And the just man trailed God's shining agent, over a black mountain, in his giant track, while a restless voice kept harrying his woman: "It's not too late, you can still look back at the red towers of your native Sodom, the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed, at the empty windows set in the tall house where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed." A single glance: a sudden dart of pain stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . . Her body flaked into transparent salt, and her swift legs rooted to the ground. Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem too insignificant for our concern? Yet in my heart I never will deny her, who suffered death because she chose to turn.
From Poems of Akhmatova, by Anna Akhmatova and translated by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Published by Little, Brown & Co. © 1973 by Stanley Kunitz and Max Hayward. Granted by permission of Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agency. All rights reserved.
Yallah habibti, move your tongue like the sea
easy. My big sister teaches me to ululate, rolls
her tongue in waves. Dips thin fingers inside
my mouth to pull out mine, stretches it long
and pinches the tip. Watch, we move tongues
like this. I see the walls of our father’s house
collapse and we swim free leleleleleleleleleee
On the ferry to Tangier I shriek across the sea.
Practice how to sound like a real woman. Old
aunties grab my buttocks, smush their breasts
against my back and sing leleleleleleleleleleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Don’t cover your mouth habibti! Only women
on the upper deck, only sea. We move tongues
like this to tell the waves stay back, tell men
stay back, tell the dead stay gone, tell runaway
wives stay gone. They turn me into wisteria
woman, limbs wrapped around poles and thighs
as they guide me. Throw back your head, epiglottis
to the breeze. Salt air burns my hot membranes,
scratches at the tight knots of my chords.
All my life I was told
women must swallow sand
unless we are sounding
Copyright © 2018 by Seema Yasmin. This poem originally appeared in Foundry. Used with permission of the poet.
Her temple smeared across my walls,
I bowed beneath her stream.
Two arcs of piss & bloody vomit
shot inside the MRI machine.
The half-moon rolled back and she
emerged beneath me. My: too much
brown, too much blush, too many
lashes to heal, rattled loose in a split
mouth like crack rocks. She spewed
a bloody history: my people, her father,
some agony at the West Midlands Area
Conservative Society. When she groaned
Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack,
I tempered the pain—oxycodone
for one, high grade the other, ditched
my beeper in her cradle. Switched scrubs
for straps & animal skins in the back seat
of an Audi TT. I saged my hair with a blunt.
Danced away her ruin beneath a black
Copyright © Seema Yasmin. This poem originally appeared in Breakwater Review, issue 20. Used with permission of the poet.
This is not a small voice
you hear this is a large
voice coming out of these cities.
This is the voice of LaTanya.
Kadesha. Shaniqua. This
is the voice of Antoine.
Running over waters
navigating the hallways
of our schools spilling out
on the corners of our cities and
no epitaphs spill out of their river mouths.
This is not a small love
you hear this is a large
love, a passion for kissing learning
on its face.
This is a love that crowns the feet with hands
that nourishes, conceives, feels the water sails
mends the children,
folds them inside our history where they
toast more than the flesh
where they suck the bones of the alphabet
and spit out closed vowels.
This is a love colored with iron and lace.
This is a love initialed Black Genius.
This is not a small voice
From Wounded in the House of a Friend. Copyright © 1995 by Sonia Sanchez. Used with the permission of Beacon Press.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.
"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox
And there's one more—that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut—my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke—
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is—what?
What's that? What's that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!"
From Shel Silverstein: Poems and Drawings; originally appeared in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2003 by HarperCollins Children's Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Bow down my soul in worship very low
And in the holy silences be lost.
Bow down before the marble man of woe,
Bow down before the singing angel host.
What jewelled glory fills my spirit's eye!
What golden grandeur moves the depths of me!
The soaring arches lift me up on high
Taking my breath with their rare symmetry.
Bow down my soul and let the wondrous light
Of Beauty bathe thee from her lofty throne
Bow down before the wonder of man's might.
Bow down in worship, humble and alone;
Bow lowly down before the sacred sight
Of man's divinity alive in stone.
This poem is in the public domain.
I gaze into her eyes—their tender light,
And strong, illumes my spirit's darkest night,
And pours rich glory on me as a star
Which brings its silver luster from afar.
Sweet thoughts and beautiful within me burn,
And heaven I see what way soe’er I turn;
In borrowed radiance of her soulful glance
All things grow tenfold lovely and entrance.
I touch her willing hand—as gentle dove
It rests within my own, in trusting love;
And yet it moves me with a power so deep,
My heart is flame, and all my pulses leap.
I breathe her name unto the flowers: they bloom
With rarer hues, and shed more rich perfume!
The skylark hears it, as he floats along,
And adds new sweetness to his morning song.
Oh magic name! deep graven on my heart,
And, as its owner, of myself a part!
It hath in all my daily thoughts a share,
And forms the burden of my nightly prayer!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.