At cold daybreak
we wind
up the mountainside
to Haleakala Crater.
Our hands knot
under the rough of
your old army blanket.

We pass protea
and carnation farms
in Kula,
drive through
desolate rockfields.

Upon this one place
on Earth,
from the ancient
lava rivers,
silverswords rise,
startled
into starbursts
by the sun.
Like love, sometimes,
they die
at their first
and rare flowering.

From Hilo Rains by Juliet S. Kono, published by Bamboo Ridge Press. Copyright © 1988 by Juliet S. Kono. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

for DMK

When I thought it was right to name my desires,
what I wanted of life, they seemed to turn
like bleating sheep, not to me, who could have been
a caring, if unskilled, shepherd, but to the boxed-in hills
beyond which the blue mountains sloped down
with poppies orange as crayfish all the way to the Pacific seas
in which the hulls of whales steered them
in search of a mate for whom they bellowed
in a new, highly particular song
we might call the most ardent articulation of love,
the pin at the tip of evolution,
modestly shining.
                                    In the middle of my life
it was right to say my desires
but they went away. I couldn’t even make them out,
not even as dots
now in the distance.  
                                         Yet I see the small lights
of winter campfires in the hills—
teenagers in love often go there
for their first nights—and each yellow-white glow
tells me what I can know and admit to knowing,
that all I ever wanted
was to sit by a fire with someone
who wanted me in measure the same to my wanting.
To want to make a fire with someone,
with you,
was all.

Copyright © 2017 by Katie Ford. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

As hollow as a gutted fish, a hole in the sand,
a cistern cracked along the seam—

There is no filling such emptiness. And yet—

Stitch it shut. Pour and pour, if you wish. Wish and wish, but it’s wasted—
Water carried to the garden in your cupped palms.

Might as well seal an ember in a wax jar. Kindle fire on the crest of a wave.

Unbloom a poppy, reshut its mouth, unred its lips—
As if it hadn’t already sung,

As if its voice hadn’t already set all summer singing.

And the gall at its throat, the boil it’s prized for,
Hadn’t been cut and bled of its white sleep.

As if a child could be folded, resewn in its sac, and returned to its womb.

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Atkinson. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.

L. T. H., I. M.

There were years at her bedroom vanity, daubing on
makeup, fussing with clips and brushes, a clamp
for eyelashes, the phalanx of powder jars and perfume
bottles assembled like the glassy face of a wave standing
over a box of Kleenex. She’d paint on lipstick,
then blot the excess with a fold of pink tissue pressed
between her lips, pulling pins and a net from her hair,
grabbing up her purse and high-heeled shoes,
almost ready to step up the tiered flights of City Hall stairs
and the long day’s work bossing the typists and Clerk IIs.

How long was this her life, composed or grudging amidst
the clatter of machines, the pouches and memos
that swelled like a tide of incoming blather each day
she stood at her desk, commanding Stella Sue from Memphis,
Helena from Jalisco, and Kay (short for Keiko) from Boyle Heights?
How many times must she have thought of flowers floating in a tree,
archipelagos of plumeria buoyed on their branches
as a soft, onshore wind brought the scent of the sea
to the subtropical pietà of a mother and her newborn,
wrapped in blue flannels, in her arms as she sat on a torn
grass mat on the lawn by the browning litter of blooms
beneath a skeletal tree by a bungalow in Kahuku?

In her last illness, while lying comfortably in her bed
in the semiprivate room of the care center in Carson, California,
her mind and lifelong rage sweetened by the calm of forgetfulness,
she said she wanted to go back, that it was “a good place”
and she’d like living there again. “Ripe mangoes and guava taste
every day,” she said. “And everybody knows you your family bess.”

She spoke in pidgin like this, without demands, no fusillades
of scorn nor admonishments like I’d gotten steadily since childhood —
the torch of discontent that had lit a chronic, rancorous façade
had doused itself in the calm waters of a late-life lagoon
that caught her in its tidal fingers and captured her moonlike face
so that, when she gazed upon me those last days,
she did not scowl but smiled, her tyrannous visage
made plain, beatific without blemish of pain or artifice.

