Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me,
Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled?
And sullen hymns of defeat?

This poem is in the public domain.

Emptiness is a blessing:
it can’t be owned if it doesn’t exist.
My father said to bloom but never fruit—
a small trickle 
eating its way through stone.
I am one kind of alive:
I see everything the water sees.
I told you a turn was going to come 
& turn the tower did.
What are the master’s tools 
but a way to dismantle him.
Who will replace the blood of my mother in me—
a cold spring rising.
She told me a woman made of water 
can never crack.
Of her defeat, she said
this is nothing.

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Ciccarello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The storms that break and sweep about my feet,
The winds that blow and tear, the rains that fall,
Shall not the courage of my soul appall;
I shall be conqueror, tho’ sore defeat
O’erwhelm the outbound keels of all my fleet
Of dreams; tho’ not one tattered sail, but all
Go down mid sea; with heart serene, I’ll greet
The worst or best, the stronger for the squall.

My soul is set amid the storms of life,—
The hurricanes of passion crash and break
And tides of heathen hate sweep o’er our land;
But calm amid the flying ruins of strife,
Or in the leaping flames around the stake
With pierced hands—my faith serene,—I stand!

Copyright © 2021 by Charles Bertram Johnson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I stepped back from my death
it was strange and inhuman to me


and now my eyes are knives slicing the night to
                                                         split the mist

rising inside
like the tears of a poem

shedding its sadness
over the warm flight of egrets
flitting about

after the docile defeat
now my eyes are knives slicing the mist like a di-vi-ded body

I stepped back from my death

and rose up
syllable by syllable
almost like the unwritten poem
and suddenly
hair tousled by days of abandon

I find your discontent
in a commonplace dress
the furled poetic fabric 
that switches the body on

to disarray

in a song without refrain
some fruit scattered

in the rush to ripen

these mineral days
I want to climb beyond the reach of words
where my death will not be
the death of others too
even if I see my sorrow in yours
and then I don’t.

Originally published in the April 2019 issue of Words Without Borders. From Vácuos © Mbate Pedro. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Sandra Tamele and Eric M. B. Becker. All rights reserved.

He was urged to prepare for success: "You never can tell,
    he was told over and over; "others have made it;
    one dare not presume to predict. You never can tell.	

Who’s Who in America lists the order of cats
    in hunting, fishing, bird-watching, farming,
    domestic service--the dictionary order of cats

who have made it. Those not in the book are beyond the pale.
    Not to succeed in you chosen profession is unthinkable.
    Either you make it or--you’re beyond the pale.

Do you understand?"
                   "No," he shakes his head.
    "Are you ready to forage for freedom?"
                                          "No," he adds,
    "I mean, why is a cat always shaking his head?

Because he’s thinking: who am I? I am not
    only one-ninth of myself. I always am
    all of the selves I have been and will be but am    not."

"The normal cat," I tell him, "soon adjusts
    to others and to changing circumstances;
    he makes his way the way he soon adjusts."

"I can’t," he says, "perhaps because I’m blue,
    big-footed, lop-eared, socially awkward, impotent,
    and I drink too much, whether because I’m blue

or because I like it, who knows. I want to escape
    at five o’clock    into an untouchable world
where the top is the bottom and everyone wants to escape

from the middle, everyone, every day. I mean,
    I have visions of two green eyes rising
    out of the ocean, blinking, knowing what I mean."

"Never mind the picture, repeat after me
    the self’s creed. What he tells you you
    tells me and I repeats. Now, after me:

I love myself, I wish I would live well.
    Your gift of love breaks through my self-defeat.
    All prizes are blue. No cat admits defeat.
The next time that he lives he will live well."

Permission from Other Press to reprint "Identiy Crisis" from The Return of the Blue Cat Copyright © 2005 F. D. Reeve is gratefully acknowledged.

There’s a man who sits on the shore every morning,
staring at the sea. And the sea stares back, defiantly.
It won’t release its secrets. I’ll give you an answer
if I take what you’re offering me, says the sea.

When the man begins to weep, the sea yawns
with indifference. Tears are abundant here. As are
sinking ships and broken hearts and moons that drop
like shards of shattered windows. Prayers crumble,

brittle against the Caribbean wind. There’s nothing
in your skies or on your land I haven’t swallowed.
Or spat right back. The man, defeated, rises, drags
his shadow—a shadow? Or a piece of cloth, a flag?

The sea keeps reaching for a closer look. The figure
blurs into the landscape and takes his story with him.
Waves crash against the rocks as if that sudden exit
hadn’t left the ocean waters floundering in wonder.

What was that? The question turns to driftwood
and knocks against the mass of land, thereafter
unanswered because the man never came back.
And so the sea sifts through its rubble once again

and again and again and again and again in order to
complete this puzzle—narratives left unfinished toss
inside memory forever. That’s why the sea comes
to the shore each morning looking for a man.

From The Book of Ruin. Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Four Way Books. 

for Ernestine Hemingway

She was an old woman who fished alone
from a skiff in the Sea of Tranquility
and she had gone eighty-five years now
without a fish. Not even a dusty rock
bass had struck her night crawler though
the worm was fat and finely bristled
and covered in slime and interminable
in the airless waste. Her neck was thin
and creased with lines the sun had written
on skin gone fine as paper but this
was not the first thing one noticed
upon seeing the old woman in the skiff.
No, it was her eyes that were the color
of the moon and cheerful in the reflected
light like two bone-white plates waiting
for sliced cake on a table. They were
quietly empty and waiting for something
good, and they were not at all defeated.
In the skiff there was a bottle of wine.
It was the wine of the country and tasted
of mineral and sunlight and the green
glass of the bottle was beaded with drops
of condensation, which was an odd thing,
thought the woman, because the moon
is an arid place and the air is thin as hope,
the hopes of a widow casting her line
with its moist worm into the scattered
gravel so that bits of gray dust clung
to its meatiness. The old woman pulled
the cork out with her teeth and began
to drink and set the bottle on the bench
and rested one hand on a wooden thwart
and said, The wine is good. It tastes of
the country and of loneliness and also
the moon, which is where I fish because
this is the thing that I was born to do.

Copyright © 2018 Michael Bazzett. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2018. Used with permission of the authors.