she says the planets & stars show that I’m too good at being alone
I have unresolved traumas from past lives it is true
there were difficulties during my delivery even in the womb
I had a bad feeling cord around my throat as I tried
to make passage forced into this world or rather out of another
by extraction the witch asks if I often feel guilty
asks if I try to heal those around me despite finding it difficult
to bond with anyone other than myself
she wants to know about my childhood memories
if I’m alone in them
& I admit I stop listening though I can still hear
the untroubled tone in her voice vowels elongated
mouth full of sounds like spandex bursting at the seams
I want to go back to the stars we’ve strayed so far from the planets
she says there’s much to learn about my sources of pain
the gaping wound I will try to alleviate for the rest of my life
I want to touch her long hair as if it were my hair
I want to convince her I believe in everything she believes
but I demand too much of faith
like apples in the market I inspect the curves & creases
put them back at the slightest sign of bruising
Copyright © 2021 by Eloisa Amezcua. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 19, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Kait Rhoads
Gather up whatever is
glittering in the gutter,
whatever has tumbled
in the waves or fallen
in flames out of the sky,
for it’s not only our
hearts that are broken,
but the heart
of the world as well.
Stitch it back together.
Make a place where
the day speaks to the night
and the earth speaks to the sky.
Whether we created God
or God created us
it all comes down to this:
In our imperfect world
we are meant to repair
and stitch together
what beauty there is, stitch it
with compassion and wire.
See how everything
we have made gathers
the light inside itself
and overflows? A blessing.
From Only Now (Deerbrook Editions, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Stuart Kestenbaum. Used with permission of the author.
under the chiming bell
I learn to move as ghosts do
after thirty five years of belching
I finally qualify as a trophy
in the woods I am mostly small
~ insignificant ~
in love with nothing and no one
boredom is a kind of armor
capitalism no longer contagious
seeing with my own eyes
each raindrop ceasing to exist
still I fear birth as much as death
the non-consent of existence
will never be resolved in no lifetime
has anyone ever lived
through someone else’s ending
or just me?
so weird being allowed to enter
not as a servant
but as a guest
the crudeness of patronage
all those childhood prayers
in the end I was not too beautiful for this
failed to be much of an exception at all
at least I can still dream
to possess the kind of face
often inscribed into archways
mid-scream like a gargoyle with nothing
better to do
the holy don’t need us
wretches of a different order
looking for someone or nothing
I was supposed to be staff
then everything changed
and it didn’t even matter I was born wrong
will someone tell someone who I am
will someone please please tell me
Copyright © 2021 by Jenny Zhang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.