Copyright © 2018 Garrett Hongo. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2018. Used with permission of the author.

          On winter nights beside the nursery fire
          We read the fairy tale, while glowing coals
          Builded its pictures.  There before our eyes
          We saw the vaulted hall of traceried stone
          Uprear itself, the distant ceiling hung
          With pendent stalactites like frozen vines;
          And all along the walls at intervals,
          Curled upwards into pillars, roses climbed,
          And ramped and were confined, and clustered leaves
          Divided where there peered a laughing face.
          The foliage seemed to rustle in the wind,
          A silent murmur, carved in still, gray stone.
          High pointed windows pierced the southern wall
          Whence proud escutcheons flung prismatic fires
          To stain the tessellated marble floor
          With pools of red, and quivering green, and blue;
          And in the shade beyond the further door,
          Its sober squares of black and white were hid
          Beneath a restless, shuffling, wide-eyed mob
          Of lackeys and retainers come to view
          The Christening.
          A sudden blare of trumpets, and the throng
          About the entrance parted as the guests
          Filed singly in with rare and precious gifts.
          Our eager fancies noted all they brought,
          The glorious, unattainable delights!
          But always there was one unbidden guest
          Who cursed the child and left it bitterness.

          The fire falls asunder, all is changed,
          I am no more a child, and what I see
          Is not a fairy tale, but life, my life.
          The gifts are there, the many pleasant things:
          Health, wealth, long-settled friendships, with a name
          Which honors all who bear it, and the power
          Of making words obedient.  This is much;
          But overshadowing all is still the curse,
          That never shall I be fulfilled by love!
          Along the parching highroad of the world
          No other soul shall bear mine company.
          Always shall I be teased with semblances,
          With cruel impostures, which I trust awhile
          Then dash to pieces, as a careless boy
          Flings a kaleidoscope, which shattering
          Strews all the ground about with coloured sherds.
          So I behold my visions on the ground
          No longer radiant, an ignoble heap
          Of broken, dusty glass.  And so, unlit,
          Even by hope or faith, my dragging steps
          Force me forever through the passing days.

This poem is in the public domain. 

My mother went to work each day
in a starched white dress, shoes
clamped to her feet like pale
mushrooms, two blue hearts pressed
into the sponge rubber soles.
When she came back home, her nylons
streaked with runs, a spatter
of blood across her bodice,
she sat at one end of the dinner table
and let us kids serve the spaghetti, sprinkle
the parmesan, cut the buttered loaf.
We poured black wine into the bell
of her glass as she unfastened
her burgundy hair, shook her head, and began.
And over the years we mastered it, how to listen
to stories of blocked intestines
while we twirled the pasta, of saws
teething cranium, drills boring holes in bone
as we crunched the crust of our sourdough,
carved the stems off our cauliflower.
We learned the importance of balance,
how an operation depends on
cooperation and a blend of skills,
the art of passing the salt
before it is asked for.
She taught us well, so that when Mary Ellen
ran the iron over her arm, no one wasted
a moment: My brother headed straight for the ice.
Our little sister uncapped the salve.
And I dialed the number under Ambulance,
my stomach turning to the smell
of singed skin, already planning the evening
meal, the raw fish thawing in its wrapper,
a perfect wedge of flesh.

From Awake. Copyright © 1990 by Dorianne Laux. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University Press, www.cmu.edu/universitypress.

Lately we invite this stranger into our home
to watch over, like an angel or good dog,
                                                                          our son.

But she is not angelic, not graceful, her slippers
flopping like sad clown shoes. And it’s wrong

to compare this nurse to a dog, especially
that kind of dog: trusted, beloved. We need her

so we hate her, even though it is—must be—our fault
she’s here
                   —he is our son—
                                                  so we give

instructions and thanks before quarantining
in our room
                      where we sourly purse our eyes

toward sleep while she is paid
                                                      to guard our son against
that more familiar stranger, who should have

no business with a child,
                                            not now, not here. But endings
are always near. Passing our door, her steps

sound too like anxious foot-tapping, strangers
impatient to leave with
                                           what they’ve come to collect.

From The Trembling Answers. Copyright © 2017 by Craig Morgan Teicher. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of BOA Editions.

