Now cosmos in bloom and snow-in-summer
opening along the garden’s stone borders,
a moment toward a little good fortune,
water from the watering can,
to blossom, so natural, it seems, and still
the oldest blooms outside my door are flourishing
according to their seedtime.
They have lived as in trust
of tended ground, not of many seasons
as the lingering bud in late summer,
when leaves have reached their greenest,
when a chill enters the nights,
when a star I’ve turned to, night after night,
vanished in the shift of constellations.
But when on a bare branch,
even in August, a sprig starts,
sprig to stem—as if to say, See,
there’s kinship with the perennials
you think so hardy—voice
the moment among the oaks, toast
the spring in summer, as once each May
a shot of vodka is poured on bare dirt
among gravestones to quench the dead,
among the first stars of this new evening.
Copyright © 2017 by James Brasfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
There is no life after death. Why
should there be. What on
earth would have us believe this.
Heaven is not the American
highway, blackened chicken alfredo
from Applebee’s nor the
clown sundae from Friendly’s. Our
life, this is the afterdeath,
when we blink open, peeled and
ready to ache. Years ago
my aunt banged on the steering, she
insisted there had to be a
God, a heaven. We were on our
way to a wedding. I would
have to sit at the same table as the
man who saw no heaven
in me. Today I am thinking about
Mozart, of all people, who
died at 35 mysteriously, perhaps of
strep. What a strange cloth
it is to live. But that we came from
death and return to it, made
different by form, shaped again back
into anti–, anti–. On my run,
I think of Jack Gilbert, who said we
must insist while there is still
time, but insist toward what. Why we
must fill the void with light—
isn’t that our human insistence? But
we drift into a distance of
distance until proximity fails, our
name lifts away with any
future concerns, the past a flattened
coin that cannot spin. I am
matter spun from death’s wool—and
I bewilder the itch, I who am
I am just so happy to go.
Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Eilbert. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
One borrows time not to be left out.
Been in the pattern of sun—secure, re-creating.
One needs one thing.
One father is left with new limits, but one
father is left. This repeat is filled with above and below.
(Do you understand that it won't cease?)
Every hour compared to dozens of previous
hours and angers, and the daughters post pictures
of vanishing. Such is a comfort.
One agrees to ask for nothing.
Under time lives silence.
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Camp. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
It’s the inside which comes out, as I contemplate
him there half in sunlight, weeding diligently
a Midwestern lawn. On my persons, I have only notes
and a drying pen, the memory of onion blossoms
scenting in a window. Reflection is my native medium.
I am never arriving, only speaking briefly on material
conditions between myself and others. My country
inoculates me lovingly, over time. My country grasps me
like desire. I will show you my credentials, which is to say
my vivid description, if you ask. Here we are, my father
and I, never hostile, a small offering: pointless cut flowers
appear on the kitchen table when one finally arrives
into disposable income. Still possible. Am I living? Do I
accept revision as my godhead and savior?
I do and I am, and in the name of my Chinese father now
dragging the tools back inside, brow shining but always
a grin, faithless except to protect whatever I still have time
to become, Amen.
Copyright © 2017 by Wendy Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
after not wanting to watch “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” on Spike TV
It rained inside me
it is raining inside my neck
the rain falls in sheets inside long sheets inside
all the rain is falling inside collapsing spit
I don’t want to watch another black man die
today or know the story of how he died today
or how he was thrown away or how he ended up
I don’t want to study the rain from inside
the house or overhear wild rain swell & thicken
slap the roof with wet words & Kalief
who was there when you stopped
being & who was there when you were alone
& beyond yourself how
the water around you from the island around you
might have sounded like a chorus who was there
who was there who was there & now everyone
is watching your life from inside but I’m afraid to watch
them beat you watch torture throbbing dry & long
with ache & blue-black bruising so I don’t
& another black body is blown out smoking wick
the lone wisp of a life lingers smelling burnt & gone
how rain wraps round a tornado is a type of sorrow
because no one knows how to fathom damage inside
someone’s eyes could be the weather just after or before
a storm calm & clear but still bleaker inside the black
parts of the pupils the holes smooth black holes in the eyes
as they left you in the hole with no rain & I’m emptying
a waterfall shouting KALIEF
I want you to be undead & not alone lonely in the ground
again I want I want (the “I” wants so much) how it greeds
like a fist of pounding rain on your body bleating broke
but what I want doesn’t matter what I want are rare blossoms
for the dead because you’re gone & your mother is gone
all because someone said you stole a backpack meaning
your body was made a forgotten altar your body made bodiless
kept pushing back as your trial kept pushing back & back &
black matter moves backwards in time meaning Kalief matters
in the past tense even though the space around your life didn’t
matter to them or them or them like the space that scatters
& navigates around the circumference of raindrops is never wet
& the braided distance between you & me is dry & long
like time is rainless with a tight & loaded lungful blowing 800
candles out for the 800 days in solitary your brain behind bars
fades your body in confinement your chest caged alone
your body alone all I hear is your name falling
& beating Kalief Kalief Kalief Kalief Kalief
this is such a poor offering but I am pouring it on the ground
like good rain & whatever softens the earth is your name
whatever might grow from that darkening bright spot is your name
lapping little lakes of creation turning mud in your name
whatever might be fed from the liquid raining inside me
whatever might be loosened from the muck & the dark
rum pouring from my bottle & Kalief your name is drizzling
a type of grief upon my mouth like mist as it reigns
inside me it is raining inside my body the rain falls in sheets
inside all the rain is untangled & not touching
who touched you with tenderness falling inside
what is there to say
after so much rain?
The ground is swollen with your name…
Copyright © 2017 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The war ships bobbing off the coast.
The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be.
What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be.
But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
& my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
for making what was lost whole again.
Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Phones were ringing
in the pockets of the living
and the dead
the living stepped carefully among.
The whole still room
was lit with sound—like a switchboard—
and those who could answer
said hello. Then
it was just the dead, the living
trapped inside their bloody clothes
ringing and ringing them—
and this was
the best image we had
of what made us a nation.
Copyright © 2017 by Wayne Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night. Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air
the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light
Copyright © 2017 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Tonight the wind is in your voice.
And the gods are nervous
about the drinking water.
Someone hijacks the background
with three simple dance moves.
Or maybe the clouds
paused on the television
set during a ball game.
The silence inside
of you eating alone
in an old yearbook.
This is going to be over
before you know it.
But not before your hands
become small birds
of the present snow.
An expressed panic
attack of harmonics.
It’s like listening to your heartbeat
in a club, all the lights off,
all by yourself.
Copyright © 2017 by Noah Falck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
You’re used to it, the way,
in the first wide-eyed
minutes, climbing from parking lot
to fire trail, or rifling through
cupboards in a rented kitchen,
I can’t help but tell you
we should visit here again,
my reverie inserting
a variation in the season,
or giving friends the room
next door, in stubborn panic
to fix this happiness in place
by escaping from it.
“We’re here now,” you say,
holding out the book I bought
with its dog-eared maps and lists
and, on the cover, a waterfall,
white flecks frozen, very close.
Copyright © 2017 by Nate Klug. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The socks came in a pack of five.
What is the most boring subject
possible? Translucent blue
with punctures pierced to shape
a star around the ankle.
I carried them along the aisles
as if I needed them. I fingered
lacquered dishes and the rubber heads
of mallets, crystal trinkets
stitched to underwear.
Wherever you go, this buffering.
A dull hour. All that time
I could have touched you and didn’t
or did absentminded, getting in
or out of bed or trying to reach
something behind you.
I didn’t need anything
I could buy. I bought the socks
and a slatted spoon I haven’t used.
Blue interrupted by the living points
of constellated skin. I’ve been
looking for a long time
at the stretch of table where you had
your hand. I am afraid
to touch it. Love, all I’ve ever
seen is things in airless dense
configuration and no transparency.
Copyright © 2017 by Margaret Ross. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons. Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.
Copyright © 2017 by Nickole Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The heat rises in distorted gold
waves around fire
but without fire,
anything seen through it.
The heat rises, rasping
the air it rises through,
scuffing the surface,
if the air has a surface.
The tall summer
field is the keeper
of secrets. Lie down
and forget your body, forgive
your body its bad cradle,
Lie down and listen
to the rasp, to heat sweep
the pale, dry grass as if
it were your own
breathing, as if the field
you’ve pressed your shape into
is a broom in reverse,
a broom being
swept by the wind.
Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Drop fire from the sky but don’t name me
as reason. My sister is lost on the longest lit road
in the world. She wanders into shoe stores
the hour before close and chews the stock
back to rawhide. My father’s workshop tools
have broken into open rebellion—he worked
and worked them to the bone. Any second now
the circular saw will churn through the basement door
and into the kitchen, gnawing the floor to spit
and sawdust. Out West my cousin has soldered
the mirrored lenses of police-issue sunglasses
over his ocular cavities. All he sees is wrong.
Alert the Department of the Interior: our enemies
are inside the fence. Drop fire from the sky
but don’t expect it to purify their hate.
Or, if it does, it’ll burn me clean with the rest.
Here’s my hope for salvation: when the stranger
comes knocking, open my arms wide with the door
and give him whatever he takes.
Copyright © 2017 by Iain Haley Pollock. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I love the whir of the creature come
to visit the pink
flowers in the hanging basket as she does
most August mornings, hours away
from starvation to store
enough energy to survive overnight.
The Aztecs saw the refraction
of incident light on wings
as resurrection of fallen warriors.
In autumn, when daylight decreases
they double their body weight to survive
the flight across the Gulf of Mexico.
On next-to-nothing my mother
flew for 85 years; after her death
she hovered, a bird of bones and air.
Copyright © 2017 by Robin Becker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!
This poem is in the public domain.
“We can no longer afford that particular romance.”
Brother Rickey halts me before I cross East
Capitol. He trumpets that we are at war.
I want to admit that I don’t believe in “white”
—in the manner that Baldwin did not—but Brother
Rickey would simply retort that my disbelief
is no immunity from the imaginations of those
who think themselves “white.” As we await
the stoplight’s shift—so I may walk and he may
holler “Final Call!” between lanes of idle traffic—
I think of race as something akin to climate change,
a force we don’t have to believe in for it to kill us.
I once believed in the seasons. (I fantasize
fall as Brother Rickey’s favorite—when his suits,
boxy and plaid, would be neither too hot nor
thin.) But we are losing spring and fall—tripping
from blaze to frost and back. And what’s to say
we won’t soon shed another season, one of these
remaining two, and live on either an Earth
of molten streets or one of frozen light? That’s when
worlds end, no—when, after we’ve eradicated
ourselves, we become faint fossils to be exhumed
by the curiosities of whichever life-forms follow
our reign? I still owe Brother Rickey two dollars
for the paper he last placed in my hand, calling me
“soldier.” I don’t have to believe that I am enlisted
in order to understand he’ll forgive my debt
so long as this idea of “whiteness” sorties above us—
ultraviolet, obliging an aseasonal, unending deployment.
Released by the signal, I advance—my head down,
straining to discern the crossfire from the cover.
Copyright © 2017 by Kyle Dargan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
My father’s mother grew a garden of zinnias
to divide the house from the woods:
pop art tops in every color—cream,
peach, royal purple, and even envy
(white-green, I knew, and when the pale
petals opened in early August,
I thought they’d blush like an heirloom
tomato, heir-loom, how strings of wine-dyed
wool lay over the frame of an idea,
how my cheeks look in the mirror
after a run, always the wrong
time of day, thunder rolling around the stadium
of trees, or the sun striking the boughs
with light over and over as though to plead
the green right out of the leaves,
or so it seems to me,
too sensitive, she would say, her love
scientific)—the sunburst petals
a full spectrum except for the sea
returning to you, blue, blue,
the color appearing in language only
when we could know it like a cluster of stars
in the arms of another galaxy
while ours spirals around a black hole,
and now they grow in space, in the satellite
where we live out an idea of permanence
among galactic debris, acquiring stars,
losing vision, the skin touching nothing,
the heads little suns you watch die
on the stem if you want the bloom back.
Copyright © 2017 by Tyler Mills. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
tonight I'm cleaning baby portobellos
for you, my young activist
wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth
as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries
for you to adorn your fingertips
before eating each blood-red prize
these days you rarely look me in the eye
& your long shagged hair hides your smile
I don’t expect you to remember or
understand the many ways I’ve kept you
alive or the life my love for you
has made me live
Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Zucker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
(The essay on modesty) (in application for) (bodily autonomy)
(She lost that case) (on (wide is the gate)) (rhetorically memorable)
(Attracted to) (the most minor) (advantages) (adopting gendered props)
(Assaying willingness) (I notice a certain scarlet letter)
(Dream of a house) (it can’t be mine) (vast roominess)
(Dream of a beach) (but it’s a beach with a problem)
(In the smug of your (natural woman)) (I have had (a stain) (a conceit))
(Despite appearances (allegedly))
(A medical person) (declares the injury a non-emergency)
Copyright © 2017 by Krystal Languell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
To my left,
you, in the driver’s seat.
