this being unnoticed. Sitting like this next to the stone lamb outside the Cathedral. My lost soul, which prefers the stone lamb to the living God. Prefers these deep shadows to the summer day. The way he took me all those years ago, shattered me so that fifty-seven years later, I might sit next to the smoothness of this stone lamb, know the stone joy of being unnoticed. People go in the Cathedral all day long, visiting their God on their knees. That man who betrayed me when I was a boy, first held me up to a tree so I would know what smell lemon blossoms have.
Copyright © 2017 Jim Moore. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, November/December 2017
I say hunger and mean your hands bitten to boneseed,
bandaged with bedsheet and the night while two states over,
a mouth—ready soil—says your name. Next June’s lover
speaks the harvest: your rich, vowel-tender song
but for the neighbor. More hello than amen. Not yet
a whole book of psalms. Choose this. Not your bare room.
Your self-vacancies. Unlearn empire’s blackness:
night spun savage, space cast empty when really
a balm slicks the split between stars. Really
hipthick spirits moonwalk across the lake ice.
Maps to every heaven gauze the trees in velvet
between that greenbright spectacle of bud and juice
and dust—I’m saying there’s no such thing
as nothing. Try and try, you’ll never disappear.
I say hunger, mean hands you think empty
though everywhere, even the dark, heaves.
“The Lonely Sleep Through Winter” copyright © by Kemi Alabi. This poem originally appeared in TriQuarterly Review, May 2021. Used with permission of the author.
I will swing my lasso of headlights
across your front porch,
let it drop like a rope of knotted light
at your feet.
While I put the car in park,
you will tie and tighten the loop
of light around your waist —
and I will be there with the other end
wrapped three times
around my hips horned with loneliness.
Reel me in across the glow-throbbing sea
of greenthread, bluestem prickly poppy,
the white inflorescence of yucca bells,
up the dust-lit stairs into your arms.
If you say to me, This is not your new house
but I am your new home,
I will enter the door of your throat,
hang my last lariat in the hallway,
build my altar of best books on your bedside table,
turn the lamp on and off, on and off, on and off.
I will lie down in you.
Eat my meals at the red table of your heart.
Each steaming bowl will be, Just right.
I will eat it all up,
break all your chairs to pieces.
If I try running off into the deep-purpling scrub brush,
you will remind me,
There is nowhere to go if you are already here,
and pat your hand on your lap lighted
by the topazion lux of the moon through the window,
say, Here, Love, sit here — when I do,
I will say, And here I still am.
Until then, Where are you? What is your address?
I am hurting. I am riding the night
on a full tank of gas and my headlights
are reaching out for something.
“If I Should Come Upon Your House Lonely in the West Texas Desert” originally appeared in The New York Times Magazine (April 1, 2021). Used with permission of the poet.
Last night the animals beneath her window crept out of hiding to comb the dirt from each other's fur. Rising to watch, she discovered the lilacs lit from below by ivory vinca. The street on the other side of the trees continued to contain its passing cars; tenderly her teeth let her tongue rest against their curving backs. Tonight when she lies in bed again, she will remember the one kind thing her grown daughter said today after weeks of scrutiny, and the moment at work just now, when a stack of Day-Glo folders cascaded over her desk, thrilling the white cubicle with their descent.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 2002 by Erica Funkhouser. All rights reserved.
Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.
There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.
From Sentences by Howard Nemerov, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1980 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov. All rights reserved.
Qawem ya sha’abi, qawemhum. Resist my people, resist them.
Hawaiians are still here. We are still creating, still resisting.
Stand in rage as wind and current clash
rile lightning and thunder
fire surge and boulder crash
Let the ocean eat and scrape away these walls
Let the sand swallow their fences whole
Let the air between us split the atmosphere
We have no land No country
But we have these bodies these stories
this language of rage left
This resistance is bitter
and tastes like medicine Our lands
replanted in the dark and warm there
We unfurl our tangled roots stretch
to blow salt across
blurred borders of memory
They made themselves
fences and bullets checkpoints
gates and guardposts martial law
They made themselves
hotels and mansions adverse
possession eminent domain and deeds
They made themselves
through the plunder
They say we can never— They say
we will never—because
and the hills and mountains have been
mined for rock walls the reefs
pillaged for coral floors
They say we can never—
and the deserts and dunes have been
shoveled and taken for their houses and highways—
because we can never— because
the forests have been raided razed
and scorched and we we the wards
refugees houseless present-
absentees recognition refusers exiled
uncivilized disposable natives
our springs and streams have been
dammed—so they say we can never return
let it go accept this
progress stop living
in the past—
but we make ourselves
strong enough to carry all of our dead
engrave their names in the clouds
We gather to sing whole villages awake
We crouch down to eat rocks like fruit
to hold the dirt the sand in our hands
to fling words
the way fat drops of rain
splatter off tarp or corrugated roofs
We remember the sweetness We rise from the plunder
They say there is no return
they never could really make us leave
Copyright © 2021 by Brandy Nālani McDougall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.