My heart is like a singing bird   
  Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;   
My heart is like an apple-tree   
  Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;   
My heart is like a rainbow shell 
  That paddles in a halcyon sea;   
My heart is gladder than all these,   
  Because my love is come to me.   
  
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;   
  Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,   
  And peacocks with a hundred eyes;   
Work it in gold and silver grapes,   
  In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;   
Because the birthday of my life
  Is come, my love is come to me.

This poem is in the public domain.

There are gods
    of fertility,
corn, childbirth,

& police
    brutality—this last
is offered praise

& sacrifice
    near weekly
& still cannot

be sated—many-limbed,
    thin-skinned,
its colors are blue

& black, a cross-
    hatch of bruise
& bulletholes

punched out
    like my son’s
three-hole notebooks—

pages torn
    like lungs, excised
or autopsied, splayed

open on a cold table
    or left in the street
for hours to stew.

A finger
    is a gun—
a wallet

is a gun, skin
    a shiny pistol,
a demon, a barrel

already ready—
    hands up
don’t shoot

arms
    not to bear but bare. Don’t

dare take
    a left
into the wrong

skin. Death
    is not dark
but a red siren

who will not blow
    breath into your open
mouth, arrested

like a heart. Because
    I can see
I believe in you, god

of police brutality—
    of corn liquor
& late fertility, of birth

pain & blood
    like the sun setting,
dispersing its giant

crowd of light.

Copyright © 2018 by Kevin Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
receives my admission and points the way.
Here are gray jackets with holes in them,
red sashes with individual flourishes,
things soft as flesh. Someone sewed
the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve
as if embellishments
could keep a man alive.

I have been reading War and Peace,
and so the particulars of combat
are on my mind—the shouts and groans
of men and boys, and the horses' cries
as they fall, astonished at what
has happened to them.
                         Blood on leaves,
blood on grass, on snow; extravagant
beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed
earth; parch and burn.

Who would choose this for himself?
And yet the terrible machinery
waited in place. With psalters
in their breast pockets, and gloves
knitted by their sisters and sweethearts,
the men in gray hurled themselves
out of the trenches, and rushed against
blue. It was what both sides
agreed to do.

From Otherwise: New and Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon. Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.


My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger's emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

From Selected Poems by Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 2003 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

We thought that they were gone—
we rarely saw them on our screens—
those everyday Americans
with workaday routines,

and the heroes standing ready—
not glamorous enough—
on days without a tragedy,
we clicked—and turned them off.

We only saw the cynics—
the dropouts, show-offs, snobs—
the right- and left-wing critics:
we saw that they were us. 

But with the wounds of Tuesday
when the smoke began to clear,
we rubbed away our stony gaze—
and watched them reappear:

the waitress in the tower,
the broker reading mail,
a pair of window washers,
filling up a final pail,

the husband’s last “I love you”
from the last seat of a plane,
the tourist taking in a view 
no one would see again,

the fireman, his eyes ablaze
as he climbed the swaying stairs—
he knew someone might still be saved.
We wondered who it was. 

We glimpsed them through the rubble:
the ones who lost their lives,
the heroes’ double burials,
the ones now “left behind,” 

the ones who rolled a sleeve up,
the ones in scrubs and masks,
the ones who lifted buckets
filled with stone and grief and ash:

some spoke a different language—
still no one missed a phrase;
the soot had softened every face
of every shade and age—

“the greatest generation”?—
we wondered where they’d gone—
they hadn’t left directions
how to find our nation-home:

for thirty years we saw few signs,
but now in swirls of dust,
they were alive—they had survived—
we saw that they were us. 

From Poems to Live By by Joan Murray. Copyright © 2001 by Joan Murray. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston. All rights reserved.

The Hello Kitty piñata’s head
swings from the pepper tree—
a sweet decapitation. Glitter
across the rental table & pink
paper flowers wilt in the succulents.
This is the stale beer & cigarettes
of seven-year-olds. “My fluffy puppy
is so soft” still means “my fluffy
puppy is so soft.” I’m seducing
my wife the way good men
of my generation do, by rinsing
blue & red sticky plates & taking out
heavy cake trash. I’m celebrating
their lack of cool. No fights
over girls or boys to save face,
just face paint, just little
leopards everywhere.

