Sometimes I still think of Gertrude 
and all her privacies, of the tenuous
sheen of her thin gray hair,
and the sculptural, elegant way 
she piled it high up on her head. 
                                       Even now
typing these simple words, vividly
she returns, conjuring the images 
that made her real, transcending
the withered anonymities of elderly
citizens one passes in the street
without even noticing a whole life
is walking by…  

agony seemed different from ours.
Older. Well-thumbed. Polite
And buckled to her person
Like a well-fitting garment. Ours?
Untamed, sharp-edged and shouting.
Hungry infant, railing in a crib. Not 
noiseless and ancient like hers.  
Nor glamorous as a hologram
Of anguish, flickering and glittering
with broken fragments of 
captured light which lit her up
inside her grief and made her

              Surely she could not 
be as fragile as she looked,
carrying that weight. We craved
the object lesson of her tragedy 
thinking it would teach us how 
to transcend our sobbing, 
corporeal essences that grieved 
us so, and held us back as we 
kept on searching for the sure 
way out: the red door marked exit 
that Gertrude (we assumed) 
had passed through long before.

If you’re lucky, she once said
elliptically and apropos of nothing 
specific, It will bring you to your knees, 
speaking so softly we could barely 
even hear her, her legs crossed at the ankles
arranged off center, cotillion style 
of the debutante she once had been.  
Her vein-swollen, bony hand
gestured midpoint of her chest 
as if something still lodged there 
that had never broken free.

The rest of us felt shocked then—or I did
anyway—perceiving the torment 
still living inside her that we thought
she had conquered. The mystery was how
someone insignificant and ordinary
as Gertrude had redistributed 
that weight, and reoriented
the magnetic poles that for us
always defaulted to agony.  

She had been our hero,
icon of a victory that could
one day be ours if we learned
to live as Gertrude lived: elegant
and stoical, silencing our constant
clamoring for relief. But now 
here she was: testifying to victory 
or defeat? We could not tell, and that
Fucked us up. Oracular and  
Eternal was what we’d
thought she was. In possession 
of the answer. Instead,
her image and her words— 
It will bring you to your knees
turned us back into ourselves.
where the suffering was,
and the mystery, and offered 
no answer but the hard shock 
of our knees knocking against 
the earth, and the prickling burn 
of blood breaking its barrier of skin
and starting to flow.

Copyright © 2021 by Kate Daniels. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Where else do mice scurry along the bones of a couch,
among coiled springs and dog food stash, where
a body is wrapped up in quilts because October
is a cold house, no hot water but a dog’s water dish
frozen in the dark living room where a body is wrapped
         up in quilts,
no food except a couple cans of commod beef stew,
a grocery store across the street, lingering
in the parking lot, two payphones and no one to call
because October is an empty house, a month
abandoned of light bills and mother
a quilt of frayed threads and father pulling at the threads
of another weeklong binge.
Where else can a body have a husk and still feel
                                                 like the rib cage of a mouse
brittle and starved
but stashing
buttons or dog food or threads from a quilt,
                                                 a skeleton
among skeletons
             of things we don’t miss.

Copyright © 2014 b: william bearheart. This poem originally appeared in Tupelo Quarterly. Reprinted with the permission of Carrie Bearheart.

is saying, someday this day will be over.  
A moon will presumably still be above:  
a bone quiet, an inflatable in the scene 

—the cool blue swimming pool  
it finds itself in. And I will want to be. 
My mother, the Queen, will want only  

my father, the King. All will be want  
& get. And I will be me. And O, O,  
Ophelia—will be the essence of love.  

The love of a sister. Or, the love of the  
brother. Compassion. Forgiveness.  

All will be want & get. We will all be  
together, on stage & in dress, reciting  
our lines: “What a fine day. What a  

wonderful way. To be.” No sirens. Fifty  
stars, a cloud. A drawing of an all-night  
sky. We’ll be there. You as you. And I. 

Copyright © 2020 by Mary Jo Bang. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on

A bandana. A cardinal. An apple

No. 2 lead pencil—the mechanical pencil, now empty—appears more vivid 

A box of toothpicks—now that I'm baking bran muffins

Rubber gloves: that Playtex commercial "so flexible you can pick up a dime." I tried once and it's true. Thankfully, I have yellow rubber gloves—like those Mother wore. We never had a dishwasher. No, that was her, the dishwasher. Not even this gloomy daughter was assigned the chore. Though I did learn in Home Ec. to fill a basin with warm water and soap; wash glasses before the greasy dishes then silverware and finally pots and pans. Rinse. Air dry ("it's more sanitary"). And I do.

Scissors: I cut up dish clothes to use as napkins. When I try sewing on the ancient Singer (1930?), the knee-lever doesn't work so I abandon the hemming. Then hand stitch while listening to the news. I am grateful for a full spool of white thread. 

Scissors: where once I used these to cut paper, now I use them for everything. Including hair. Father always directed us to use the right kind of scissors for the task—paper, cloth, hair. Had he lasted into his nineties, how would he have dealt with sequestering? With belligerence, no doubt.

Empty jar: I think to grow beansprouts and look into ordering seeds. Back ordered until May 1.

Egg shells: should I start a mulch pile? Mother had a large empty milk carton by the sink where she'd add stuff to mulch. And now T reports that because they are making every meal, Our mulch pile is so alive.

Sleeping Beauty, yes, that cocoon—

Moby Dick, The Tale of Genji, Anna Karenina—I left Emily Dickinson - Selected Poems edited by Helen Vendler in my office

Notebook: March 20, 2020
A student in Elmhurst cannot sleep for the constant ambulance sirens. She keeps her blinds drawn but sees on tv what is taking place a block away—bodies in body bags loaded onto an enormous truck. The governor calls this The Apex. And late last night, R called—"helicopters are hovering over the building!" She remembers the thrumming over our brownstone in Park Slope on 9/11. And just now I learn that religious people just blocks from her were amassing by the hundreds, refusing social distance. And I am full of rage. Some communities have begun to use drones to disperse people. The president states he has "complete power." And I am filled with rage.

Binoculars: a cardinal



A neighbor goes out to pick up my prescription. I leave daffodils on the porch for him. I picked them with gloves on. 

Copyright © 2020 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on

Translated by Idra Novey and Ahmad Nadalizadeh
                                        For the city of Bam destroyed in the 2003 earthquake

The window is black
the table, black
the sky, black
the snow, black
You’re mistaken!
I don’t need medicine
or a psychotherapist.
Just lift these stones,
sweep aside the earth
and look into my eyes!

My eyes
that are round like the Earth

an image of the world
the world of shut doors
of countless walls

anytime I stand before the mirror
the image of an upside-down tortoise
makes me long for a passer-by
to arrive and invert the world

Some night
our hands will tremble from all this solitude
and our depiction on the canvas
will be scribbled out

the ruins of Bam scribbled out
the shelters we built
collapsing on our heads

I am terrified by the next images in this poem
the image of God lifting all the doors onto his shoulders
getting away
retreating far and then farther

I write: one day
the missing keys will be recovered.
What should we do about the missing locks.

The Ruins of Bam (Original Persian)
The Ruins of Bam (Original Persian)

Copyright © 2020 by Garous Abdolmalekian, Idra Novey, and Ahmad Nadalizadeh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.