concern: Our transphobic books feature exciting transgender
            protagonists, more huzzahs from the board,  

Ever tearful, never fearful, I grab my trophy and confess, I myself was
            obliged to attend the transgender studies panel organized by
            cis studies, so I ask, Does tour always mean tourism? 

Rhetorical flourish before I walk them through the numbers, A
            figure in Kevlar rolls in the coffee cart, which is how I know
            I’m screwed, 

                                     Everyone gets shoved in a van at some point
                                     and


                                                            gets


                                                                     dropped

 

                                               off

            As the world turns                  gays lie awake 
                      gagging on fake episodes                   the only time we cry 

Nervously I apply                     a stick and tint 
            because I’m fabulous and I’m about to meet my maker! 

Between argonauts and incels            I leopard crawl her whereabouts
            Windex squeaks on a secret 
                                                swaddled in her No Razzismo tote bag 

Unmistakable alarm, is it not?             So I twist 
                      as in meme                                          and freeze 

“You are ideal and failure, sentiment and lure,” says my maker,
            a distant relative of Pierre Louÿs, whose ghost stands just
            beyond her on the shore, gripping his sun bleached conch over his
            head, scrawled upon it:                       bed death is a lie 

200 years later the bottle floats back, rolls of film inside sloshed in
            gin, bitter outtakes from tar, from rent, from what I realize is
            theirs and always has been 

 

This is after after after 

            The fundament of our relations is soft 

They creep over us like mist 

            But in the future          when distance fails

                       gays awake softer still

Copyright © 2023 by Maxe Crandall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I dreamed you.

I waited 45 years for you

to find me.

I have nothing to give you

But these places

I have been.

I own no home.

I carry my life with me 

In boxes

on my back.

Sometimes when you look 

at me

I want to show you

Everything.

How the stars turn in the 

night sky over Santa Fe.

How snow falls like filigree

through a blue moon.

How a slice 

of sweet Hawaiian 

Mountain apple

between your lips

calls forth the 

forest 

it was plucked from.

I want to take you places

You have never been.

With anyone.

I want to tell you everything.

How once when I was 26

I drove around and around

searching for other Lesbians.

I want to show you every scar.

I want to tell you about 

Anita and Parker.

How death came for them

In the name of cancer 

claiming parts of me

you can never have.

I want to whisper

Everything.

As you stall into my 

shoulder

Incense rising,  

dusky room.

Copyright © 2023 by Willyce Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

They came from the municipalities  the cantones  the in between  children of campesinos  day laborers  drudges. They crossed water and deserts and left children  elders  husbands. They were children  lovers  spouses  mothers  elders  vagabond escapists. They prayed in the back of trucks so hard the virgin mother revealed herself at checkpoint to offer the miracle crossing of another boundary. Something was happening to them. So much had happened where they left. They changed the swelling cities but the cities changed them. They gathered burn marks  bruises on their arms in kitchens  in hotels  in other homes. They hid their names behind other names. They learned and did not learn new language. They crossed themselves waiting for buses  car rides  late night  early in the morning. They entered apartments at twilight where they laid beside sisters  friends  lovers. What were they dreaming as they slipped into their kitten heels  hair cut short  madonna-like lips painted red  dancing in the discotecas  downtown  uptown   outside the loop. They guarded pictures in their purses. They guarded themselves. They married for love  married without it  and they did not marry. And they loved  they learned  and they did not love. Learned to find and tuck themselves into their secret seams. The many things they would not tell their children. With illicit seeds they grow what they left behind  among the brush  little stems  memorials  now adornments at their windows.

Copyright © 2023 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

translated by Samantha Schnee

They were so called because they wore god’s mask, and be-
cause their faces and hearts were resolute as stone. For days,
years, they walked with jade beneath their tongues, seeking
home. They worked the land and bejeweled their bodies. Not
as a sign of vanity, but because they tended the amaranth in
their yearning for fire. Xiuhtecuhtli was their god; xiuhtlatoa
their language, meaning “words of fire”—that which ignites
the heart. They were careful not to use xaltlatoa, “words of
sand”, fleeting, vague and un-understandable. At night
they accompanied the Sun on his descent. They were jade,
translucent, and purified the underworld, deciphering dest-
iny. Their essence dwelt in the Afterlife. Their petals arose in
song. They adorned their Home with hymns and flowers and
filled their desire with vision, fine chalice of the sagacious
seed. The upper half of their bodies naked; Their breasts
were buds of omexóchitl and their verdant dreams the
sprigs of a birch. From their legs blossomed the pure wh-
ite feathers of the quetzal. Coatlicue, the goddess mother,
gave birth to the Sun and Moon. With a sword of fire, the
Sun beheaded the Moon and tossed her body down
the steps, shattering it in a thousand pieces, Coyolxauhqui
covered head to toe in shining rattles of vipers. She fell
and entered darkness. And so it was recorded on the
tree of ámatl: Light and shadow will not last. So says
the history of woman: she sought to recreate what
was within her to rewrite the Book:
The song will be reborn
in each body in such a way that we learn
to redefine what is ours, as our daughters will,
too, and our daughters’ daughters, and their
daughters’ daughters will know that their
bodies are light on Earth, heat of the sun with
its tona, energy, fecundity, song that dances
along the perimeter of stars. And so, they watch
over us from the firmament at dusk and dawn
as the sun is born and dies. These goddess
-es of water were destined to be masters
of their own desire, guides of their own
light. We must engrave on our hearts:
The place where goddesses are born.