Copyright © 2018 Noah Blaustein. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.

From A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harper & Brothers. © 1945 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

CHILD.
O Mother, lay your hand on my brow!
O mother, mother, where am I now?
Why is the room so gaunt and great? 
Why am I lying awake so late?

MOTHER.
Fear not at all: the night is still.
Nothing is here that means you ill -
Nothing but lamps the whole town through,
And never a child awake but you.

CHILD.
Mother, mother, speak low in my ear,
Some of the things are so great and near,
Some are so small and far away,
I have a fear that I cannot say,
What have I done, and what do I fear,
And why are you crying, mother dear?

MOTHER.
Out in the city, sounds begin
Thank the kind God, the carts come in!
An hour or two more, and God is so kind,
The day shall be blue in the window-blind,
Then shall my child go sweetly asleep,
And dream of the birds and the hills of sheep.

This poem is in the public domain.

ARE YOU DEAD? is the subject line of her email.
The text outlines the numerous ways she thinks
I could have died: slain by an axe-murderer, lifeless
on the side of a highway, choked to death by smoke
since I’m a city girl and likely didn’t realize you needed
to open the chimney flue before making a fire (and,
if I do happen to be alive, here’s a link to a YouTube
video on fireplace safety that I should watch). Mom
muses about the point of writing this email. If I am
already dead, which is what she suspects, I wouldn’t
be able to read it. And if I’m alive, what kind of daughter
am I not to write her own mother to let her know
that I’ve arrived at my fancy residency, safe and sound,
and then to immediately send pictures of everything,
like I promised her! If this was a crime show, she posits,
the detective might accuse her of sending this email
as a cover up for murder. How could she be the murderer,
if she wrote an email to her daughter asking if she was murdered?
her defense lawyers would argue at the trial. In fact,
now that she thinks of it, this email is the perfect alibi
for murdering me. And that is something I should
definitely keep in mind, if I don’t write her back
as soon as I have a free goddamn second to spare.

Copyright © 2018 by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz. This poem originally appeared in How to Love the Empty Air (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018). Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

The figs we ate wrapped in bacon.
The gelato we consumed greedily:
coconut milk, clove, fresh pear.
How we’d dump hot espresso on it
just to watch it melt, licking our spoons
clean. The potatoes fried in duck fat,
the salt we’d suck off our fingers,
the eggs we’d watch get beaten
’til they were a dizzying bright yellow,
how their edges crisped in the pan.
The pink salt blossom of prosciutto
we pulled apart with our hands, melted
on our eager tongues. The green herbs
with goat cheese, the aged brie paired
with a small pot of strawberry jam,
the final sour cherry we kept politely
pushing onto each other’s plate, saying,
No, you. But it’s so good. No, it’s yours.
How I finally put an end to it, plucked it
from the plate, and stuck it in my mouth.
How good it tasted: so sweet and so tart.
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.

Copyright © 2013 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “July” originally appeared in The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013). Used with permission of the author.

Turns out things aren’t going that well.
Turns out you wake up and you’re thirty,
and the clothes you are wearing aren’t ironic
anymore. They are the clothes you wear.

One day you wake up, and look in your closet
and realize it is every terrible thing your mother
ever said to you, all cut from 100% poly-blend.

These are the days your shoes dissolve in the rain,
the days your boss asks if that’s a hole in your pants,
and you don’t even have to look down to confirm.

These are the days you pin a poem to the page
just to see it stare back at you, gasping for air.

Copyright © 2004 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “Close Out Sale” originally appeared in Working Class Represent (Write Bloody Publishing, 2004). Used with permission of the author.

In my defense, my forgotten breasts. In my defense, the hair
no one brushed from my face. In my defense, my hips.

Months earlier, I remember thinking that sex was a ship retreating
on the horizon. I could do nothing but shove my feet in the sand.

I missed all the things loneliness taught me: eyes that follow you
crossing a room, hands that find their home on you. To be noticed, even.

In my defense, his hands. In my defense, his arms. In my defense,
how when we just sat listening to each other breathe, he said, This is enough.

