I had no idea the elf owl
Crept into you in the secret
Of night.

I have torn myself out of many bitter places
In America, that seemed

Tall and green-rooted in mid-noon.
I wish I were the spare shadow
Of the roadrunner, I wish I were
The honest lover of the diamondback
And the tear the tarantula weeps.
I had no idea you were so tall
And blond in moonlight.
I got thirsty in the factories,
And I hated the brutal dry suns there,
So I quit.

You were the shadow
Of a hallway
In me.

I have never gone through that door,
But the elf owl's face
Is inside me.

You are not one of the gods.
Your green arms lower and gather me.
I am an elf owl's shadow, a secret
Member of your family.

From Above the River: The Complete Poems by James Wright. Copyright © 1992. Reprinted by permission of the literary estate of James Wright. All rights reserved.

On what would turn out to be Katie’s last good day
she asked to be wheeled outside & helped
into the Lazyboy her brother dragged out back
no one even bothering to remove the tag
from Costco that flapped, wild as a trapped bird 
before the wind surrendered
to a thin cardigan of mid-December sun
as all afternoon we watched
her sleeping while the sky hemorrhaged
quietly down & the small hills of dogshit
arranged along the graying cedar fence
did not blaze into anything
like golden stones, but her hair had grown
back a half inch or so & so glowed
in the last of that tinny glare
& if I thought briefly then of medieval manuscripts
where everyone important grows a halo
it wasn't quite like that either
although the bones of her face did appear
as if at low tide to surface
smooth as driftwood where the injured
bird might light in the moonlight, holding on
for some measures longer than expected.

Copyright © 2022 by Jenny Browne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths

Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can't take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.

My mother will not move.

Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother's face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.

Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.