Chlorophyll, to my right,
through the windowglass, green tipping
to black, tipping to gold, shivering.
Green hills, further on, shading
to blue. Fuzzed slopes, lovable, rolling down down.
Awkward weeds, sprigged, not wheat and won’t feed anyone.
All is Dutch, set out for display and gain.
I’ve come to a conclusion about happiness: I want it.
You say “Sometimes you’ve got
to bust a move.” How would I do that?
Through the windowglass I can get a fearsome burn.
Thus I’m spf’d. I must earn.
On my lap, folderful of papers to which I should turn
but the sun does her thing: down down.
We don’t see her cooling, but we gain
from her careful campaign.
Goodbye glimpse, speed past,
the green consummation tracks
Lost me, lost you,
lost green hills shading to blue
and lost the valley view….
Copyright © 2017 by Kathleen Ossip. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
There’s no law that says
life needs to get more complicated.
In fact, it’s difficult to grow big.
Humanity has always been improbable,
but occurred when two single cells
floated—perhaps they wanted
each other?—into one. Even a host
can learn to love a leech. This is molecular:
One thing cares for another, in a way
it could never care for itself. Everything
you know was born from this sacrifice. Red-
woods stretched, shellfish bristled the floor.
Life, in even the simplest form, has always
been a matter of finding the energy.
Copyright © 2017 by Lizzie Harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
You remind them
of weighted tumbleweeds,
hen-egg brown. Don’t let
them take the rag-
time beneath your skin.
It stirs earth’s curvature
and a choir
when you enter
or leave a room. Don’t
leave a swallow of juice
or milk in the fridge.
A body grieved
is a whole new body.
Give your shadow a name
big as a star, see
yourself out loud.
Pick wild irises the best gifts
roll under a ribcage, leave
open mouths splendid.
I like your smile unpenned.
Keep your bird-
song close, imagine
an hourglass full
of architects and dreamers,
the first taste of fresh
scooped ice cream.
You will learn to master
camouflage among ordinary things—
men who spill words
not thoughts, trigger fingers
to brand loose.
I love your smile unpenned.
Copyright © 2017 by Cynthia Manick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
His tongue shorn, father confuses
snacks for snakes, kitchen for chicken.
It is 1992. Weekends, we paw at cheap
silverware at yard sales. I am told by mother
to keep our telephone number close,
my beaded coin purse closer. I do this.
The years are slow to pass, heavy-footed.
Because the visits are frequent, we memorize
shame’s numbing stench. I nurse nosebleeds,
run up and down stairways, chew the wind.
Such were the times. All of us nearsighted.
Grandmother prays for fortune
to keep us around and on a short leash.
The new country is ill-fitting, lined
with cheap polyester, soiled at the sleeves.
Copyright © 2017 by Jenny Xie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The street grew only strangers. All the faces we were wore slings. An ingrown arena peered out from our sigh. We spread ourselves out to feel the glass in a crowd. We prayed to a dog, then some flies. Our solo was a burning zither, not a kite.
Copyright © 2017 by Eric Baus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
“yes of course” was one speech too many
now you’ve done it exposed your
hardly speech if disclosing nothing
thought to stay blameless in a
well-tended hothouse that’s now
out of use beyond wear not in your possession
to break out so lay blame on
ritual pronouncements like
the unitary root of the whole is torn
try knitting cozies to hide
your household aporias
a little more than mortal
how yarn can knit a surface
that will flaunt its absences
looking at it as though it were behind you
is how gnats spin a hole in
air & then slip right through it
caterpillars moles lost limbs
try a little blind reaching
surprising what you can find
Copyright © 2017 by Rusty Morrison. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it’s assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers, that’s Dawn,
which should change its name to Dusk, irony being
the flip side of sentimentality here in the Iron Age,
ironing out the kinks in despair, turning it to hairdo
from hair, to do, vexing infinitive, much better to be
pain’s host, body of Christ as opposed to the Holy
Ghost, when I have been suffering at times I could
step away from it by embracing it, a blues thing,
a John Donne thing, divest by wrestling, then sing.
Copyright © 2017 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
You meant more than life to me. I lived through
you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
I learned that you called for me. I came to where
you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.
No one to appreciate me. The legality of it
upset a chair. Many times to celebrate
we were called together and where
we had been there was nothing there,
nothing that is anywhere. We passed obliquely,
leaving no stare. When the sun was done muttering,
in an optimistic way, it was time to leave that there.
Blithely passing in and out of where, blushing shyly
at the tag on the overcoat near the window where
the outside crept away, I put aside the there and now.
Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.
I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?
Yes I can see I am only in the where
where the blossoming stream takes off, under your window.
Go presently you said. Go from my window.
I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.
Copyright © 2005 John Ashbery
Copyright © 2017 by James Arthur. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
in the divorce i separate to two piles books: english love songs: arabic
my angers my schooling my long repeating name english english arabic
i am someone’s daughter but i am american born it shows in my short memory
my ahistoric glamour my clumsy tongue when i forget the word for [ ] in arabic
i sleep unbroken dark hours on airplanes home & dream i’ve missed my
connecting flight i dream a new & fluent mouth full of gauzy swathes of arabic
i dream my alternate selves each with a face borrowed from photographs of
the girl who became my grandmother brows & body rounded & cursive like arabic
but wake to the usual borderlands i crowd shining slivers of english to my mouth
iris crocus inlet heron how dare i love a word without knowing it in arabic
& what even is translation is immigration without irony safia
means pure all my life it’s been true even in my clouded arabic
Copyright © 2017 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
in the backseat a
portion of our music is
mucus flying into stillness
at what point do we submit
to the authority of flowers
at what point after it enters
the mouth is it no longer in the
mouth but the throat the colon
making sumptuous death of the world
this is what crossing the line gains
no need to pretend we
are the people we
want to be in
the next life
taste of snow to metal
sorry I threw up at your wedding
it wasn’t from drinking it was from
thinking on mountain all night waking
tangled in spirits of morning light
our planet floats on emptiness
the undisclosed mirror
held to flame
pushed it into
a pile of ash
a trail of ash
toe to toe
with wild sides
what’s emerging is
a grip we’ve been
reaching for please
grab hold with us
Copyright © 2017 by CAConrad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I keep going back to that word
the French like it trahison the French are partly me
in micro-particular disposition I sing
I'm most fascinated by metaphysical
betrayal and its off-color quarter-tones I mean
I mean it that a bit of matter could humiliate
another like in a beginning when of angels…
No I believe they play me like a winning king but
in a future I know already while scourged
I remember when X and Y made Ted miserable
Until he died? before he died? but that's before the
time of these poems of my emplacement in the zeros
Do you know that all history's happening at the same time
and see the future if you scry, gross matter It is 2007
someone dear having died I am on an air-
plane to San Diego and suddenly see blue and orange geo-
metrical formations around the periphery of my vision
both eyes is this part of the poem I'm the singer of
tales of bliss and structure of the universe yet unperceived
Is it built like what I'm talking is it in
fact structured when I write Voices Ross, the dear dead
speaks to me in the kitchen to say he's happy the dead are
happy I later believe some are sad sometimes, cyc-
lically until they work it out my poems help them
that my poems help everyone that I am re-
structuring whatever this is that is everything so
that nothing's lost but placed new-pieced into a collage
of the transpired remade into a transcendental richesse
opening of graves gold light burst out: Grave of Light
gravid of light Grave Alice and laughing Allegra
ocean of chaos breaks collage of tones you know
and who I was am and will be come back to me
in an enormous betrayal by who once left heaven
all those wanting to be matter my own body
born no one can understand born no one can com-
prehend how many possibilities we once were be-
fore anyone deceived a rock by breaking it
Ross tell me what You got it he says and what
you've kept to yourself is cool but the Fibonacci Series
being no longer how shall we say these irrelevancies
They slide into the collage I say Yeah he says
That on the other hand anything will do any glue
Because I was upset at your death mine eyes did break
not into tears but figments colored particles castle bat-
tlements they call them swim before me collapse
I rise again for I am everything participatory in
the earth world's illusions this is an homage to Ross
all that exists communicates cry a little, cry
betrayal that there is dying though death the other breathes
Copyright © 2017 by Alice Notley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Citadel of our best names—angsty Zooey & chatty Zarathustra,
wee Zaccheus & mighty Zorro. (Zebediah, of course, would place among them.)
Experiment in endings (A-Z), as in “where the A ends up,” the crooked path
an A could take toward some arrival’s gate (zig-zag).
Or Z-pack: superhero strength contained in capsules.
Like the 7, crossed or uncrossed, mustachioed or not,
the Z with its dashing good looks & flaming androgyny, its cursive tail & tiger purr.
That Z, its maze of contradictions, shape-shifter & fortress of finality:
N’s topsy-turvy cousin, S’s more callous sidekick,
The stuff of caped-crusader skirmishes: ZAP! & ZOOM!
Enabler of interjections (think Wowie Zowie! think Zoinks!)
Symphonic doppelgänger shadowing xylophone & disguise.
The verbage of bees, buzzing all day in a hive.
Zeta or zed, its dialectical relatives, or the numeral 3,
Z’s bodacious brother on its mother’s side.
Ambiguous, flirtatious, & worth 10 points on the Scrabble board,
Z turns out to be quite the catch—zany, zesty, & remarkably well-read.
But despite its zeal, Z can also communicate quietly, eloquent as an ideogram.
It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring…
How do we know? Just look at the rocket of Zs rising out of his mouth.
Copyright © 2017 by Julie Marie Wade. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I don’t call it sleep anymore.
I’ll risk losing something new instead—
like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.
But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
fruit to unfasten from,
despite my trembling.
Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.
Maybe this is what Lorca meant
when he said, verde que te quiero verde—
because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.
My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion
beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—
bewildered in its low green glow,
belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
and many petaled,
the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.
I am struck in the witched hours of want—
I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth
green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.
Fast as that, this is how it happens—
soy una sonámbula.
And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
to say, I don’t feel good,
to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
until I can smell its sweet smoke,
leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.
Copyright © 2017 by Natalie Diaz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
As in some demented romantic comedy,
my wife and I divided the apartment in half.
She took the living room and I took the bedroom.
Bivouacked and bleeding, we waited for the lawyer
to finish the stipulation so we could sign
the pages and crawl away forever.
I lived in her midst like an alien species.
The exclusion zone sizzled like wet lightning
when I whispered to outsiders on the house phone.
Then came the morning of my departure:
I awoke in civil twilight with my wife standing
over me, looking down into my pallid face.
For half a second, I thought she might strike me,
but she grasped my hand and squeezed it goodbye,
an astonishing tenderness glistening in her eyes,
one final gift in all that pain and murderous détente,
all that wailing and mortification of the flesh.
On the way to the gallows of divorce,
she held a merciful cup of clemency to my lips,
and I drank deeply, I drank so deeply
that I forgot what I’d done to deserve her.
Copyright © 2017 by Jerry Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We encountered a problem
to the program.
Did I say that
I’ve broken out
To be a blip
in a circuit
and to know it,
in your private
as all moments
When I mentioned hatred
I was not thinking
but you’d best not break
the thrill we get
from our own self-
that guilty snigger
running round the room
Copyright © 2017 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Vision of Baudelaire in this North Florida forest looking into the eye
of a lizard with green purple eyeliner zigzagging its way up a burnt log
Florida Yew, Olive, neon orange day moon mushrooms
over the white bluffs of the psychiatric Apalachicola River
Valéry says shells, flowers and crystals are the privileged
objects of nature harmonic underbelly,
endless, alien recycle of gorge and interlude
George Michael died today For I live in a bubble of joy
Go out into the sun! the doctor says your blood work
is totally normal except for a Vitamin D deficiency
and left the office behind and unleashed my sentimentality
Copyright © 2017 by Sandra Simonds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Someone will love you many will love
you many will brother you some of these
loves will bother you some will leave you
one might haunt you hunt you in your
sleep make you weep the tearless kind of
weep the kind of weep that drowns your
organs slowly there are little oars in your body
little boats grab onto them and row and row
someone will tell you no but you won’t know
he is right until you have already wrung your
own heart dry your hands dripping knives until
you have already reached your hands into his
body and put them through his heart love is
the only thing that is not an argument
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The shadow I had carried lightly has
Been forced upon me now and heavy since
Bulky since now and since unwieldy as
A corpse the shadow I was born from in
And to I should have known I couldn’t being
As how it wasn’t me who lifted it
Not all the way from me in the first place being
As how its lightness after was a gift
Its near- bodilessness a gift from those
Who bind it to me now I should have known
I couldn’t while they watched me set it loose
They bind it to my back they make it strange
That I knew in my arms they weigh it down
With the shadow they had kept the bindings in
Copyright © 2017 by Shane McCrae. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m thinking of the boiling sea
and the dream in which
all the fish were singing.
