When you have forgotten (to bring into 
   Play that fragrant morsel of rhetoric, 
Crisp as autumnal air), when you 
   Have forgotten, say, sun-lit corners, brick 
   Full of skyline, rowhomes, smokestacks, 
Billboards, littered rooftops & wondered 
What bread wrappers reflect of our hunger, 


When you have forgotten wide-brimmed hats, 
   Sunday back-seat leather rides & church, 
The doorlock like a silver cane, the broad backs 
   Swaying or the great moan deep churning, 
   & the shimmer flick of flat sticks, the lurch 
Forward, skip, hands up Ailey-esque drop, 
When you have forgotten the meaningful bop, 


Hustlers and their care-what-may, blasé 
   Ballet and flight, when you have forgotten 
Scruffy yards, miniature escapes, the way   
   Laundry lines strung up sag like shortened 
   Smiles, when you have forgotten the Fish Man
Barking his catch in inches up the street 
"I've got porgies. I've got trout. Feeesh 


Man," or his scoop and chain scale, 
   His belief in shad and amberjack; when 
You have forgotten Ajax and tin pails, 
   Blue crystals frothing on marble front 
   Steps Saturday mornings, or the garden 
Of old men playing checkers, the curbs 
White-washed like two lines out to the burbs, 


Or the hopscotch squares painted new 
   In the street, the pitter-patter of feet 
Landing on rhymes. "How do you 
   Like the weather, girls? All in together girls,
   January, February, March, April... " 
The jump ropes' portentous looming, 
Their great, aching love blooming. 


When you have forgotten packs of grape 
   Flavored Now & Laters, the squares 
Of sugar flattening on the tongue, the elation 
   You felt reaching into the corner-store jar, 
   Grasping a handful of Blow Pops, candy bars 
With names you didn't recognize but came 
To learn. All the turf battles. All the war games. 


When you have forgotten popsicle stick 
   Races along the curb and hydrant fights,
Then, retrieve this letter from your stack 
   I've sent by clairvoyant post & read by light.
   For it brought me as much longing and delight. 
This week's Father's Day; I've a long ride to Philly.
I'll give this to Gramps, then head to Black Lily. 

From Hoops, published by W. W. Norton & Company. Copyright © 2006 by Major Jackson. Used with permission.

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare - how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—

This poem is in the public domain.

for Breonna Taylor

Dear Breonna,
How many times, I ask,
           how many times
have I chased the thought
                      of writing to you,
of catching the poem where
                      it cannot leave,
of knocking open the door to a grief
           we all hold, our hearts
full of questions.
           We leave our houses to work,
to look for what we need to live,
                      or what we need
           to make the pain go away,
and your voice rises:
           “Oh hell to the no,
no he didn’t,
           Satan get behind me,
whatever, whatever
           the hell you think you are.”

I imagine that in leaving 
all of us you said:
           “I am done
I am let out into the world,
           breath I took in from it
breath that I give back in love.”

May I see you in flight
filling the space
           beyond clouds and stars
where there is no need
           of sun or moon, where
a grand city lives
           in prophecies beaten
by the wheels of history
where you are not invisible
           to ancestors who saw
these long roads down through time
to this one night in Louisville.

                      Bright Angel,
Luminescence, Woman Who Saved Lives
in Emergency Rooms,
                      Invocation of Heaven’s Law,
Living Song Riding
                                 the Eternal Dawn.

These titles I summon from license
given by Eternal Mysteries to hold you.
Fly now, in the woven air of the saints.

Copyright © 2022 by Afaa Michael Weaver. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I am writing to you as an act of ending.

Cutting faces out of paper and folding them in envelopes like thoughts.

Am I a monster, Clarice Lispector asked in The Hour of the Star, or is this what it means to be human?

To be alive, I think as I cut another face.

What makes the shape become visible, and breathe, is the angle and variation of absence.

Sugar skull, I whisper, what I have known all along.

I am you gone.