 


 

sobre quiénes eran estas diosas

 

Las llamaban así por ser portadoras de la máscara del dios, y
por tener un rostro propio y un corazón firme como la
piedra. Soles, años caminaron con el jade bajo su lengua en
pos de la Casa. Labraron la tierra y adornaron sus cuerpos
con joyeles de oro, no como símbolo de vanidad, sino por
ser cuidadoras del amaranto en su anhelo de flama. Xiuh-
tecuhtli era su dios; xiuhtlatoa, su lengua, lo cual quiere
decir «palabra de fuego», esa que enciende el corazón. El-
las cuidaban de no usar la xaltlatoa,  «palabra de arena»,
que escurridiza huye sin dejarse aprehender. Por las no-
ches acompañaban en su descenso al Sol. Ellas eran el
jade y eran la transparencia, purificaban el inframundo
y descifraban el sino. En el Más Allá moraba su funda-
mento. Sus pétalos en cantos se alzaban. Con himnos y
flores ornaban su Casa y su deseo llenaban de visión, fino
cáliz de fulgor y semilla. Llevaban la mitad de su cuerpo sin
cubrir; eran brotes de omexóchitl sus senos y su sueño, verde
yema de tepozán. Y de sus piernas florecían las blanqu-
ísimas plumas de quetzal. Así fue que Coatlicue, diosa
madre, dio a luz al Sol y a la Luna. Con su espada de fuego,
él decapitó a la Luna, y por la escalinata su cuerpo rodó, y se
fragmentó en mil pedazos. Coyolxauhqui yacía toda re-
cubierta de radiantes cascabeles de sierpe. Al caer,
entró en la oscuridad. Y por ello ha quedado
grabado en el árbol del «ámatl»: Transitoria será
la luz y su sombra. Dice así la historia de la mujer:
buscó rehacer su interioridad pra reescribir el Libro:
El canto renacerá en cada cuerpo de forma que
aprendamos a resignificar el propio, y así nuestras hijas,
y las hijas de nuestras hijas, y las hijas de sus hijas,
sabrán que su cuerpo es luz en Tierra, calor de Sol
con su tona, energía, fecundación, canto que danza
en derredor de las estrellas. Es así que nos vigil-
an desde el firmamento cada mañana y cada
noche, al nacer y al caer el Sol. Las diosas del
agua tenían como propio ser dueñas
de su deseo, guías de su luz. Y así lo
habremos de inscribir en nuestros
corazones:
Lugar donde nacen las diosas.

Copyright © 2022 by Jeannette L. Clariond and Samantha Schnee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 10, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Spanish by William George Williams

Lord, I ask a garden in a quiet spot
where there may be a brook with a good flow,
an humble little house covered with bell-flowers,
and a wife and a son who shall resemble Thee.

I should wish to live many years, free from hates,
and make my verses, as the rivers
that moisten the earth, fresh and pure.
Lord, give me a path with trees and birds.

I wish that you would never take my mother,
for I should wish to tend to her as a child
and put her to sleep with kisses, when somewhat old
she may need the sun.

I wish to sleep well, to have a few books,
an affectionate dog that will spring upon my knees,
a flock of goats, all things rustic,
and to live off the soil tilled by my own hand.

To go into the field and flourish with it;
to seat myself at evening under the rustic eaves,
to drink in the fresh mountain perfumed air
and speak to my little one of humble things.

At night to relate him some simple tale,
teach him to laugh with the laughter of water
and put him to sleep thinking that he may later on
keep that freshness of the moist grass.

And afterward, the next day, rise with dawn
admiring life, bathe in the brook,
milk my goats in the happiness of the garden
and add a strophe to the poem of the world.

 


 

Señor, yo pido un huerto 

 

Señor, yo pido un huerto en un rincón tranquilo
donde haya una quebrada con aguas abundantes
una casita humilde cubierta de campánulas,
y una mujer y un hijo que sean como Vos.