I want to wake up with my heart
not aching like death,
but I am always falling
in to terror. I’m a good person.
I grieve to appropriate degrees.
I mourn this season. This moment.
I mourn for the polar bear
drifting out of history
on a wedge of melting ice.
For the doughnut shop
which reached an end
yesterday, after decades and decades.
I’m thinking of the light
at dawn. Of the woman
in Alabama who ordered
six songbirds from a catalog because
she was lonely. Or
heartbroken. I’m thinking
of the four that came
dead in the box, mangled.
Of the two that are
missing. I want to tell you
that they were spotted
in the humid air
winging above a mall.
I want to tell you a story
about the time leaves fell from
the trees all at once. I am
thinking of cataclysm.
More than anything, I want to tell you
this. I want to disappear
in the night. I want
the night to vanish from memory.
I want to tell you
how this happened.
Copyright © 2017 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
the sap that I am springtime
makes me want to reread Virgil’s
Georgics while eating cacio
e pepe with fresh-shelled
peas this morning over coffee I
watched a video of spinach
leaves washed of their cellular
information and bathed in stem
cells until they became miniature
hearts vascular hopes capable
of want to roll down a hill
of clover to cold-spoon chrysanthemum
gelato or to stop whenever
their phones autocorrect gps
to god the sublime is a suspension
of disbelief the earth has gotten
sentimental this late in the game
with its smells of gasoline
rosemary and woodsmoke the Rorschach
of vitiligo on my eyes mouth
and throat the ongoing
argument between self
and selfhood the recognition
of the storm the howling
wind I wish I could scream
into someone else’s rain
Copyright © 2017 by Emilia Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
—at The Giant Heart, The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, PA)
Today the boy won’t rest long enough
for me to burn a single metaphor
back to whether precision or
prayer leavens the language I need
cast into the well of our survival. And then
the boy urges my turn to stay
poised on a floor scale while watching 24
chilling cups of hurt-colored liquid spill
into a clear cylinder. The gutted window
to the privacy of blood harbored
in this body thins the daily belief
that no sick imaginary could cut us
full open. And then the boy gawks around
a carousel of animal hearts, fidgets against
his surprise at the smallness of the lion’s
carnal engine beside the cow’s. Before
I can weigh the un-chambered bellows
of hunger, the boy begins to sound
a panel that plays the pulse of each animal.
He doesn’t linger with a blood-music; he keeps
mashing buttons at random—from the canary’s
constant lift to the cavernous crawl
of the blue whale—until I can’t see living
inside a god-rhythm that soothes
this earthly cacophony pleading
toward the dark effort of tomorrow.
By now, I have a strange image for heart
filling my mouth. I’m remembering
the tiny fleshy pyramids my own father
cleaned from sunfish. When they ceased
their tight contractions, I strained
to recognize the heart-ness in his hand,
sometimes pressing down into the soft
plunge of his palm to witness one
last lunge. This memory dissolves because
the boy dashes off, and then I’m chasing him
through the beating corridors of a giant
vascular room. The way is dim
and narrow—: I’m working hard to keep up.
I’m trying not to lose the boy
inside the heart. But every time I hear the light
of his laughter murmur across another
distance, I breathe into the new blessing
his life has kindled from the space between us:—
I think I could survive like this all day.
Copyright © 2017 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Florid, fluted, flowery petal, flounce
of a girl’s dress, ruffled fan,
striped in what seems to my simple eye
an excess of extravagance,
intricately ribboned like a secret
code, a colorist’s vision of DNA.
At the outermost edge a scallop
of ivory, then a tweedy russet,
then mouse gray, a crescent
of celadon velvet, a streak of sleek seal brown,
a dark arc of copper, then butter,
then celadon again, again butter, again
copper and on into the center, striped thinner
and thinner to the green, green moss-furry heart.
How can this be necessary?
Yet it grows and is making more
of itself, dozens and dozens of tiny starts, stars
no bigger than a baby’s thumbnail,
all of them sucking one young dead tree
on a gravel bank that will be washed away
in the next flooding winter. But isn’t the air here
cool and wet and almost unbearably sweet?
Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Bass. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
It’s a little bit
true that the
hole in my jacket
the breast pocket
yeah all relaxed
has a hole &
one’s in the lining
but this one
now it’s a writing
silly black out there
in the air &
I was on
my feet are cold
and you wouldn’t
be in the
long it doesn’t happen
there’s no climate
in a plane
and I was in one
but not on
each thing I do
is a little
bit wrong. I’m willing
but they never
out the hole
forget but I
Copyright © 2017 by Eileen Myles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Kelli Russell Agodon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Geoffrey G. O'Brien. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
out how it began.
Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We trace the dust lines left behind from the appliances, fumble for the brick foundations between the steel beams, peer at serrated stairlines where the wall paints stopped. Reincarnated. Tenement apartments become dance spaces without barres or mirrors, in the dank basement of a bank on Market Street, in anonymous green-carpeted rooms on Mott Street.
Copyright © 2017 by Celina Su. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Ciccarello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Grotz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
After a century, humpbacks migrate
again to Queens. They left
due to sewage and white froth
banking the shores from polychlorinated-
biphenyl-dumping into the Hudson
and winnowing menhaden schools.
But now grace, dark bodies of song
return. Go to the seaside—
Hold your breath. Submerge.
A black fluke silhouetted
against the Manhattan skyline.
Now ICE beats doors
down on Liberty Avenue
to deport. I sit alone on orange
A train seats, mouth sparkling
from Singh’s, no matter how
white supremacy gathers
at the sidewalks, flows down
the streets, we still beat our drums
wild. Watch their false-god statues
prostrate to black and brown hands.
They won’t keep us out
though they send us back.
Our songs will pierce the dark
fathoms. Behold the miracle:
what was once lost
now leaps before you.
Copyright © 2017 by Rajiv Mohabir. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Metzger. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Deborah Landau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I watched in horror as the man hung half a pig by a hook in the window. Nearby, the sea shone or something. Nearby, the wingspan of a hawk cast an elongated shadow. I listened with horror to the words I was missing. A wrongness was growing in the living moon. & nearby, the sea rolled endlessly. Nearby, the saw grass peered through the grit & preened. I've never been to Florida. Louisiana however is second skin of mind, a habit-habitat. & Texas on the way there, the red soil & black boars, the frankly haunted pines lone men in pickups fishing for nothing they intend to catch. & nearby, the sea froths over the edge. & nearby, the sea. Nearer & nearer the obliterating sea
Copyright © 2017 by Shanna Compton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Thirteen look out be well do that at least for whatever has hap- pened Thy no longer shall glimpse things great- er you say you aren’t safe well, no you’re not for- get your aims, your other loves no one can know what thought was for what adva- ntage it gave when time was young & speech a distant dream back on earth
Copyright © 2017 by Brent Cunningham. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Lynn Melnick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Howard Altmann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
After Anne Sexton
Some ghosts are my mothers
neither angry nor kind
their hair blooming from silk kerchiefs.
Not queens, but ghosts
who hum down the hall on their curved fins
sad as seahorses.
Not all ghosts are mothers.
I’ve counted them as I walk the beach.
Some are herons wearing the moonrise like lace.
Not lonely, but ghostly.
They stalk the low tide pools, flexing
their brassy beaks, their eyes.
But that isn’t all.
Some of my ghosts are planets.
Not bright. Not young.
Spiraling deep in the dusk of my body
as saucers or moons
pleased with their belts of colored dust
& hailing no others.
Copyright © 2017 by Kiki Petrosino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Alex Manley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Amber Flora Thomas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal
more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.
Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)
but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t
pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved
through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,
like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday
a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and
said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.
I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion
to sing but
there’s gravel now. An undercurrent
that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide
down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me
what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To
stifle the sound of my voice. I know.
Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.
What does it mean
to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit
of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen
all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was
putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.
Copyright © 2017 by Vievee Francis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs
and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead
on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow
feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.
I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot
feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls
skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.
To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white
petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am
in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.
Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Farid Matuk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Winter, friend, I get it. We are having a long talk
and have just gotten into the thick of it.
Days ago the signs were there.
I was the only thing dark and moving
through the white woods, and my leg kept leaving me
small grey commas of ice seen coming back.
This is a very long talk we’ve been having. My body already knew
and began to make an important list.
Copyright © 2017 by Jill Osier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 8, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Behind disinfected curtains, beyond touch of sunrise devouring the terrible gold of leaves, a man could be his own eternal night. City flattened to rubble, his surviving height a black flight of notes: the chip-toothed blade and oldest anesthetic. Escaped convict, he climbs wild-eyed, one hand out— running its twin on the rails of a broken Steinway. Who has not been found guilty of a carrion cry—the dream of a feathered departure one has not earned, then fall back down teeming fault lines of the flesh? Memory recedes into nocturne, a kingdom born of spruce and fading light— he reaches in the end what he had to begin with: fingertips on corrupted tissue, cathedral of octaves in his thinning breath, tears like small stubborn gods refusing to fall.
Copyright © 2017 by Cynthia Dewi Oka. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
We will count on these walls
to the strangers who take up
the work of these rooms,
Our purpose shared,
suspended in trust
to a poem
that told us a long love
we are bound to exit
by our design,
unmindful that this thing
has also always
in itself, bossy and brutish
that has thrived in spite of
imperative be mine
that will whisper
Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Moxley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
i know we exist because of what we make. my dad works at a steel mill. he worked at a steel mill my whole life. at the party, the liberal white woman tells me she voted for hillary & wishes bernie won the nomination. i stare in the mirror if i get too lonely. thirsty to see myself i once walked into the lake until i almost drowned. the white woman at the party who might be liberal but might have voted for trump smiles when she tells me how lucky i am. how many automotive components do you think my dad has made. you might drive a car that goes and stops because of something my dad makes. when i watch the news i hear my name, but never see my face. every other commercial is for taco bell. all my people fold into a $2 crunchwrap supreme. the white woman means lucky to be here and not mexico. my dad sings por tu maldito amor & i’m sure he sings to america. y yo caí en tu trampa ilusionado. the white woman at the party who may or may not have voted for trump tells me she doesn't meet too many mexicans in this part of new york city. my mouth makes an oh, but i don't make a sound. a waiter pushes his brown self through the kitchen door carrying hors d’oeuvres. a song escapes through the swinging door. selena sings pero ay como me duele & the good white woman waits for me to thank her.
Copyright © 2017 by José Olivarez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 June Jordan from We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017). Used with permission of the publisher.
Start with a base map, unlabeled terrain, in shaded green and ochre, nude relief, cool continental mass bathing in blue, a face whose features now are visible, unannotated, apolitical, as if a mighty snow had settled here and muffled every static line and letter, earth as naked as the moon, but full of lively color, from the fissured west into the placid belly of the country, eastward over quartzite ridge, carbonate valley into southwest-trending s-curves up the coast, a range two thousand miles, two hundred fifty million years of mountain formed in three successive waves of rock uplifted and depressed, and in the west it’s just begun. Nine hundred million acres under time, under stress and stretches of content. Reserved for a duration. Blue-green grid of constant revolution.
Copyright © 2017 by Susan Barba. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Mind was a prison, ruby lined
in its lipstick noir—everything woman
I was expected to be, trapped between
papered walls. What they said to do, I did not
but only levitated at the burning,
the body a water in which I drowned, the life
a windshield dirty with love. What they
said to think, I thought not but instead made
my mind into a birdcage with wings
(Title is from an Anne Sexton Poem.)
Copyright © 2017 by Melissa Studdard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
But there never was a black male hysteria
Breaking & entering wearing glee & sadness
And the light grazing my teeth with my lighter
To the night with the flame like a blade cutting
Me slack along the corridors with doors of offices
Orifices vomiting tears & fire with my two tongues
Loose & shooing under a high-top of language
In a layer of mischief so traumatized trauma
Delighted me beneath the tremendous
Stupendous horrendous undiscovered stars
Burning where I didn’t know how to live
My friends were all the wounded people
The black girls who held their own hands
Even the white boys who grew into assassins
Copyright © 2017 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Carrie Fountain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Copyright © 2017 by Marilyn Chin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
What does it mean to be so still? to glide along the ocean floor like some black-tongued electric eel, to burn through marbled gold and green of oceanic things like some compact mass deforming space, time, a void within voids, and then? It is easier to imagine amphibian, to know that blood, too, can change its temperament as quickly as salamanders change skin, as quickly as eyes of newt and tongues of dog become incantations, enchantments of art and life just as an animal submerged under water becomes unknown, just as respirations become primitive and breaths and motions cease as a lone fish in a dark pond arrives as an object of thought and becomes stone.