From Please Bury Me in This. Copyright © 2017 by Allison Benis White. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

Saturday afternoon. The barracks is almost empty.
The soldiers are almost all on overnight pass.
There is only me, writing this letter to you,
And one other soldier, down at the end of the room,
And a spider, that hangs by the thread of his guts,
His tenacious and delicate guts, Swift’s spider,
All self-regard, or else all privacy.
The dust drifts in the sunlight around him, as currents
Lie in lazy, drifting schools in the vast sea.
In his little sea the spider lowers himself
Out of his depth. He is his own diving bell,
Though he cannot see well. He observes no fish,
And sees no wonderful things. His unseeing guts
Are his only hold on the world outside himself.
I love you, and miss you, and I find you hard to imagine.
Down at the end of the room, the other soldier
Is getting ready, I guess, to go out on pass.
He is shining his boots. He sits on the edge of his bunk,
Private, submissive, and heedful of himself,
And, bending over himself, he is his own nest.
The slightest sound he makes is of his being.
He is his mother, and nest, wife, brother, and father.
His boots are bright already, yet still he rubs
And rubs till, brighter still, they are his mirror,
And in this mirror he observes, I guess,
His own submissiveness. He is far from home.

From Of No Country I Know by David Ferry, published by the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1999 by David Ferry. Reprinted by permission of David Ferry. All rights reserved.

There’s no sense
in telling you my particular
troubles. You have yours too.
Is there value
in comparing notes?
Unlike Williams writing
poems on prescription pads
between patients, I have
no prescriptions for you.
I’m more interested
in the particular
nature and tenor of the energy
of our trouble. Maybe
that’s not enough for you.
Sometimes I stick in
some music. I’m capable
of hallucination
so there’s nothing wrong
with my images. As for me,
I’m not looking for wisdom.
The wise don’t often write
wisely, do they? The danger
is in teetering into platitudes.
Maybe Keats was preternaturally
wise but what he gave us
was beauty, whatever that is,
and truth, synonymous, he wrote,
with beauty, and not the same
as wisdom. Maybe truth
is the raw material of wisdom
before it has been conformed
by ego, fear, and time,
like a shot
of whiskey without
embellishment, or truth lays bare
the broken bone and wisdom
scurries in, wanting
to cover and justify it. It’s really
kind of a nasty
enterprise. Who wants anyone
else’s hands on their pain?
And I’d rather be arrested
than advised, even on my
taxes. So what
can poetry be now? Dangerous
to approach such a question,
and difficult to find the will to care.
But we must not languish, soldiers,
(according to the wise,)
we must go so far as to invent
new mechanisms of caring.
Maybe truth, yes, delivered
with clarity. The tone is up
to you. Truth, unabridged,
has become in itself a strange
and beautiful thing.
Truth may involve a degree
of seeing through time.
Even developing a relationship
with a thing before writing,
whether a bird
or an idea about birds, it doesn’t
matter. But please not only
a picture of a bird. Err
on the side of humility, though
humility can be declarative.
It does not submit. It can even appear
audacious. It takes mettle
to propose truth
and pretend it is generalizable.
Truth should sting, in its way,
like a major bee, not a sweat bee.
It may target the reader like an arrow,
or be swallowable, a watermelon
seed we feared as children
would take up residency in our guts
and grow unabated and change us
forever into something viny
and prolific and terrible.
As for beauty, a problematic word,
one to be side-eyed lest it turn you
to stone or salt,
it is not something to work on
but a biproduct, at times,
of the process of our making.
Beauty comes or it doesn’t, as do
its equally compelling counterparts,
inelegance and vileness.
This we learned from Baudelaire,
Flaubert, Rimbaud, Genet, male poets
of the lavishly grotesque.
You’ve seen those living rooms,
the red velvet walls and lampshades
fringed gold, cat hair thick
on the couches,
and you have been weirdly
compelled, even cushioned,
by them. Either way,
please don’t tell me flowers
are beautiful and blood clots
are ugly. These things I know,
or I know this is how
flowers and blood clots
are assessed by those content
with stale orthodoxies.
Maybe there is such a thing
as the beauty of drawing near.
Near, nearer, all the way
to the bedside of the dying
world. To sit in witness,
without platitudes, no matter
the distortions of the death throes,
no matter the awful music
of the rattle. Close, closer,
to that sheeted edge.
From this vantage point
poetry can still be beautiful.
It can even be useful, though
never wise.

Copyright © 2022 by Diane Seuss. This poem originally appeared in Chicago Review, January 28, 2022. Used with permission of the author.