She said, I wish I prayed, I would pray for you. And,

we all wanted a shape of prayer in our brains, taking over

instead of it chomping on itself. Stupid little elf. God has

never come to me. We surrender in the teeming utterance

of materials soaked with sentences already made in air

and by machines. The country says Freedom, crushed under

its own dream weight. I did not make up this song. Design

Within Reach is having a “Work from home sale.” The coming

apart, the giant laceration across the sky, we all feel it. Look

at the fire, look at it, like all the rage of all the smallest beings.

Copyright © 2020 by Dawn Lundy Martin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Untying ropes from flagpoles. 

Motionless, reluctant, unchanged

even by the stillness of flags

in a century of ordinary flags. How

I love to ride with my brother

even if below our joy persists

a collective hush and something

like Lake Michigan in which we know

the day is long and the once true things

still are: What will I throw my weight

into today? Where are the sour

among the sweet cherries? The salt

from sweat makes our skin stick

but my brother is full of privilege

and things that comfort, of family

anger, that old-house feeling.

Copyright © 2015 by Robert Ostrom. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

And after the black boy is
strangled by police, after

the protests where the man,
his Rottweiler on an iron leash yells,

let's go mash up dis city;
and another crowd bulks,

the parents of the murdered
beg us not to become

the monsters some think
we already are—even when

the barista shakes her head
at the banners, says actually,

police be killing whites too.
Look how scary it is

to be here and know
if we die someone

will make a sound
like her before earth

is tipped over us.
Who hasn’t had enough?

Enough burning
bins, pushing

shopping trolleys
into static and sirens?

Who isn’t chanting
enough, enough,

enough, throwing spells,
the rebellious

holding what they can
in front of a supermarket

or police stations
or voting booths—I am

kind to the man
sitting next to me

in C.L.R James Library, even if
his breathing disturbs me.

Can we disagree graciously
I am tired of people

not knowing the volume
of their power. Who doesn’t

some silence at night?

Copyright © 2019 by Raymond Antrobus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 27, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

The police set about their work so tenderly! Like dolls built to simulate laughter. 
Like bells, they watch the space between themselves, not us. Its milky white. 

Their whos and wherefores have been smudged for our enchantment.  Once-upon-
their-bodies steamed good and stiff right into those ruffled blackcoats. 

And that’s how we like them, flushed, immobile to our bootless haste,
to the loose cargo drifting by—
                               calliope of tin and cash dashing asphalt.

We like each pistol’s toy piano ping, how it signals adjustments to temperature,
alters by degrees our own satisfactions, pin by pin,

a sound to rejoice in, as the police rejoice, without moving your lips or eyelids. 
The held sigh of a nebula, swelling. How we envy 

the buckles that clasp back at them. Their radios, looser, lean into the white air—
thumbed postcoitally, mindful, yet distracted. Their leather straps have been 
lathered and scraped and are lathered again by fog’s fur-based intelligence, 

that we wrap about our shoulders, that a splatter of ice-mud clings to. Their laces 
are latched 

to thread-holes as they themselves are latched to this morning, bent, raffiné with
frost. Imagine, their bodies a drum collecting us like steady beads in a dream!
And us as fervent, our flesh pink with flaps. 

Originally published in The Hat. Copyright © 2005 Tom Thompson. Used with permission of the author.