Copyright © 2017 by Rita Banerjee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
white-throat sparrows/full of note/netted in the eventide/voices sawing the trees/fragile little bodies/tracing frantic circles not understanding/what we must all come to accept/not one day will last/we must end ourselves/as gently as we can take our swords/our facts/oddments of feather turn them into the dark/she takes us as we are windswept/awake with shattering & nothing is as loud as her arms pulling us close/not even these wings landing/forever in the nests of my ears
Copyright © 2017 by Mariama J. Lockington. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
when did we become friends?
it happened so gradual i didn't notice
maybe i had to get my run out first
take a big bite of the honky world and choke on it
maybe that's what has to happen with some uppity youngsters
if it happens at all
the thought stark and irrevocable
of being here without you
beyond love, fear, regret or anger
into that realm children go
who want to care for/protect their parents
as if they could
and sometimes the lucky ones do
into the realm of making every moment
laughing as though laughter wards off death
each word given
received like spanish eight
treasure to bury within
against that shadow day
when it will be the only coin i possess
with which to buy peace of mind
From Heavy Daughter Blues by Wanda Coleman. Copyright © 1987 by Wanda Coleman. Reprinted by permission of Black Sparrow Press, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher.
Because I did not have to smell the cow’s fear,
because I did not have to pin the man, watch his eyes
go feral, because I did not have to drag the stones
that formed in the child’s body, because I did not sheathe
my hands in dank soil, or skirt the machine’s battering, the needles
knitting my lower back, because when the factory collapsed
I smelled no smoke, and no one made me kneel at the cop’s boots
and count the pulse slowing beside me as every sound
soured, because my hands have never had to resist being comforted
by the warmth of blood, because the plastic-
wrapped meat and the mousetraps, because my job
was to stay clean and thankful and mostly imaginary, I have been stealing
what little I can:
onions. sandpaper. handfuls of skin.
the dumpster’s metal groan. hurried breath. hot knives.
Copyright © 2018 by Franny Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Where are you from?
Where are you headed?
What are you doing?
Little brother, we are all grieving
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.
Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light-years away
are under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed the staircases saying, There, there.
Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.
Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you've been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day,
I open the door. I do it by looking
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bare.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.
Little brother, we are all humming.
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers,
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah.
Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon,
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.
Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—
the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
the gears that turn, & the remembering.
Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
What still grows in winter?
Fingernails of witches and femmes,
green moss on river rocks,
lit with secrets... I let myself
go near the river but not
the railroad: this is my bargain.
Water boils in a kettle in the woods
and I can hear the train grow louder
but I also can’t, you know?
Then I’m shaving in front of an
unbreakable mirror while a nurse
watches over my shoulder.
Damn. What still grows in winter?
Lynda brought me basil I crushed
with my finger and thumb just to
smell the inside of a thing. So
I go to the river but not the rail-
road, think I’ll live another year.
The river rock dig into my shoulders
like a lover who knows I don’t want
power. I release every muscle against
the rock and I give it all my warmth.
onto my chest quick as table salt.
Branches above me full of pine needle
whips: when the river rock is done
with me, I could belong to the evergreen.
Safety is a rock I throw into the river.
My body, ready. Don’t even think
a train run through this town anymore.
Copyright © 2018 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
In the first place—I wanted him and said so
when I had only meant to say. His eyes
opened beyond open as if such force would unlock me
to the other side where daylight gave reason
for him to redress.
When he put on his shirt,
after I asked him to keep it off, to keep putting off
the night’s usual end, his face changed beneath
the shirt: surprise to grin, to how even the body
of another’s desire can be a cloak behind which
to change one’s power, to find it.
In the first place
he slept, he opened the tight heat of me that had been
the only haven he thought to give a name:
Is-it-mine? Why-you-running? Don’t-run-from-it—as though
through questions doubt would find its way away from me,
as though telling me what to do told me who I was.
Copyright © 2018 by Phillip B. Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
“It’s all empty, empty,” he said to himself. “The sex and drugs. The violence, especially.” So he went down into the world to exercise his virtue, thinking maybe that would help. He taught a little kid to build a kite. He found a cure, and then he found a cure for his cure. He gave a woman at the mercy of the weather his umbrella, even though icy rain fell and he had pneumonia. He settled a revolution in Spain. Nothing worked. The world happens, the world changes, the world, it is written here, in the next line, is only its own membrane— and, oh yes, your compassionate nature, your compassion for our kind.
Copyright © 2018 by Vijay Seshadri. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
dew grass a fire shine mountain a lung pine cone the bone tsunami rock hawk jaw gravity a fall all consuming a song chirp for sunlight spine daggers cracking the sky an ocean paused in its crashing creature shake trip whistle rustle nut squirrel swish stump thunder or thump thump a swallowing you beautiful urchin you rot mound of moss.
Copyright © 2018 by Susan Landers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2017. by the Academy of American Poets.
What is the point of travel For a DeafBlind person Other than the food the people the shops And all that * Part one young Question mother father Know right name Work some day * The mutant four-fingered carrot Is in the pot and growing Sweeter as it relaxes Its grip * When we say good morning In Japanese Sign Language We pull down a string To greet each other in a new light
Copyright © 2018 by John Lee Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
As from dark orchard leaves, from quiet scripts where each shape sends its tendril reaching— circle and line, the swaddled bud, the petiole sprung, an envelope tendered. By a window, the infant turns, rooting toward the breast, sun-lit, the mother humming. (Those far things, sources of power and regret, cliffs and waves, continue at a distance.) Here you’ll find a name scrawled in the bark— last words, left to chance and strangers. There, the black ant, burdened by a crumb, and the weight of her lacquered armor, crossing—climbing, switching, doubling back—gnarl and crevice and cul de sac. Pinch-waisted, driven on, and trembling, does she have a notion of her own, or is it only species memory—so fearless, so abstract? because it is winter everywhere, I spin my cocoon I dig my heart a grave Indifferent, a blossom drifting, the knob swelling, the leaf turned to shadow: filigree, smudged. The petiole now brittle in the first cold nights. The burden, relieved, weighs all the more from the guilt of its release. Too light, too light, like a sudden waking, the sun in your eyes: you cannot see for it. How long will we live in this leaf-strewn place, thinking we belong to the sky?
Copyright © 2017 by Susan Stewart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
* bring us to dark knots the black
eyes along white aspen skin to scrape
with a rock on surface where I press
I carve the initials of all and **
*** bring us to a returning no
an urning a vessel of corpse
ash in the active state of being
held by two hands positioned
gripping the sides to tip
and scatter my night dream
of an acquaintance who
presented me a ledger opened
to a page handwritten in pencil
dates names and meetings ****
***** I said I don’t want to
see it I don’t want to know
if my father betrayed me
as the words left
my dream mouth I woke I shook
to the bone a hot line notched
from heart to elbow throbbing
vein-ache in my body how
I’d replaced another man’s name
-a man I once loved I mean to say-
with the word father in a flash
the sleeping eye ripped me
from denial I’m not so complex
see my mind unclothed
is a crying newborn
aspen leaves in untimed
wind-filled rhythm my mother
turned eighty what at that age is left
to surprise though
the tone here shifts to listen
she said I don’t know if I ever said
when I was pregnant with you
I found out he’d cheated
I threw ****** into the yard
I locked him out
pregnant with you I cried
and I cried so long and hard
I thought I was going to
die yes she said it a heavy bass line
beneath aspen music and timbre
I sit on the patio to smoke I think
at night always at night maybe
cause I was born / at night or
my name means night God bless
my mother she believed
my name meant pure
spirit so it may be the darkest
hours are when I’m purest
when I am I I am fluid
a clear stream over rock or
as poetry goes ********
I think about a baby in utero I can’t help
but wonder what the baby knows
a study says babies and toddlers
through impression not specifics
I rummage the syllables and stress
of each line in *********
impression is a mark
on the surface
caused by pressure or
a quick undetailed sketch or
of someone / I
carried her nine months
beneath my own skin her small toes
relaxed her eyes shut
within me her fingertips
pressed into palms she made
or was it
for the Sun what rising
what of battle my child knows
scares me to the pure
the one I I burn in question
* may all the grief
** may all
*** the loss
**** all your misdeeds
***** love of my soul
****** all his things
******* spit in a cup
******** night is a womb
********* the definition
Copyright © 2018 by Layli Long Soldier. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I crawled into bed and closed my eyes and not long after heard the small hooves of the horses, the tiny ones that gallop in our dreams, or are they the dreams of our children, galloping through the black ruins. Everything we do is against the crippling light. To hear them cry at night is to know they are alive. When they are scared they come galloping down the long hall calling your name. Tonight, it is our oldest daughter, the red mare with her fiery mane, she snuggles in between us and falls back to sleep in your arms, to that secret place inside her, she barely moves, crossing over the river, through a grove of alders, through the black ruins, she is the one who once whispered, the grass it knows everything.
Copyright © 2017 by Sean Thomas Dougherty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Everybody Black is my hometown team. Everybody Black
dropped the hottest album of the year, easy. Everybody Black
is in this show, so I’m watching. Everybody Black is in this movie,
so I’m watching. Everybody Black wore it better, tell the truth.
Everybody Black’s new book was beautiful. How you don’t
know about Everybody Black?! Everybody Black mad
underrated. Everybody Black remind me of someone I know.
I love seeing Everybody Black succeed. I hope Everybody Black
get elected. Everybody Black deserves the promotion more than
anybody. I want Everybody Black to find somebody special.
Everybody Black is good peoples. Everybody Black been through
some things. Everybody Black don’t get the credit they’re due. I met
Everybody Black once and they were super chill and down-to-earth.
I believe in Everybody Black. There’s something about Everybody Black.
Copyright © 2018 by Cortney Lamar Charleston. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
bieng tran is a unique kinde off organe / i am speeching
materialie / i am speeching abot hereditie / a tran
entres thru the hole / the hole glomes inn the linden / a
tran entres eather lik a mothe / wile tran preceds esense
/ her forme is contingent on the feeld / the maner sits
cis with inn a feeld / wee speeche inn 2 the eather / wile
the mothe bloomes / the mothe bloomes inn the yuca
Copyright © 2018 by Jos Charles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Light drifts across the ceiling as if we are under water —whoever would approach you you changed the comer You holding on to the front of my coat with both hands, the last time I saw you —I felt your death coming close —the change in your red lips You gave me your hand. You pulled me out of the ground.
Copyright © 2018 by Jean Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
given his showing up to teach at the U disheveled, jittery cigarette and cigarette and probably the drink, losing the very way there over river, river of all song, all American story which starts way north of St. Paul quiet or undone wandering south, not enraged mostly, something stranger. That’s one epic shard of John Berryman anyway. Notorious. And par for the course in a classroom destined, struck-by-lightning in sacred retrospect, the kind those long-ago students now can’t believe themselves so accidentally chosen, grateful though one probably claimed the poet absolutely bonkers then, out of his tree toward the end, so went the parlance. Wasn’t he always late—Give them back, Weirdo!—with those brilliant papers they eked out, small dim-lit hours when a big fat beer would’ve been nice. Really nice. Fuck him, I hear that kid most definitely blurting were he young right now though the others— From the get-go their startle and reverence. But not even that malcontent did the damning I can’t believe they gave him tenure. Here’s where I think something else, think of course it’s the Dream Songs that rattled him until— as grandparents used to say—he couldn’t see straight. Like Dickinson’s bits of shock and light did her in between naps and those letters to some vague beloved unattainable. Or Plath, her meticulous crushing fog. Maybe closer to Milton working his blindness—literally blind rage, if you want to talk rage—into pages soaked through with triumphant failure and rhyme, always that high orchestration, that alpha/omega big voice thing. And Satan, after all, as wise guy and looming because for chrissake, Jack, get an interesting character in there! Someone must have lobbed that right. All along, Berryman: how those Dream Songs surely loosened a bolt or a wheel in his orderly scholar-head, must have come at him like Michael the Archangel, 77 days of winged flash searing him to genius, some kind of whack-a-mole version. Maybe like Gabriel cutting that starry celebrity deal for a most dubious conception in the desert, near a fig tree, no proper human mechanics required. At last Berryman’s rage wasn’t rage but sorrow turned back on itself. With teeth. Henry my hero of crankiness and feigned indifference, unspeakable industry, exhaustion and grief, half funny-crazy, half who-knows-what- that-line-means. A henry whole universe of Henry, of there ought to be a law against Henry—pause and pause—Mister Bones: there is. Will be! Was! Not to say poetry’s worth it or the most healthy fascination for the sane. I’m just, I mean—is this love? There’s break, as in lucky, as in shatter. There’s smitten and there’s smite.
Copyright © 2018 by Marianne Boruch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
which do you love more a feather or a rock to be good is to be ‘natural’ I mean to appear you are not good you are holding up though you are holding up you are getting a drink of water you are eating you are concealing your identities this is like a riotous wilderness but more like a persistent dread your ferocity, almost mycological mythological I said mycological oh god oh my god your laughter has undertones of oak and berries and martial law conceived, as it were, in a garden
Copyright © 2018 by Ellen Welcker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You must not think that what I have accomplished through you could have been accomplished by any other means. Each of us is to himself indelible. I had to become that which could not be, by time, from human memory, erased. I had to burn my hungry, unappeasable furious spirit so inconsolably into you you would without cease write to bring me rest. Bring us rest. Guilt is fecund. I knew nothing I made myself had enough steel in it to survive. I tried: I made beautiful paintings, beautiful poems. Fluff. Garbage. The inextricability of love and hate? If I had merely made you love me you could not have saved me.
