What you have not done
is without error. What you
have not said is beyond contradiction.
What you understand of God
was yesterday. Today a bicycle
waits, chained to a bench.
The success of this afternoon’s nap
is the dream of lifting seven boxes,
your week, sealed with clear tape.
They stack, three to a column,
with the seventh like a capstone.
What you do not know they contain.
Copyright © 2014 by Michael Chitwood. Used with permission of the author.
Days come and go:
this bird by minute, hour by leaf,
a calendar of loss.
I shift through woods, sifting
the air for August cadences
and walk beyond the boundaries I’ve kept
for months, past loose stone walls,
the fences breaking into sticks,
the poems always spilling into prose.
A low sweet meadow full of stars
beyond the margin
fills with big-boned, steaming mares.
The skies above are bruised like fruit,
their juices running,
black-veined marble of regret.
The road gusts sideways:
sassafras and rue.
A warbler warbles.
Did I wake the night through?
Walk through sleeping?
Shuffle for another way to mourn?
Dawn pinks up.
In sparking grass I find beginnings.
I was cradled here.
I gabbled and I spun.
And gradually the many men inside me
found their names,
acquired definition, points of view.
There was much to say,
not all of it untrue.
As the faithful seasons fell away,
I followed till my thoughts
inhabited a tree of thorns
that grew in muck of my own making.
Yet I was lifted and laid bare.
I hung there weakly: crossed, crossed-out.
At first I didn’t know
a voice inside me speaking low.
I stumbled in my way.
But now these hours that can’t be counted
find me fresh, this ordinary time
like kingdom come.
In clarity of dawn,
I fill my lungs, a summer-full of breaths.
The great field holds the wind, and sways.
From New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini (Beacon Press, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press.
My ancestors are made with water—
blue on the sides, and green down the spine;
when we travel, we lose brothers at sea
and do not stop to grieve.
Our mothers burn with a fire
that does not let them be;
they whisper our names
nomenclatures of invisibility
honey-dewed faces, eyes sewn shut,
how to tell them
the sorrow that splits us in half
the longing for a land not our own
the constant moving and shifting of things,
which words describe
the clenching in our stomachs
the fear lodged deeply into our bones
churning us from within,
and the loss that follows us everywhere:
behind mountains, past oceans, into
the heads of trees, how to swallow
a tongue that speaks with too many accents—
when white faces sprout
we are told to set ourselves ablaze
and this smell of smoke we know—
water or fire, or both,
because we have drowned many at a time
and left our bodies burning, or swollen, or bleeding
and purple—this kind of language we know,
naming new things into our invisibility
and this, we too, call home.
Copyright © 2017 by Mahtem Shiferraw. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Monica Hand
there’s a whispered prayer blowing
the crumbs of a season’s harvest
off a girl’s plate
& a roar breaks from her insides,
the roar a lioness
a beast that knows
& a man kneels somewhere
cupping his tears
for the loneliness he feels
though he’s surrounded by the world,
& a finch in a tree singing
for a lover as the buds on its branch
pop into leaves that will flourish
& welcome the green grasses,
Right now a boy is wondering
if people can really dodge bullets
& is he one of them & somewhere nobody bothers
to ask, they simply wait
Wind spins across the landscape
they say God is twirling his fingers—
The heartbroken hook new bodies,
night after night, drink after drink
& I dance—my feet mashing grapes
for wine & I sing mockingly—
what is life / what is life
Copyright © 2017 by Roberto Carlos Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.