is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling 
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing 
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean

Lucille Clifton, "the earth is a living thing" from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

To the memory of Tahar Djaout*
on the day of his funeral

The earth opens 
and welcomes you
Why these cries, these tears
these prayers
What have they lost
What are they looking for
those who trouble
your refound peace?

The earth opens
and welcomes  you
Now
you will converse without witnesses
O you have things to tell each other
and you'll have eternity to do so
Yesterday's words tarnished by the tumult
will one by one engrave themselves on silence

The earth opens
and welcomes you
She alone has desired you
without you making any advances
She has waited for you with Penelopian ruses.
Her patience was but goodness
and it is goodness brings you back to her

The earth opens
and welcomes you 
she won't ask you to account 
for your ephemeral loves
daughters of errancy
meat stars conceived in the eyes
accorded fruits from the vast orchard of life
sovereign passions that make sun
in the palm's hollow
at the tip of the tipsy tongue

The earth opens
and welcomes you
You are naked
She is even more naked than you
And you are both beautiful
in that silent embrace
where the hands know how to hold back
to avoid violence
where the soul's butterfly
turns away from this semblance of light
to go in search of its source

The earth opens 
and welcomes you
Your loved one will find again some day
your legendary smile 
and the mourning will be over
Your children will grow up 
and will read your poems without shame
your country will heal as if by miracle
when the men exhausted by illusion
will go drink from the fountain of your goodness

O my friend
sleep well
you need it
for you have worked hard
as an honest man
Before leaving
you left your desk clean
well ordered
You turned off the lights 
said a nice word to the guardian
And then as you stepped out
you looked at the sky
its near-painful blue
You elegantly smoothed your mustache
telling yourself:
only cowards
consider death to be an end

Sleep well my friend
Sleep the sleep of the just
let us for awhile carry the burden

Créteil, June 4, 1993

*An Algerian journalist and author murdered in Algiers in 1993

From The World's Embrace by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Translation copyright © 2003 by Victor Reinking, Anne George, and Edris Makward. Reproduced by permission of City Lights Publishers. All rights reserved.

“O Dreary life!” we cry, “O dreary life!”
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven’s true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savannah-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show, above, the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience, as a blade of grass
Grows by contented through the heat and cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

Beneath heaven’s vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain
walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life

Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture

Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs

Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of the earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place

From Collected Poems by May Swenson. Copyright © 2013 by The Literary Estate of May Swenson. Reprinted by permission of The Library of America. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2013. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

The quake last night was nothing personal, 
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders, 
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors 
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel, 
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me. 
One small, sensuous catastrophe 
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course 
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross, 
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell 
to planets, nearing the universal roll, 
in our conceit even comprehending the sun, 
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.

Excerpted from Selected Poems by Mona Van Duyn. Copyright © 2002 by Mona Van Duyn. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

A man can’t die where there is no earth
 
because there will be no place
to bury him. His body is the sky
and understands the language of birds.
 
His body says the earth is made of everything
that has fallen from Heaven
 
while no one was looking. He promises
to defy gravity and then return home.
 
A man can’t reach for the sky and not feel
he is falling. It goes on forever and the birds
talk about the awesomeness of flight
 
while the oxen labor in the fields,
while the cows eat grass and dream
 
of slaughter. A man can’t talk about flight
because one day, there will be no sky,
just the body covered in earth.
 
And now the sky is empty of birds.
And now the earth is covered in flowers.

Copyright © 2017 by W. Todd Kaneko. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
     About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
     Because the year is dying.
 
Such principles are most absurd,—
     I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
     To make a solemn autumn.
 
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
     With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
     Will then be used in dressing.
 
Now purple tints are all around;
     The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
     From modest green to yellow.
 
The seed burrs all with laughter crack
     On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
     Are all decked out in crimson.
 
A butterfly goes winging by;
     A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
     Is bubbling o’er with laughter.
 
The ripples wimple on the rills,
     Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
     And laughs among the grasses.
 
The earth is just so full of fun
     It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
     The heavens seem to rain it.
 
Don’t talk to me of solemn days
     In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
     And these grow slant and slender.
 
Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
     The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
     Just melts into thanksgiving.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

I got one part of it. Sell them watermelons and get me another part. Get Bernice to sell that piano and I’ll have the third part.
—August Wilson

We who gave, owned nothing,
learned the value of dirt, how
a man or a woman can stand
among the unruly growth,
look far into its limits,
a place of stone and entanglements,
and suddenly understand
the meaning of a name, a deed,
a currency of personhood.
Here, where we have labored
for another man’s gain, if it is fine
to own dirt and stone, it is
fine to have a plot where
a body may be planted to rot.
We who have built only
that which others have owned
learn the ritual of trees,
the rites of fruit picked
and eaten, the pleasures
of ownership. We who
have fled with sword
at our backs know the things
they have stolen from us, and we
will walk naked and filthy
into the open field knowing
only that this piece of dirt,
this expanse of nothing,
is the earnest of our faith
in the idea of tomorrow.
We will sell our bones
for a piece of dirt,
we will build new tribes
and plant new seeds
and bury our bones in our dirt.

From Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2013 by Kwame Dawes. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.