Copyright © 2018 by Frank Bidart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have waited all my life to find me find you perched around my black neck in repose songing of me in repose your black legs songing of me in repose your black legs a dangle around me I have waited to find you find your black toes to find them sundering at the base your black toes your black toe- nails hale and bright your black feet a straddle around me around my black waist a straddle I finding I was born I was born who operated in the white was born who was born who operated in the white chapel who found your black thighs in repose songing to each other in repose across my chest an extended black for blocks a neighborhood song in repose your crotch an extended black at my neck your black groin a straddle around me in repose what life what there it is there I had been looked at there o lord sucked His black thorax which spanned as a fracture spanned as I who grow up in you there as a fracture find your black breast o lord quiescing atop my head your other black breast o lord hale and bright around me o lord a pendulum o lord to my black ear my black ear that finds you songing of me in repose in your stature toppling to one side of my one side find your black shoulders a gaping around me death your body armless around me death none can skirt it in your mother's way o lord is finding black fingers there your black neck is finding lord is rising past the cumulus-line an extended black o lord is an extended black o lord is thinking of self and thinking of self is finding you there so that when I entered I entered the pulpit I entered.
Copyright © 2018 by Anaïs Duplan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets
A rose by any other name could be Miguel or Tiffany Could be David or Vashti Why not Aya which means beautiful flower but also verse and miracle and a bird that flies away quickly You see where this is going That is you could look at a rose and call it You See Where This Is Going or I Knew This Would Happen or even Why Wasn’t I Told I'm told of a man who does portraits for money on the beach He paints them with one arm the other he left behind in a war and so he tucks a rose into his cuff always yellow and people stare at it pinned to his shoulder while he works Call the rose Panos because I think that's his name or call it A Chair By The Sea Point from the window to the garden and say Look a bed of Painter’s Hands And this is a good place to remember the rose already has many names because language is old and can't agree with itself In Albania you say Trëndafil In Somalia say Kacay In American poetry it's the flower you must never name And now you see where this is going out the window across water to a rose shaped island that can't exist but you’re counting on to be there unmapped unmentioned till now The green place you imagine hiding when the world finds out you're not who you've said
Copyright © 2018 by Brendan Constantine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
On balconies, sunlight. On poplars, sunlight on our lips.
Today no one is shooting.
A girl cuts her hair with imaginary scissors—
the scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.
Another girl steals a pair of shoes from a sleeping soldier, skewered with light.
As soldier wakes and looks at us looking at them
what do they see?
Tonight they shot fifty women at Lerna St.,
I sit down to write and tell you what I know:
a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,
a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.
Body, they blame you for all things and they
seek in the body what does not live in the body.
Copyright © 2018 by Ilya Kaminsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The joke is orange. which has never been funny.
For awhile I didn’t sleep on my bright side.
Many airplanes make it through sky.
The joke is present. dented and devil.
For awhile, yellow spots on the wall.
Obama on water skis, the hair in his armpits, free.
I thought the CIA was operative.
Across the alley, a woman named Mildred.
Above the clouds in a plane, a waistline of sliced white.
I don’t sound like TED Talk, or smart prose on Facebook.
These clouds are not God.
I keep thinking about Coltrane; how little he talked.
This is so little; I give so little.
Sometimes when I say something to white people, they say “I’m sorry?”
During Vietnam, Bob Kaufman stopped talking.
The CIA was very good at killing Panthers.
Mildred in a housecoat, calling across the fence, over her yard.
If I were grading this, I’d be muttering curses.
The joke is a color. a color for prison.
Is it me, or is the sentence, as structure, arrogant?
All snow, in here, this writing, departure.
All miles are valuable. all extension. all stretch.
I savor the air with both fingers, and tongue.
Mildred asks about the beats coming from my car.
I forgot to bring the poem comparing you to a garden.
Someone tell me what to say to my senators.
No one smokes here; in the rain, I duck away and smell piss.
I thought the CIA was. the constitution.
I feel like he left us, for water skis, for kitesurfing.
The sun will not always be so gracious.
From the garden poem, one line stands out.
Frank Ocean’s “Nights” is a study in the monostich.
Pace is not breathing, on and off. off.
Mildred never heard of Jneiro Jarel.
I’m afraid one day I’ll find myself remembering this air.
The last time I saw my mother, she begged for fried chicken.
My father still sitting there upright, a little high.
Melissa McCarthy could get it.
Sometimes, I forget how to touch.
In a parking garage, I wait for the toothache.
I watch what I say all the time now.
She said she loved my touch, she used the word love.
In 1984, I’d never been in the sky.
My mother walked a laundry cart a mile a day for groceries.
Betsy DeVos is confirmed. with a broken tie.
Mildred’s five goes way up, and my five reaches.
Copyright © 2018 by francine j. harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 29, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
1. It bejins in Berlin A Historical Case Study In Disappearance + Cultural Theft: Exhibit YZ: Brinj back to me Nefertiti Her Bust Take her From behind the vitrine For I know where to find her missinj eye Then put a woman in charje of all antiquities. She-law: just because somethinj is beautiful doesnt mean it was meant to be consumed; just because there are tourists doesnt make it an attraction. 2. everywhere anytxme atm her vxolatxon: guaranteed. sxlence bought or your settlement money back. objectxfactxon xn the mxrror xs closer than xt appears. please mxnd the wage gap. cautxon: not chxld resxstant to open hold down and turn away squee geez use daxly, mornxng, and nxght supported by an aroma of certified organxc heavens: for every gxrl who grows xnto a woman who knows the best threat’s: one she never has to make she sublxmates your sublxmxnal even your affectxon has been xnfected 3. this poem cant go on without hex i mean hex heeee x hex hex and hex hex hej heq hez hex she was stolen bought sold lost put undex buxied alive at bixth she was dxagged in blue bxa duxing a xevolution with vixginity tests she waits then she doesnt she sh sh sh shh she left you she the best thing that happened to you then she lilililililiiii she intifada she moves with two kinds of gxace she ups the ante aging by candid defiant elegance she foxgets but nevex foxgives She-language complex she complex she so complex she complex got complex complex 4. she spends her time anxious because she knows she is better than you rang to say she died from being tired of your everything she knows she is fiyne; gorgeous but she hates it when she infuriates and when she jigs and is kind she minds her own business except when she is new and nervous though she is origin previous and impervious she wont stay quiet she is razor sharp and super tired she undarks, vets, wanes, and xeroxes; yaks and zzzzs the day she dreams 5. Me tooa B Me toob Me tooc R Me tood Me tooe I Me toof N Me toog G Me tooh them Me tooi B Me tooj A Me took C Me tool K Mem too Men too Me tooo Meep too Meq too Mer too Me too Me too Meu too Mev too Mew too Mex too Mey too Mez too Me ((too)) Me ((((((((((((too))))))))))))
Copyright © 2018 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
to talk to violets.
Tears fall into my soup
and I drink them.
Sooner or later
everyone donates something.
I carry wood, stone, and
hay in my head.
The eyes of the violets
grow very wide.
At the end of the day
I reglue the broken foot
of the china shepherd
who has put up with me.
Next door, in the house
of the clock-repairer,
a hundred clocks tick
at once. He and his wife
go about their business
sleeping peacefully at night.
Copyright © 2018 by Mary Ruefle. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 31, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I do think of them
from time to time—
just now sucking the pulp
of a tangerine
the taste of which
is mostly texture,
in this spin-drunk season
that seems to forget
At the job I lost,
their husk carcasses
with the locust bean’s
cracked brown pods
rustled on the brick steps
leading into the white-walled
hours of computer screen;
their compressed toil
missing from the hives
they left agape in the backyard
of the next-door neighbor
who, recently divorced,
had brought us the jars
of honey I spooned into teas
I sipped in the break room
and watched at the window
as he continued to tend
the needle palm and hydrangea.
In the age of loss there is
the dream of loss
in which, of course, I
am alive at the center—
immobile but no one’s queen—
enveloped (beloved) in bees,
swathed in their wings’
wistful enterprise. They pry
the evolved thin eyelids
behind which I replay
the landscape as last I knew it
(crow feathers netting redder suns),
their empire’s droning edge
mindless in the spirals of
my obsolescing ears.
Beneath my feet
what kind of earth
I’m terrified to break
into sprint across to free
myself, to free them
from the myth they make
of me and then bury
below their dance
what kind of future
they could die for if
punching into me their stings—
what future without risking
the same; and while, in either body
the buzzards of hunger conspire,
what kind of new
this shape we take?
Copyright © 2018 by Justin Phillip Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
There are poets with history and poets without history, Tsvetsaeva claimed living
through the ruin of Russia.
Karina says disavow every time I see her. We, the daughters between countries,
wear our mean mothers like scarves around our necks.
Every visit, mine recounts all the wrongs done against her
ring sent for polishing returned with a lesser diamond, Years of never rest and,
she looks at me, of nothing to be proud of.
I am covered in welts and empty pockets so large sobs escape me in the backroom of
my Landlord's fabric shop. He moves to wipe my tears
as if I’m his daughter
or I’m no one’s daughter.
It’s true, I let him take my hand, I am a girl who needs something. I slow cook bone
grief, use a weak voice.
My mother calls me the girl with holes in her hands, every time I lose something.
All Russian daughters were snowflakes once, and in their hair a ribbon long
as their body knotted and knotted and knotted into a large translucent bow.
It happens, teachers said, that a child between countries will refuse to speak.
A girl with a hole in her throat, every day I opened the translation book.
Silent, I took my shoes off when I came home, I
put my house clothes on.
We had no songs, few rituals. On Yom Kippur, we lit a candle for the dead
and no one knew a prayer.
We kept the candle lit, that’s all.
The wave always returns, and always returns a different wave.
I was small. I built a self outside my self because a child needs shelter.
Not even you knew I was strange,
I ate the food my family ate, I answered to my name.
Copyright © 2018 by Gala Mukomolova. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America
The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America
We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America
I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America
School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America
What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America
Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America
Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America
We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America
Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America
Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America
Copyright © 2013 by Alicia Ostriker. "Ghazal: America the Beautiful" has appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of The Atlantic and in the Winter 2013 issue of Logos. Used with permission of the author.
There were always such beautiful shadows in your work,
Though many now dodge their taxes with your art. Rarely
As it seems, life involves death with every decision, which is
Why I miss the non-Euclidean idiom we used to argue over
Everything in the dictionary of what not to do. Somewhere
In a mix between Beaches and Häxan I have these weird
Memories of you sleeping when there’s no way I was there
To see you sleeping—a crystal ball above your bed lets
Tensors, in a tension of tenses, tongue-tie time and divine
Your urge to fearlessly abandon yourself to love as you
Understand love, where paradox gives way to paradox
And awareness is congratulated with awareness of how
This multiverse, in vast tribulation, ushers us on in unison
As one of many big bangs begins again to light the way.
Copyright © 2017 by Aaron Fagan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
"Save your hands,” my mother says, seeing me untwist a jar's tight cap— just the way she used to tell me not to let boys fool around, or feel my breasts: "keep them fresh for marriage,” as if they were a pair of actual fruit. I scoffed to think they could bruise, scuff, soften, rot, wither. I look down now at my knuckly thumbs, my index finger permanently askew in the same classic crook as hers, called a swan's neck, as if snapped, it's that pronounced. Even as I type, wondering how long I'll be able to—each joint in my left hand needing to be hoisted, prodded, into place, one knuckle like a clock's dial clicking as it's turned to open, bend or unbend. I balk at the idea that we can overuse ourselves, must parcel out and pace our energies so as not to run out of any necessary component while still alive— the definition of "necessary” necessarily suffering change over time. The only certainty is uncertainty, I thought I knew, so ignored whatever she said about boys and sex: her version of a story never mine. It made me laugh, the way she made up traditions, that we didn't kiss boys until a certain age, we didn't fool around. What we? What part of me was she? No part I could put my finger on. How odd, then, one day, to find her half-napping in her room, talking first to herself and then to me, about a boy she used to know, her friend's brother, who she kissed, she said, just because he wanted her to. "Now why would I do that,” she mused, distraught anew and freshly stung by the self-betrayal. So much I still want to do with my hands— type, play, cook, caress, swipe, re-trace.
Copyright © 2018 by Carol Moldaw. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
The Blue Dress—died on August 6,
2015, along with the little blue flowers,
all silent. Once the petals looked up.
Now small pieces of dust. I wonder
whether they burned the dress or just
the body? I wonder who lifted her up
into the fire? I wonder if her hair
brushed his cheek before it grew into a
bonfire? I wonder what sound the body
made as it burned? They dyed her hair
for the funeral, too black. She looked
like a comic character. I waited for the
next comic panel, to see the speech
bubble and what she might say. But her
words never came and we were left
with the stillness of blown glass. The
irreversibility of rain. And millions of
little blue flowers. Imagination is having
to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is
wearing a dead person’s dress forever.
Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
My mother is taking me to the store because it’s hot out and I’m sick and want a popsicle. All the other kids are at school sitting in rows of small desks, looking out the window. She is wearing one of those pantsuits with shoulder pads and carrying a purse with a checkbook. We are holding hands, standing in front of the big automatic doors which silently swing open so we can walk in together, so we can step out of the heat and step into a world of fluorescent light and cool, cool air. Then, as if a part of the heat had suddenly broken off, had become its own power, a man places his arm around her shoulders but also around her neck and she lets go of my hand and pushes me away. Pushes me toward the safety of the checkout line. Then the man begins to yell. And then the man begins to cry. The pyramid of canned beans in front of me is so perfect I can’t imagine anyone needing beans bad enough to destroy it. The man is walking my mother down one aisle and then another aisle and then another like a father dragging his daughter toward a wedding he cannot find. Everyone is standing so still. All you can hear is my mom pleading and the sound of the air conditioner like Shhhhhhhhhh.
Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Dickman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
he said describing the fantasy novel he was reading as they walked the drizzled streets she was listening & laughing & realized she’d been walking through one city or another next to this man for more than twenty years longer of course than their kids were old their smart alecky sons who hadn’t yet met the person with whom they might walk through rain discussing ridiculous books with great sincerity & pleasure Seriously he said I can’t stop reading it but when they went upstairs to the good bed in the good hotel he did stop reading & found a place where her shoulder met her neck & touched it until her mind finally went away for a while & they became bedraggled & he went out like a light but not even the good bed at the good hotel after good sex could put her to sleep not the meditation app or the long online essay about the White Supremacy of Conceptual Poetry she missed her dead mother & her middle-aged cousin who’d died the summer before she wondered if miles away her youngest was whimpering was her oldest awake texting was her middle son worrying she wanted the husband to tell her the plot again but didn’t want to wake him he lay over the covers on his back his breath audible & regular folded hands rising & falling peaceful & fearless as if she’d never once meant him harm as if she’d always loved this warm animal as if this were not the same summer she’d said If that’s really how you feel this isn’t going to last & he hadn’t said anything anger sadness doubt & disappointment was a wave that slapped them down & under so many people had died & life felt shorter than how long they’d been together they had through so many omissions & commissions hurt & been hurt it was that same summer but she was alive & awake he was asleep & alive they were weak but still there
Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Zucker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The diagnosis was god, twice a day until the spirit untangles itself. I took a trip into unscripted days past, teenagers submit to the window an open facing yawn. A walnut fell into the grave of my loved one and stayed there beating patient like a word. I was still unmoved by disbelief watching my father mumble the pledge and hot white stars he can’t remember. Nobody got hurt, some un- fulfilled potential exits the room. Enter, knowledge. Men came to dispel ambiguity and raced my intention to a hard boiling over. Each new decade we stayed was a misinterpretation of genre. We showed our teeth over the years to those who would listen. In the face of the absent subject I felt my desire go flaccid. The leaves fell dutifully one by one from their limbs. But I wrote to you against all odds. Money. Paperwork. Love’s heavy open door. Critique. Indignity. Vision and often enough time.
Copyright © 2018 by Wendy Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Say your body’s
life-size trip clock
starts in schlep
on the down slope.
Then the long hand
slaloms you steep
as your face tocks
the take of nine-to-five.
It’s just your timing
and mindset that’s semi-
rattled, and everyone
comes to the skit a little
pusillanimous to begin.
What is a kind of
the ancestors’ DNA
in full wig effect,
frizzy edges crimped,
oblivious to wind.
Are you really inside
that mirror slice?
Pacing over past
junkets still, a hybrid
a being strange to be,
like that griffen
who slips so casual
onto someone else’s
map of laughing tropic
locales. Friend, look hard.
Mix. Step out. The center
bit by bit gets beiged.
You are one hundred
In the hemi is the how.
Copyright © 2018 by Pimone Triplett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
For Amy Lowell We walked through garden closes Languidly, with dragging Sunday feet, And passed down a long pleached alley, And could remember, as one remembers in a fairy tale, Ladies in brocade, and lovers, and musk. We surprised tall dahlias That shrugged and turned scarlet faces to the breeze. Further still we sauntered under old trees that bended with such a dignity But hardly acknowledged our passing Until at last—(and it was like a gift, A treasure lifted from a dream of the past) We came to a pond banded in lindens. The bank curved under its crown of forget-me-nots; They shone like blue jewels from the further shore. And they were free! I could have had them all To gather and to carry in my arms! But I took only a few, Seven blue gems, To set in the gold of my memory.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Silence isn’t stillness, agitation has me in its grip remember reading Greeks were like us restless underneath and again underneath water wearing away crevices the itch of canyons skin I didn’t outgrow as the doctor promised burns hot and stinging allergic to what I bring to it allergic to what I’m thinking how much older the underpass is filled to overflowing blue-tented absence corners with the leftover plastic and cardboard happens so fast it isn’t even my heart that’s broken, time stealing & leaking the blue cold what it would have been to be Greek no cortisone a body historians also thought women leaky restless for what out of one’s own skin a future they never knew who’d have thought a daily underpass so many leftovers pizza fries near the parking what skin did we come wrapped in
Copyright © 2018 by Martha Ronk. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I forgave myself for having had a youth. —Thom Gunn At the Fashion Square mall, back of Waldenbooks, I saw my younger self haunting the magazine rack. Ripping out pages of Blueboy, tucking them in a Trapper Keeper. Turn back. His eyes met mine, animal and brittle, a form of gratitude that a man kept his stare. Any man. I half-smiled some admission, and though he couldn’t see it coming, I excused him his acid jeans; two Swatch watches, two guards. He, I, must have been nineteen: sex was “safer” then— scribbles on the mall men’s room stall; malaise of saxophone and PSAs. How did I even learn how to live in 1991? Landlocked, cock-blocked, Spanish moss festering. I forgive him.
Copyright © 2018 by Randall Mann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Your songs are the impossible ruins that keep the hours on turn. Keep awe bare like sound at night. The candle burn. Ice melts and wax. The dirt on your mind. Engines roll in clutter. Clank cool and electrify the room. We always become mysterious— birds at the end of each evening. Whoever does the telling stops time like a crescendo. We hit blue notes so the edges of your honey jars rattle laughter against our teeth. Rhythm breaks like need or the knowledge a mouth organ has about breath and tone, blood and gravity and balance— all those sweet sounds that can make even windows shatter.
Copyright © 2018 by Soham Patel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
meaning that the moon will pass over the sun and blank it out. in that moment the corona will appear to become brighter. it “appears” because it does not actually become brighter; it “appears” to be so in that moment grasses will whisper and the stars will turn red, blue, green and maybe even speak—what will they say? SETI will pick up a message from beyond newly discovered possibly planetary bodies. there will be a low beeping and crunching sound that seems to emanate from all over, but most likely from three blocks away where men are directing a bulldozer to tear up the street and it sounds so omnipresent, we were all talking about it this morning. it is small yet momentous, how molecules jostle one another to carry the sound of their jostling over often enormous distances. in that moment of eclipse the phone rings, have you seen it, are you seeing it, I finally understand what we’re doing, in this moment of glowing darkness I understand what I put in the water I drink the water and if together we are all getting hot we are making it hot and I must find my way to the water from the bed through all the squares of darkness and back again through treachery of light
Copyright © 2018 by Marcella Durand. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 2, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
QUANTUM STATE OF THE CONFLICT DIAMOND
STILL THROWING FIRE FROM THE PAGES OF YOUR NOTEBOOKS 1
At the harbor, in the smallest hour of this (Death stuff for sure), this softly tendered now, the Youngest Day, this silvery clarion blast: I have no distance. Free flow if you can through your very own little reckoning: 10 yrs. ago today, as of this attosecond: this area is not me. For I am sick unto death of your single deranged sense, so much light leaking away @2 minutes_ to_ midnight, that I feel outside my body just before the factory steam whistle has blasted all 3 of us away. As of that blooming, 2 minutes from here, 10 years away, you’re my only witness. & I’m yours, seconds from this drowned quantum (I feel fragmented) in which we’ve been entangled for years, seconds, days ago, forever. All I did was sink into my own brain which sucks the orange pregnant moonlight out of our wept corners, body inanimate, damp, dead— continue to bleed us into these saturated rooms. For I feel foreclosed. I feel you collapsed on the quiver, on the dive, on the sink. I feel edited but I don’t have the access code. For you tug at my trigger-finger just so. For the second shift of bodies has been long underway . . .
It’s Sunday night, Feb. 12, 1994 It’s been zero degrees all weekend. I’ve been having a lot of strange fantasies about buying a .38 special at a pawn shop. I’ll cut out the middle of some secret old book where it can be hidden.
Copyright © 2018 by Sam Witt. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
3. (Jeong Seon’s Album of Mount Geumgang)
Jeong Seon began his career
in the low-ranking position
of adjunct professor
of administrative iconography.
Breaking with convention,
he diligently studied the birth of a brushstroke
by gazing at
the surviving itinerary of an unrealistic river, at the
rippling rapport of vegetation and rain.
He preferred to observe and preserve
the essential concerns of a superfluous calligraphy
and thus did not succeed
in his civil exams.
When he was thirty-six years old,
northern border of poetry and astronomy,
repeatedly painted a series of eccentric circles
and so gained access
to the crystal bridge
between ink and atmosphere.
His artist name became
Magistrate of Waterfalls, and
Jeong was said to have annotated
the nine-bend stream of time.
Analysis of Jeong’s preeminent painting,
The Four Horsemen at Big Dipper Pavilion
wished for figures in revolutionary mansions—
a remembrance external to its style.
is a spiked and turquoise perspective
and a diagonal
dismemberment of silk.
The painting was able to route
Jeong’s identity around
a dominant focal point, along wavy and uncertain patterns,
through environmental conditions of blue.
One can grasp
his aesthetics of juxtaposition
as long as one is covered in mist, or enriched
by hemp-fiber clouds, but
horizontally in the heart of the sea.
In Transmitting the Vertical Immensity of Coniferous Light, characteristic
of his more mature style,
Jeong’s command of a
rhythmically surging semicircle
evokes the overwhelming
how a higher philosophical plane could be
so astounded by the mundane.
Here, the twelve thousand pillars of basalt
do not overwhelm the composition;
rather, they commemorate
that sunrise is a landscape’s subsidiary entryway into the
verdant flow of the visible.
A yangban painter once
“According to where he sits, Jeong Seon
resembles a rugged jar-shaped diamond,
an arrangement of Mi dots,
or a panoramic dichotomy in detail.
Now at age seventy-two he is
much more than an amplification of the massiveness of soil.”
beautiful example of Jeong’s expansive style
is today known as
A Documentary Record of Aristocratic Time Travel,
the reinterpreted bodies
of a great-great-grandfather
and his great-great-grandchild
listening to the collision of dark energy.
Jeong’s strong lines here
impart a wide-angle awe
that connects the flow of inner color
to outer air, a sense that even hawks could survive
in our world
of dissimilar forms.
Literati writing under a predated nom de plume
compiled ninety-six poems about the painting
and published them in the Album of
By the time the colophon was written,
the appended poems
had been vicariously exaggerating
their own images
—as if they were looking
through the zoom lens of a camera
at a human eye.
Copyright © 2018 by Michael Leong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Shiitake, velvet foot, hen of the woods, wood ear, cloud ear, slippery jack, brown wreaths of Polish borowik dried and hanging in the stalls of a Krakow market—all these were years away from the room where I lay once, studying the contours of your sex as if it were some subterranean species I’d never encounter again. Because I hadn’t yet tasted oyster—not even portobello— when I thought mushroom, I meant the common white or button, the ones my mother bought for salads or served in butter beside my father’s steak. First taste of love, or toxic look-alike, there was your stalk and cap, the earth and dark, our hunger, wonder, and need. Even now, I can’t identify exactly what we were, or why, some twenty years later, learning you lay dying—were in fact already dead, suspended by machines if not belief—I thought first of your living flesh, the size and shape of you. My amanita phalloides, that room was to exist forever, as a field guide or mossy path, even if as we foraged, we did not once look back.