Yo quisiera vivir muchos años, sin odios,
y hacer como los ríos que humedecen la tierra
mis versos y mis actos frescos y de puros.
Señor, dadme un sendero con árboles y pájaros.

Yo deseo que nunca os llevéis a mi madre,
porque a mi me gustara cuidarla cual a un niño
y dormirla con besos, cuando ya viejecita 
necesite del sol.

Quiero tener buen sueño, algunos pocos libros
un perro cariñoso que me salte a las piernas,
un rebaño de cabras, toda cosa silvestre,
y vivir de la tierra labrada por mis manos.

Salir a la campiña, y florecer en ella;
sentarme por la tarde, bajo el rústico alero,
a beber aire fresco y olorosa a montaña,
y hablarle a mi pequeño de las cosas humildes

Por la noche contarle algún cuento sencillo,
enseñarle a reír con la risa del agua
y dormirle pensando en que pueda, a la tarde,
guardar esa frescura de la hierba embebida;

y luego, al otro día, levantarme a la aurora
admirando la vida, bañarme en la quebrada,
ordeñar a mis cabras en la dicha del huerto,
y agregar una estrofa al poema del mundo.

From Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated From the Spanish by English and North American Poets (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920), edited by Thomas Walsh. Translated from the Spanish by William G. Williams. This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Spanish by William George Williams

When I met her I loved myself.
It was she who had my best singing,
she who set flame to my obscure youth,
she who raised my eyes toward heaven.

Her love moistened me, it was an essence.
I folded my heart like a handkerchief 
and after I turned the key on my existence.

And thus it perfumes my soul
with a distant and subtle poetry.

 


 

Mi vida es un recuerdo 

 

Cuando la conocí me amé á mí mismo.
Fué la que tuvo mi mejor lirismo,
la que encendió mi obscura adolescencia,
la que mis ojos levantó hacia el cielo.

     Me humedeció su amor, que era una esencia,
doblé mi corazón como un pañuelo
y después le eché llave á mi existencia.

     Y por eso perfuma el alma mía
con lejana y diluida poesía.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was a boy in a bookstore, “a bathhouse,” I’ll joke
when I am older. But then, I wasn’t. I was in a gallery
of things to be cracked open; all their spines & mine.
I tell you, I was a hungry pickpocket, plucking
what language I could from books & men who stood hard
before me. This is what it means to be astonishing;
to thieve speech and sense from the undeserving.
I tell you, I was a boy and they were men, so all
the words I know for this I made into small razors,
some tucked between my teeth, under my tongue,
and when they said what a good mouth I had,
I smiled, the silver glint of sharp things in me
singing, “I’ll outlive you. I’ll outlive all of you.”

Copyright © 2022 by Jesús I. Valles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

remembering the boys—
much older, only unsettling
in hindsight

back then, they gave us
beers and we took them,
uncertain in the summer

of sage and honey.
we hid in the bathroom
so we could talk

for a while, swimming in the empty
bathtub and watching each
other’s reflections in the mirror.

the boys waited outside
in the yard, and we let them

wait while we were fifteen
and silver-tongued, all shoulder-
blades and hummingbird and safe
for now

Copyright © 2023 by Erin Rose Coffin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’ll say it—the most remarkable way a man 
has touched me is when he didn’t intend to, found
the heat of me on accident. I’m saying his hand
punctured the gap between our backs, rooted around

for the blanket we shared and swept my rib-ridged side.
In movies, that touch is the domino
that starts the chain, but his bed did not abide
by rules of fantasy. He touched me and, oh,

I held my breath. Waited for the regret
he never felt. My God, he touched me then slid
closer beneath the duvet, our spines close-set
arches that joined in the dark, kissing. I did

not know it then, but his fingers flexed with want
into the night. His heart at my back. Desire out front.

Copyright © 2023 by Taylor Byas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

I had a lamb I brought everywhere

who only had one eye.

At the train stations,

all the grown-ups would say, be mindful

of your things, little boy,

someone will steal right out of your pocket

or take the watch off your wrist.

My dad had a beautiful overcoat.

The lamb’s white fur got smudged.

My brother was a baby,

and in the restaurants,

the old waiters would pick him up

and kiss him again and again on the cheek

with their mustaches

and tell my parents

that they promised they would bring him back in a minute

but now they needed to show the chef.

I don’t remember when the eye became unglued

and who knows where it went.

On long train rides,

I remember falling asleep,

putting my finger in the hole where it used to be.

Once he had to go in an overhead bin,

and he was freezing when I kissed him again.