My body was a house I had closed for the winter. It shouldn’t have been
that difficult, empty as it was. Still, I stared hard as I snapped off the lights.

My body was a specter that haunted me, appearing when I stripped
in the bathroom, when I crawled into empty beds, when it rained.

My body was abandoned construction, restoration scaffolding
that became permanent. My body’s unfinished became its finished.

So in my defense, when he touched me, the lights of my body came on.
In my defense, the windows were thrown open. In my defense, spring.

Copyright © 2013 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. “Not Doing Something Wrong Isn’t the Same as Doing Something Right” originally appeared in The Year of No Mistakes (Write Bloody Publishing, 2013). Used with permission of the author.

"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more—that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

From Shel Silverstein: Poems and Drawings; originally appeared in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2003 by HarperCollins Children's Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Mothers of America
                               let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
                                                              but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images 
and when you grow old as grow old you must
                                                                  they won't hate you
they won't criticize you they won't know
                                                           they'll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey

they may even be grateful to you
                                                  for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
                                            and didn't upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
                                                               and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
                                                oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won't know the difference
                                             and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
and they'll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
                                                     or up in their room
                                                                                   hating you
prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys
                                                               it's unforgivable the latter
so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
                                                                      and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
                                                                                  seeing
movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young

From Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. All rights reserved.

At the coffee shop you love,
white mugs heavy on the table
between us, young baristas—
spiky haired and impatient—
cannot imagine how two people
so old to them can feel so wanton,
coffee growing cold between us,
middle-aged bodies growing hot
under the other’s gaze. Even now,
apart, you send me songs so I may
listen to love from the golden throat
of a saxophone, piano keys playing
jazz across my soft belly.
How is it the tide of terror
has quit rising in me, or rises
and recedes as tides do, bringing
sea glass worked smooth
and lovely by the sheer fact
of time, bringing trash—
plastic mesh and old sneakers—
useless things now we might
bag up and remove, bringing
a lapping tongue of water up
over our toes as we hold hands
and walk along its edge—
carefully, gleefully, both.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Most likely, you think we hated the elephant,
the golden toad, the thylacine and all variations
of whale harpooned or hacked into extinction.

It must seem like we sought to leave you nothing
but benzene, mercury, the stomachs
of seagulls rippled with jet fuel and plastic. 

You probably doubt that we were capable of joy,
but I assure you we were.

We still had the night sky back then,
and like our ancestors, we admired
its illuminated doodles
of scorpion outlines and upside-down ladles.

Absolutely, there were some forests left!
Absolutely, we still had some lakes!

I’m saying, it wasn’t all lead paint and sulfur dioxide.
There were bees back then, and they pollinated
a euphoria of flowers so we might
contemplate the great mysteries and finally ask,
“Hey guys, what’s transcendence?”   

And then all the bees were dead.

Copyright © 2017 by Matthew Olzmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The river its balm.
I spend a lot of time

waiting in the car,
nail file dust sifting
onto the gearshift.

Two corner stores gone
and a handle of gin
under the Walk sign.

The gin drinker is
uncertain he’s here.
He’s in the war.

Wind blows a hat
past the court’s lawn,
a balloon

from its gravesite tie.
The graveyard is
the town’s high hill.

Salty, sure, and a thrill,
at home in the hot sun
with not much on.

Reaching for eggs
in the dry house
of hens, or reaching

into a slaughtered hen,
plucking her clean—
close-mouthed,

I wouldn’t say
anything bad
about anybody.

Then I grew
into my ugly,
said plenty,

dropping quarters
at the coin laundry.
The sound of water

turning over water
was a comfort,
the sound of someone

else’s things.
There’s only one
wing in our hospital.

It’s sufficient.
So is the one road
out of the county.

You can drive
your whole life
into its macadam,

no matter. June
crosses crosswalks
in the noon air,

greasing gears
so gently
I can feel it

in my ears, unrelenting,
busy as an army
in its foxholes.

Copyright © 2013 by Collier Nogues. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on July 5, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Let us take the river
path near Fall Hill.