Copyright © 2018 by Chelsea Rathburn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
The worst pain I’ve ever felt was looking at you, reach for me through a video screen and I couldn’t touch you; right then, I knew what it felt like to die, a living death—
Copyright © 2019 by Timothy TB. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
the gone did not go so that we’d endure plucking grapes from the potato salad we did not stretch Frankie Beverly’s voice like a tent across this humble meadow of amber folk sipping gold sun through skin rejoicing over their continued breath just for you to invite anyone in able to pause the bloody legacy and distract your eyes with a flimsy act you break all the unwritten covenants forged in the saved language of unmarked graves those called to eat are those who starved with us and not those whose mouths still water when watching the grill’s flame lick Uncle’s arm
Copyright © 2019 by Rasheed Copeland. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And on the first day
Then everything came along:
seconds, sex and
beasts and breaths and rabies;
lust and lust’s rejections;
swarming things that swarm
inside the dirt;
girth and grind
and grit and shit and all shit’s functions;
rings inside the treetrunk
and branches broken by the snow;
pigs’ hearts and stars,
mystery, suspense and stingrays;
and interests and death;
with all our viruses, laments and curiosities;
all our songs and made-up stories;
and our songs about the stories we’ve forgotten;
and all that we’ve forgotten we’ve forgotten;
and to hold it all together god made time
and those rhyming seasons
that display decay.
Copyright © 2019 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My brother, wanting to off himself, Took rope into a summer park. Rope, plus a knife For cutting it: a serrated hawkbill, Cushioned grip, with two-inch Curved, ignoble blade The manufacturers in their cruelty call A lightweight Meadowlark. Cruel because the meadowlark Is calm. They’re calm This morning. Sure, they shaggle the corn a bit, But otherwise, when they’re done, They perch on the fence in the golden sun, Heads down as if they’re sleeping.
Copyright © 2019 by David J. Daniels. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
When did I know that I’d have to carry it around
in order to have it when I need it, say in a pocket,
the dark itself not dark enough but needing to be
added to, handful by handful if necessary, until
the way my mother would sit all night in a room
without the lights, smoking, until she disappeared?
Where would she go, because I would go there.
In the morning, nothing but a blanket and all her
absence and the feeling in the air of happiness.
And so much loneliness, a kind of purity of being
and emptiness, no one you are or could ever be,
my mother like another me in another life, gone
where I will go, night now likely dark enough
I can be alone as I’ve never been alone before.
Copyright © 2019 by Stanley Plumly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And after the black boy is
strangled by police, after
the protests where the man,
his Rottweiler on an iron leash yells,
let's go mash up dis city;
and another crowd bulks,
the parents of the murdered
beg us not to become
the monsters some think
we already are—even when
the barista shakes her head
at the banners, says actually,
police be killing whites too.
Look how scary it is
to be here and know
if we die someone
will make a sound
like her before earth
is tipped over us.
Who hasn’t had enough?
into static and sirens?
Who isn’t chanting
enough, throwing spells,
holding what they can
in front of a supermarket
or police stations
or voting booths—I am
kind to the man
sitting next to me
in C.L.R James Library, even if
his breathing disturbs me.
Can we disagree graciously
I am tired of people
not knowing the volume
of their power. Who doesn’t
some silence at night?
Copyright © 2019 by Raymond Antrobus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Ojhas are [medicine men, “the ones next to God,” religious ministers or priests who deal with the daily struggles of the village people]; this dynamic allows the village ojha to control the circulation of rumors, and he is the village member who has the power to trap daayans (witches). In some trials, the ojha reads grains of rice, burn marks on branches, and disturbances in the sand around his residence, for signs of a daayan.
certain beliefs precede his name & yet
he goes by many : dewar, bhagat,
priest. passive ear, the kind
of listener you’d give
your own face.
first, the village must [agree
that spirits exist]—some benevolent,
some deserving of fear. everyone
wants their universe
to have reason. so it must be
a woman who stole your portion
of rice, woman who smeared
your doorstep’s rangoli, woman
who looked sideways at your child.
give him your gossip & the ojha conjures
herbs to [appease the evil] : her raving,
innocent mouth. & by that token
what is truth. the other rumors,
too, could corroborate—that bullets
pass through, his body barely
there but for the holy
in his hands.
he chants her name with fingers
pushed into his ears. just the sound
of her bangles
undoes : a single woman
on a plot of land, unbecoming.
he reads her guilt [in grains
of rice, in the light of a lamp,
using a cup which moves
and identifies]. makes a circle
around himself. white sand
between him &
the world. it’s the dead hour.
now, he shouts, arms covered
in ants, sing.
Copyright © 2019 by Raena Shirali. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We pay to enter the dirty
pen. We buy small bags of feed
to feed the well-fed animals. We are
guests in their home, our feet
on their sawdust floor. We pretend
not to notice the stench. Theirs
is a predictable life. Better,
I guess, than the slaughter,
is the many-handed god. Me?
I’m going to leave here, eat
a body that was once untouched,
and fed, then gutted and delivered
to my table. Afterwards, I’ll wash
off what of this I can. If I dream
it will be of the smallest goat,
who despite her job, flinched
from most of the hands. Though
she let me touch her, she would not
eat from my palm. In my dream,
she’ll die of old age
and not boredom.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
No matter the rush of undertow everything else is still here. I scrawl your name at the bottom of the river I sing it and it sings me back. What I’d give for a name so keen it whittles the valleys of my neck. I’m forever drenched in this night, and you no longer exist. The river catches the sky’s black, ink meant to preserve a memory. I stay because it’s easy. Here. I relive what you did to me, find myself again in the water—swollen and sullen as a bruise. I trace and retrace, graffiti every river’s bank, drown into ecstasy instead of moving on with my life. I wear what you did to me like gills, a new way to breathe. I jump into the river for days. I forget I have lungs at all.
Copyright © 2019 by Noor Ibn Najam. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
i. I’ve pulled from my throat birdsong like tin- sheeted lullaby [its vicious cold its hoax of wings] the rest of us forest folk dark angels chafing rabbits- foot for luck thrum-necked wear the face of nothing we’ve changed the Zodiac & I have refused a little planet little sum for struggle & sailed ourselves summerlong & arbitrary as a moon grave across a vastness [we’ve left the child- ren] Named the place penni- less motherhood Named the place country of mothers Named the place anywhere but death by self- ii. infliction is a god of many faces many nothings I’m afraid I’ll never be whole I’m afraid the rope from the hardware store [screws for nails] will teach itself to knot I’ve looked up noose I’ve learned to twine but these babies now halfway pruned through the clean bathwater of childhood I promised a god I would take to the ledge & show the pinstripes the pinkening strobe- lights maybe angels chiseled at creation into the rock [around my neck] the rock in the river I would never let them see I would never let them iii. break & spend a whole life backing away from that slip— Let us fly & believe [in the wreck] their perfect hope- sealed bodies the only parachutes we need
Copyright © 2019 by Jenn Givhan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
my roommate one year in college would say of my smallness that any man who found me attractive had a trace of the pedophilic & i would shrink newly girled twenty-one with my eyebrows plucked to grownup arches sprouting back every three weeks in sharp little shoots already men have tried to steal me in their taxis corral me into alleyways of the new city already the demand for my name though no one ever asks how old i am though no one ever did i feel creaking & ancient in the repetition of it all i feel my girlhood gone for generations my entire line of blood crowded with exhausted women their unlined faces frozen in time with only a thickness about the waist a small shoot of gray to belie the years i make up names to hand to strangers at parties i trim years from my age & share without being asked that i am fifteen seventeen & no one blinks no one stops wanting i am disappeared like all the girls before me around me all the girls to come everyone thinks i am a little girl & still they hunt me still they show their teeth i am so tired i am one thousand years old one thousand years older when touched
Copyright © 2019 by Safia Elhillo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
after a bottle of chianti Don’t mistake me, I’ve pondered this before. But tonight I’m serious. One bottle and the end is certain. Tomorrow: Lawyer. Boxes. Road map. More wine. while walking the dog Paris won’t even notice. I’ll feed the pup, pack a quick bag, take out the trash, and slip away into the night. Home to Sparta. Or Santa Monica. An island off the southernmost tip of Peru. Disappear. Like fog from a mirror. while paying the bills Guess I’ll have to give up that whole new career plan. Academic dreams. House-and-yard dreams. Stay on like this a few more years. Or forever. Face the bottomless nights in solitude. Wither. Drink. Write poems about dead ends. Drink more. Work. Pay rent. End. when Paris comes home drunk Call Clytemnestra. Make a plan. Move a few things into Clym’s spare room, storage for the rest. Set up arbitration. File what needs to be filed. Head to Athens. Or back to Crown Heights. Maybe find a roommate in Fort Greene. All I know is out out out. Sure, I can blame the past or the scotch or my own smartmouth or my worst rage, but blame is a word. I need a weapon. when Menelaus writes a letter As if. from the ocean floor Bathtub. Ocean. Whichever. All this water. Yes, Paris pulled me from the ruby tub. Menelaus fed me to the river a year before that. Metaphorical, and not at all. O, a girl and her water. Such romance. Gaudy. And gauche. How do I leave what cared enough to keep me? What of those goddamn ships? That ridiculous horse? All those men? Now, wretched little me. All this dizzy sadness. How many kings to tame one woman? Silence her? How many to put her under?
Copyright © 2019 by Jeanann Verlee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My neighbor to the left had a stroke a couple years ago. It didn’t look like he was going to make it, and then he made it. I’m watching him now from my window as he makes his slow way across his yard with some tree branches that fell in last night’s storm. Three steps. Wait. Three steps. It’s a hard slog. Watching, I want to pitch in. And we do, at such times, wanting to help. But on the other hand, it’s good to be as physical as possible in recovery. Maybe this is part of his rehab. Maybe this is doctor’s orders: DO YARDWORK. And here comes his wife across the yard anyway, to give a hand with a large branch. She’s able to quickly overtake him, and she folds into the process smoothly, no words between them that I can make out. It’s another part of what makes us human, weighing the theory of mind, watching each other struggle or perform, anticipating each other’s thoughts, as the abject hovers uncannily in the background, threatening to break through the fragile borders of the self. “What’s it like to be a bat?” we ask. The bats don’t respond. How usually, our lives unfold at the periphery of catastrophes happening to others. I’m reading, while my neighbor struggles, that the squirrel population in New England is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. A recent abundance of acorns is the reason for this surge in squirrel populations, most particularly in New Hampshire. They’re everywhere, being squirrely, squirreling acorns away. We call it “Squirrelnado” because it’s all around us, circling, and dangerous, and kind of funny. Language springs from the land, and through our imagination we become human. They’re back in the house now. We name the things we see, or they name themselves into our experience, whichever, and then we use those names for things we don’t understand, what we can’t express. Wind becomes spirit becomes ghost. Mountain becomes god. The land springs up before us. It shakes us and pushes us over.
Copyright © 2019 by John Gallaher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
When, at the end, the children wanted
to add glitter to their valentines, I said no.
I said nope, no, no glitter, and then,
when they started to fuss, I found myself
saying something my brother’s football coach
used to bark from the sidelines when one
of his players showed signs of being
human: oh come on now, suck it up.
That’s what I said to my children.
Suck what up? my daughter asked,
and, because she is so young, I told her
I didn’t know and never mind, and she took
that for an answer. My children are so young
when I turn off the radio as the news turns
to counting the dead or naming the act,
they aren’t even suspicious. My children
are so young they cannot imagine a world
like the one they live in. Their God is still
a real God, a whole God, a God made wholly
of actions. And I think they think I work
for that God. And I know they will someday soon
see everything and they will know about
everything and they will no longer take
never mind for an answer. The valentines
would’ve been better with glitter, and my son
hurt himself on an envelope, and then, much
later, when we were eating dinner, my daughter
realized she’d forgotten one of the three
Henrys in her class. How can there be three Henrys
in one class? I said, and she said, Because there are.
And so, before bed we took everything out
again—paper and pens and stamps and scissors—
and she sat at the table with her freshly washed hair
parted smartly down the middle and wrote
WILL YOU BE MINE, HENRY T.? and she did it
so carefully, I could hardly stand to watch.
Copyright © 2019 by Carrie Fountain. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Things feel partial. My love for things is partial. Mikel on his last legs, covered
in KS lesions demanded that I see the beauty of a mass of chrysanthemums. Look,
he demanded. I lied that I could see the beauty there but all I saw was a smear
of yellow flowers. I wanted to leave that place. I wanted to leave him to die
without me. And soon that’s what I did. Even the molecule I allowed myself to feel
of our last goodbye made me scream. What would have happened if I’d opened
my heart all the way as I was told to do if I wanted Jesus to live inside one of its
dank chambers? Whitman told me to unscrew the locks from the doors and the doors
themselves from the jambs. Let love come streaming in like when the St. Joe flooded
Save-A-Lot and drove it out of business. The only store in town. Don’t put my ashes
in the river Mikel said. Put them in a tributary. I did. I put them in a tributary without
touching them. Now I want to chalk my fingerprints with them but it’s too late.
I want to hold them like he held me and touched my upper lip and called it cupid’s
cusp, a phrase that made me wince. I felt love all the way then, and never since.