Copyright © 2023 by Richie Hofmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

On the Monday after Mother’s Day, 
after another mass shooting, 
I pick up my daughter from school 
and on the ride home while she munches 
on veggie chips and looks out the window, 
she tells me a modern day fairytale:

“Luke killed a frog today 
at the playground
during recess
the frog was small
not a baby frog
a teenage frog
because he had a medium-sized body 
not a small body
a green & blue medium-sized spotted body 
Luke stepped on it & stepped on it
until there was blood
& the teacher had to call the frog ambulance
& Luke was put on the naughty list
& I was the only one who yelled stop! 
Stop! Don’t kill it! 
but Luke wouldn’t listen
& the others joined in on the stomping
& I yelled stop! 
but no one would listen
& they stomped & stomped
& killed the frog 
& and it bled red
out of its eyes
out of its head
& it made me sad
& can we buy the frog flowers
because when someone dies they should get flowers
& Mami, what if that frog was supposed to be a prince 
but now he’s dead
& now we’ll never know”

Copyright © 2023 by Jasminne Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

At the funeral, his other former girlfriend gives the eulogy. I sit in the pew.

Sitting in front of me, and behind me, and also to both sides, are more other former girlfriends.

Something heartfelt shared by Ex on the Mic sets off a chorus of sniffles among the Exes in Rows. They tuck their hair behind their little ears.

There are so many different people to hate, so I keep things simple and hate everyone.

I know why he picked me, a novelty.

I wore Mary Janes and high-neck dresses and labeled the shelves “Tuna and Nuts” and “Breakfast Items, Soup.” My hair was always squeaky clean.

Now I am someone entirely new.

A black dog, a broken heart.

I revel in being more like him now.

At home, I put on my sunglasses and turn off the lights.

Sitting on the toilet where light can’t peek through, I pretend the plunger’s a white cane. My chin held too high and to the side, I run through gruesome imitations of anger, contempt, disgust, sadness, surprise.

The world will be unsettled.

I will unsettle them.

Copyright © 2023 by Leigh Lucas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 3, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

So I fight all my destructive urges to give her one. A tiny globe
filled with first snow I’m determined not to shatter across blacktop.
Once, in the parking lot of Home Depot, we got into the blue van
& everything felt off, uncanny, a fast-food wrapper from a place 
we hadn’t eaten, the dashboard dustier than it should’ve been. 
It took us a full thirty seconds, Mom in the driver’s
seat though she hadn’t driven in years, me in the passenger, her ride-
or-die since I was a little girl & one of her only friends in our strange &
tiny border town, before we realized This isn’t our van! & we scrambled
out, laughing our heads off & terrified the owner 
had called the cops on the women who look like twins 
carjacking them. We laugh about it every time we’re in a parking lot. 
That wasn’t our only Lucy & Ethel moment. There was the time 
we ordered what we thought was a roll from the drive-
thru at Panera Bread, thinking we’d share it to split the calories 
but when the server handed it to us, the long, thin bread kept
coming through the window. Mom & I thought 
baguette meant roll, it sounded petit. & although this poem’s 
only point is to make Mom happy it’s also to heal
something in myself I hadn’t known needed a balm until the words
hit the page, the way moms know, the way mine sent me flowers 
when the love of my young life got another girl pregnant & left me 
heartbroken & without a prom date, or when Mom gave me a gold
nutcracker pin after the ballet recital when all the other girls got
flowers & I shoved the beautiful pin back at her because it wasn’t flowers.
And she said flowers wilt. I wanted to get you something 
that would last forever. Like her love. A poem can be sentimental 
because poems are filled with life, but sometimes we need to look
our moms in the eyes & apologize. Or say thank you.
Our moms remind us what it felt like when we were safe
in their arms, even if our moms weren’t safe, even 
if they were only holding it together for us, to give us a happiness
they’d created from thin air. Motherhood is made of that
magic. I’m crying now. Mom, I promise, they’re happy tears.

Copyright © 2023 by Jennifer Givhan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

           “death cannot harm me
            more than you have harmed me,
            my beloved life.”
                       
Louise Glück 

I tell my daughter first, because her knowing  
forces it to become true. I have to leave dad.  

Nothing is going to change. She nods  
like a priest in a booth, the last fifteen years

staring down at us. Explains, softly, 
how she’s spoken of me to her therapist.

Her worry of becoming my mirror. Tells me, 
I remember you, mom, before him. You were happy.

Oh. Oh. To surrender to your death by someone else’s
hand is still a kind of suicide. Slower. I stand naked

on the porch as she recounts in perfect detail,
(in a poet’s detail) the very things I’d hoped

to disguise. My careful little spectator. Diligent neighbor 
to my unnamed agonies. It is not ungrateful to resist

the tyrannies of obsession. It is no selfish act 
to want, suddenly, to stay alive. My dear girl.

She is teaching and I am learning. I not only  
want to be seen, I want to be seen through.

I return to my house, haunted and waiting. 
I look into the mirror and notice the door.

Copyright © 2023 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.