There we will negotiate
an outcrop with its silvered
initials & other bits of graffiti,

all the way to the broken edge
that overlooks the bend,
& hold hands until

we can no longer tell
where the river ends.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Jon Pineda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!
Lips set smiling and face made fair
Still for you through the pain we bare,
We have hid till our hearts were sore
Blacker things than you ever bore:
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!
Light held high in a strife ne’er through
We have fought for our sons and you,
We have conquered a million years’
Pain and evil and doubt and tears—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!
We have held you within our hand,
Marred or made as we broke or planned,
We have given you life or killed
King or brute as we taught or willed—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!


Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world’s sake!
We are blind who must guide your eyes,
We are weak who must help you rise,
All untaught who must teach and mold
Souls of men till the world is old—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world’s sake!

This poem is in the public domain.

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.

O brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night.
Trust not your prowess nor your strength,
Your only safety lies in flight;
For in her glance there is a snare,
And in her smile there is a blight.

The great white witch you have not seen?
Then, younger brothers mine, forsooth,
Like nursery children you have looked
For ancient hag and snaggle-tooth;
But no, not so; the witch appears
In all the glowing charms of youth.

Her lips are like carnations, red,
Her face like new-born lilies, fair,
Her eyes like ocean waters, blue,
She moves with subtle grace and air,
And all about her head there floats
The golden glory of her hair.

But though she always thus appears
In form of youth and mood of mirth,
Unnumbered centuries are hers,
The infant planets saw her birth;
The child of throbbing Life is she,
Twin sister to the greedy earth.

And back behind those smiling lips,
And down within those laughing eyes,
And underneath the soft caress
Of hand and voice and purring sighs,
The shadow of the panther lurks,
The spirit of the vampire lies.

For I have seen the great white witch,
And she has led me to her lair,
And I have kissed her red, red lips
And cruel face so white and fair;
Around me she has twined her arms,
And bound me with her yellow hair.

I felt those red lips burn and sear
My body like a living coal;
Obeyed the power of those eyes
As the needle trembles to the pole;
And did not care although I felt
The strength go ebbing from my soul.

Oh! she has seen your strong young limbs,
And heard your laughter loud and gay,
And in your voices she has caught
The echo of a far-off day,
When man was closer to the earth;
And she has marked you for her prey.

She feels the old Antaean strength
In you, the great dynamic beat
Of primal passions, and she sees
In you the last besieged retreat
Of love relentless, lusty, fierce,
Love pain-ecstatic, cruel-sweet.

O, brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night.
O, younger brothers mine, beware!
Look not upon her beauty bright;
For in her glance there is a snare,
And in her smile there is a blight.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry, edited by James Weldon Johnson, published in 1922.

Here is how I control my heart: I string each thought one behind the next, like beads.

I wear the answers I am waiting to give. The jewelry becomes heavy as soil.

My long blink is a scream & a yes. There are things I have to say, but they do not yet know the questions they must ask. & a blink is no word; if they misunderstand—

A heart is just soil. Ask anyone. A heartbeat is a blink. A long blink is a scream. A longer blink is sleep. All night I am screaming.
 

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Ciccarello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

    1

The best part
is when we’re tired
of it all
in the same degree,

a fatigue we imagine
to be temporary,
and we lie near each other,
toes touching.

What’s done is done,
we don’t say,
to begin our transaction,

each letting go of something
without really
bringing it to mind

until we’re lighter,
sicker,
older

and a current
runs between us
where our toes touch.

It feels unconditional.


    2

Remember this, we don't say:

The Little Mermaid
was able to absorb
her tail,

refashion it
to form legs.

This meant that
everything’s negotiable

and that everything is played out
in advance

in secret.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Like a frame within a frame the fossil
carried a carcass, a carapace,

and its own casket in another casket,
its own natural sarcophagus.

I never told anyone this story:
in a summer like this I ate a nectarine

until its rough corduroy pit, continued
rolling and chewing it until it hinged

open, and an inert spider, sitting
in white wisp, was inside like a small jewel.

How does a thing feel real. The layers
comprising me are, reductively, soft

hard, soft, an easy sift to the truth
but the hard sell and swallow done anyway.

Copyright 2014 by Hannah Sanghee Park. Used with permission of the author.