Copyright © 2019 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Love makes you feel alive Johnny my animal you have no idea How beautiful you are to me in the morning When it is 5 a.m. and I am lonely Everyone is dying around me I eat spinach bread to keep my sanity, I am Like Lisa in the mental unit with my father I am Muriel who throws tables I play blackjack with the clowns Oh yes I do all that for a salad Your black hair is better than a piece of fate I find in the sky when I am looking 45,000 miles above the earth For things that make it all worthwhile I do this for you but you will never know How dear you are to me You chop leaves in your house in New York City Dream of glamorous women and even too they are great No one will ever love you like I do that is certain Because I know the inside of your face Is a solid block of coal and then it too Something that is warm like warm snow I hold the insides of you in my palm And they are warm snow, melting even With the flurries glutted out of the morning When I get on the plane the stewardess tells me to let loose My heart, the man next to me was the same man as last week Whoever those postmodernists are that say There is no universal have never spent any time with an animal I have played tennis with so many animals I can't count the times I have let them win Their snouts that were wet with health Dripping in the sun, then we went and took a swim Just me and the otters, I held them so close I felt the bump of ghosts as I held them. There is no poem that will bring back the dead There is no poem that I could ever say that will Arise the dead in their slumber, their faces gone There is no poem or song I could sing to you That would make me seem more beautiful If there were such songs I would sing them O they would hear me singing from here until dawn
From Black Life by Dorothea Lasky. Copyright © 2010 by Dorothea Lasky. Used by permission of Wave Books. All rights reserved.
And then (at some point) as you step more vigilantly into the middle of your life, you begin to realize that they are all dead. Or more honestly (it takes even more years), you begin to realize that—perhaps—they are not all supposed to be dead. Or. You still remember. You can still feel yourself there. Standing. Knee-deep. In cement. A particular square on the sidewalk. There were dandelions. That odd, eternal sun. When a dear friend, your sister’s best-best friend—drives by—stops her car in the middle of the street. And then tells you. Screams out of her car window. And says it: your first beloved—that boy for whom you were slowly unfolding yourself from inside outward—that boy, whom you had yet to kiss, but would one day soon kiss certainly—that monumental boy, who smiled at you differently—that boy—had just been shot and killed. By strangers. Just for fun.
You are fourteen. And it is the beginning—it is the very first day—when the World confirms that new gleam of suspicion layered on the surface of the dark violet lake inside, that, Yes, slaughter is normal.
Slowly, over the years, you train yourself not to want this—you—a body in your bed with whom you can have a real conversation—a body with whom you can walk anywhere, talk anywhere, hear anywhere. At some point, you gave up expecting to be understood. English was too many red languages at once. And History was just a very small one—a ledger, and always in the black. You took out your sheerest sword. Your tongue: a sheath of arrows.
Perhaps, not by coincidence—once you began to trip around fifty’s maypole—you and your sister find together the courage to do the math: of all the boys whom you had known as children, at least eighty-percent were all either missing, in jail, or dead. Blood on the streets, bullets in the walls, the police always flying overhead. In your head. You thought it normal. When boys disappeared, were shot, killed, cuffed or thrown onto a black and white hood for simply walking down the sidewalk. Or asking merely: What have I done? Normal. As expected as the orange poppies, your quiet state flower, blossoming on the side of the streets year-round.
And then. Finally. You and I. Our bodies. Together. For a few hours: Time loves me. Every minute a gift so tender, each second announces itself. And then, just as quickly, equally: every second is stolen—erased—washed away—you. I understand, somehow, it will be another four years until I see you again. We walk through the night, arm and arm, across the wet sidewalk, and—besides my son—I am the happiest I have ever been with another person. But it is a silence. A happiness that rare. Unexpected. Quiet. And I wait. And wait. And no one shoots you afterward. Or. Maybe this night was God’s way of saying to me—finally: Yes, I do realize you exist. And this one night—just this one night—is all the complete happiness you can ever expect from Me.
Copyright © 2019 by Robin Coste Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Translated by Carolyn Forché
You who saw the vast oceans
and the peaks of the mountains,
who communed with all the sailors of the world
and you who saw Christ eat the bread of his last supper among the young
and the elders,
you who saw the executioner of Europe
with his ax soaked with blood,
You stepped on the scaffold
and the fields in which mothers cried to their dead children.
Tell me if it is still
possible to announce triumphant justice
and deliver the lessons of the new world.
I’m going to kiss your lips,
they are cold and taste like the word America.
Copyright © 2019 by Fernando Valverde. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
When James Baldwin & Audre Lorde each lend
Stevie Wonder an eyeball, he immediately contends
With gravity, falling either to his knees or flat on
His luminous face. I’ve heard several versions
Of the story. In this one Audre Lorde dons
Immaculate French loafers, turtlenecked ballgown,
And afro halo. An eye-sized ruby glimmers on
A pinky ring that’s a hair too big for Jimmy Baldwin’s
Pinky. He’s blue with beauty. They’re accustomed
To being followed, but now, the eye-patch twins
Will be especially scary to white people. Looking upon
Them, Wonder’s head purples with plural visions
Of blackness, gavels, grapples, purrs, pens. Ten to one
Odds God also prefers to be referred to as They & Them.
Copyright © 2019 by Terrance Hayes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
apricots & brown teeth in browner mouths nashing dates & a clementine’s underflesh under yellow nail & dates like auntie heads & the first time someone dried mango there was god & grandma’s Sunday only song & how the plums are better as plums dammit & i was wrong & a June’s worth of moons & the kiss stain of the berries & lord the prunes & the miracle of other people’s lives & none of my business & our hands sticky and a good empty & please please pass the bowl around again & the question of dried or ripe & the sex of grapes & too many dates & us us us us us & varied are the feast but so same the sound of love gorged & the women in the Y hijab a lily in the water & all of us who come from people who signed with x’s & yesterday made delicacy in the wrinkle of the fruit & at the end of my name begins the lot of us
Copyright © 2019 by Danez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
my father is tying concertina wire
around his garden which is
now all but ruined by
squirrels deer and worst
of all rabbits with cucumber
seeds stuck to their
tails I am an apex predator my father is
an apex predator god makes
us in pairs my mother searches the lawn
for four-leaf clovers pinning them
to a scrapbook pinning
moments to time she gives each clover
a name Buck Comes Onto Porch and
Hospital Note From Kaveh while
she makes tea inside I search
the house for a lighter and can’t
even find matches what I miss most
about winter is the brightness of
winter summer’s all foggy and
wet my mother hovers in
the kitchen like a strange tune she is out
of saffron and has no money
for more she weeps over her
bleach-white rice until my
father comes in cracks an egg
over the plate bursts
the yolk says see says yellow my mother
smiles so big and sad she wrinkles into
the future where my eyes
are yellow again maybe from the yolk
maybe something else my fur is coming in
so thick my mother would squeal
with pride if she could see it when she
was pregnant I kicked so hard so
often she could barely
sleep staying up all
night she thought she must
be full of bunnies
Copyright © 2019 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Even this freckle testifies to the strength
of second thoughts. My family
is a poem, the clear expression of
mixed feelings, and your emergent
system at five years old fires
like the shoal of neon tetra kept
in the depths of a ten gallon
darkness. As for infinity, it’s there,
haggling with contradiction,
asking each question but one.
You will find for a while there
you held the exquisite to daylight
before setting it down on the baize,
Sometimes it will feel like
the entire body consists of flames;
and sometimes concrete;
sometimes collapsing like a waterfall
or steady as a lake of evening lapping,
the midges clouding the surface.
Sometimes it will feel like air
just before the air itself
turns to snow. The solution is
a solution, by which I mean
lots of things dissolving to one.
Copyright © 2019 by Nick Laird. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
so I count my hopes: the bumblebees
are making a comeback, one snug tight
in a purple flower I passed to get to you;
your favorite color is purple but Prince’s
was orange & we both find this hard to believe;
today the park is green, we take grass for granted
the leaves chuckle around us; behind
your head a butterfly rests on a tree; it’s been
there our whole conversation; by my old apartment
was a butterfly sanctuary where I would read
& two little girls would sit next to me; you caught
a butterfly once but didn’t know what to feed it
so you trapped it in a jar & gave it to a girl
you liked. I asked if it died. you say you like
to think it lived a long life. yes, it lived a long life.
Copyright © 2019 by Fatimah Asghar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
is like a house
with a brain inside. Another place
tango and spar—
you lean out, releasing
On the roof
someone stands ready
with a pin—
Copyright © 2019 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Write about walking into the building
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful.
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face
of a student you’ve almost forgotten;
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year.
Do not conjecture about the adults
he goes home to, or the place he calls home.
Write about how he came to you for help
each October morning his sophomore year.
Write about teaching Othello to him;
write Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,
rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven.
Write about reading his obituary
five years after he graduated. Write
a poem containing the words “common”
“core,” “differentiate,” and “overdose.”
Write the names of the ones you will never
forget: “Jenna,” “Tiberious,” “Heaven,”
“Megan,” “Tanya,” “Kingsley” “Ashley,” “David.”
Write Mari with “Nobody’s Baby” tattooed
in cursive on her neck, spitting sixteen bars
in the backrow, as little white Mike beatboxed
“Candy Shop” and the whole class exploded.
Write about Zuly and Nely, sisters
from Guatemala, upon whom a thousand
strange new English words rained down on like hail
each period, and who wrote the story
of their long journey on la bestia
through Mexico, for you, in handwriting
made heavy by the aquís and ayers
ached in their knuckles, hidden by their smiles.
Write an ode to loose-leaf. Write elegies
on the nub nose of a pink eraser.
Carve your devotion from a no. 2
pencil. Write the uncounted hours you spent
fretting about the ones who cursed you out
for keeping order, who slammed classroom doors,
who screamed “you are not my father,” whose pain
unraveled and broke you, whose pain you knew.
Write how all this added up to a life.
Copyright © 2019 by Dante Di Stefano. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The night sounds like a murder
of magpies and we’re replacing our cabinet knobs
because we can’t change the world, but we can
change our hardware. America breaks my heart
some days, and some days it breaks itself in two.
I watched a woman have a breakdown in the mall
today and when the security guard tried to help her
what I could see was all of us
peeking from her purse as she threw it
across the floor into Forever 21. And yes,
the walls felt like another way to hold us in
and when she finally stopped crying,
I heard her say to the fluorescent lighting, Some days
the sky is too bright. And like that we were her
flock in our black coats and white sweaters,
some of us reaching our wings to her
and some of us flying away.
Copyright © 2019 by Kelli Russell Agodon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And so I sat at a tall table
in an Ohio hotel,
with garlic butter, only it was
not butter, but partially
and regular soybean oil and it
came in a little tub like
creamer that’s also not
America in 2019
means a poem will have to
contain dairy that is,
not dairy. On Instagram: a man
has bought a ten foot by four
foot photo of a bridge
beside, bridge he can see just outside
his window, window which serves
as a ten foot by four
My materialist mind, I can’t
shake it. Within a perfect
little tub of garlic
a relief of workers, of sickles,
fields of soy. We were tanners
pushed to the edge of the
once, by the stench, the bubble of vats
of flesh and loosening skin,
back when the city pulled,
bucket by leather bucket, its own
water from wells. Then we worked
petroleum offices of the
British. Then, revolution—
Copyright © 2019 by Solmaz Sharif. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
for my grandfather We don’t have heirlooms. Haven’t owned things long enough. We’re hoarding us in our stories. Like October 26—the Oklahoma Quick Stop gas at 90¢ and, in 158 more days, Passion of the Christ in a wildlife refuge with Rabbits foot and Black Capped birds—when Edgar Whetstone shoots himself. Like August 4, 1919. Like Ada Willis births the boy conceived with Boy gone somewhere. Like her prayers and circa 10 years past and Mr. Charlie saying, Edgar reads (you call that clean?) but please, girl, coloreds don’t become doctors. Like Edgar trashed his books. Like served, discharged. Like funeral director close to doctor as it got. Formaldehyde wrecked him like Time to get up out the South Detroit inspect dynamics burn a house down torch the county jail. Like now, October. Like I found, searching the internet, one shot of the asylum’s blurry hall empty but for an organ’s pipes. I saw Edgar deluding hymns rousing the two of us in Rock of Ages followed by Philippians 1:21—to die is gain. No way to prove the claim, you die in dream, you die for real. Our family still hanged from trees. Like if they ever fall, no one will hear it someday for a while.
Copyright © 2019 by Erica Dawson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
How-to with a wolf head in it: magic says rub tooth to your gum, sleep with cheek matted to your sweat—first you must kill it. Post a letter of carved wood that sings like howl. What happens after the cast—where to dispose of used up fur coil and red. Kept saying new when I had looked for nothing. There’s a whole word for wind in France, northeast and dry; I have not been given one to say how canvas cuts a tree’s bottom and top with grey poplars. My stretch of cells still repeating. The nuns made my body a holy cathedral, impenetrable—yet a temple is a widest entrance; place of herded into. Still have a wolf and it’s still breathing. From its mouth crawls another. Then from that, it happens again; throat combed by teeth. It became we and I was a portrait with many hearts in it.
Copyright © 2018 by Lucia LoTempio. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.