You were too kind to come at all.
The door closed on you, and my hall
Shivered in sudden naked shame.
I whispered it was not to blame
And followed you within, to where
You were awaited by my chair.
It was so small, and you sat down
With a so gracious smile—a frown
Would have gone better with that wall;
You were too kind to smile at all.
You stretched a hand toward the grate;
Its welcome was inadequate.
You looked about you and pretended
The carpet and the picture blended.
I looked—and all my furnishings
Had turned their heads: the sorry things!
You said you felt at home—a lie
My misery was finished by.
Even your guilelessness was gall.
You were too kind to come at all.
This poem is in the public domain.
Thirty feet above the ground, in a warehouse
in the industrial outskirts
of a city we’d never lived in,
I knelt inside the near-empty container
to contemplate our nomadic misery:
mismatched chairs, kitchen appliances
older than me, baby clothes,
framed diplomas, books in a language
my father never taught me (it would
have stunted my assimilation)
and in my head, an email from my mother
that read, “we’re doomed, save what you can.”
So there I was, on the other
side of nowhere in sunny Italy… Despite
the technological changes around us,
disasters still travel in telegrams: Bankrupt. STOP.
Sorry. STOP. Homeless. STOP…
when our parents calling us
‘global citizens’ inspired great hope?
But the world proved too tribal for us
and so your suitcase shall be your only friend
while Shi Huang’s fantasy of a Godly Wall
proliferates across the planet.
Weeks ago, two cops in Catania
stung a sixteen year old boy from Darfur
with cattle-prods to impart the following lesson,
‘whatever the government says,
you’re not welcome here.’
As if one needed the reminder…
All across the boot, the green-
shirted faithful lift their pitchforks
to chase the monster of Otherness,
so don’t ask me why I love
to leave and hate returning.
(Is the answer somewhere inside this container?
It isn’t… but remember Cicero’s saying,
there’s no cure for exile except to love
every city as you would your own,
but the past is always easier… )
When I was young, I fancied
myself Indiana Jones; later,
with erudition, came realer idols:
Petrie, Schliemann, Carter, Kenyon—
but you cannot rescue history from dust—
all you save one day will crumble
in your hand. “Trash or burn the rest”
I told the warehouse worker
as we rode the forklift back to earth.
Damn whoever said
that hell was down below;
they clearly never went there.
Copyright © 2021 by André Naffis-Sahely. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Needless to say I support the forsythia’s war
against the dull colored houses, the beagle
deciphering the infinitely complicated universe
at the bottom of a fence post. I should be gussying up
my resume, I should be dusting off my protestant work ethic,
not walking around the neighborhood loving the peonies
and the lilac bushes, not heading up Shamrock
and spotting Lucia coming down the train tracks. Lucia
who just sold her first story and whose rent is going up,
too, Lucia who says she’s moving to South America to save money,
Lucia, cute twenty-something I wish wasn’t walking down train tracks
alone. I tell her about my niece teaching in China, about the waiter
who built a tiny house in Hawaii, how he saved up, how
he had to call the house a garage to get a building permit.
Someone’s practicing the trumpet, someone’s frying bacon
and once again the wisteria across the street is trying to take over
the nation. Which could use a nice invasion, old growth trees
and sea turtles, every kind of bird marching
on Washington. If I had something in my refrigerator,
if my house didn’t look like the woman who lives there
forgot to water the plants, I’d invite Lucia home,
enjoy another hour of not thinking about not having a job,
about not having a mother to move back in with.
I could pick Lucia’s brain about our circadian rhythms,
about this space between sunrise and sunset,
ask if she’s ever managed to get inside it, the air,
the sky ethereal as all get out—so close
and no ladder in sight.
Copyright © 2021 by Valencia Robin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.