In a churchyard old and still,
Where the breeze-touched branches thrill
To and fro,
Giant oak trees blend their shade
O'er a sunken grave-mound, made
No stone, crumbling at its head,
Bears the mossed name of the dead
But a myriad blossoms' grace
Clothes with trembling light the place
Of his sleep.
Was a young man in his strength
Laid beneath this low mound's length,
Did a maiden's parents wail
As they saw her, pulseless, pale,
Was it else one full of days,
Who had traveled darksome ways,
And was tired,
Who looked forth unto the end,
And saw Death come as a friend
Who it was that rests below
Not earth's wisest now may know,
Or can tell;
But these blossoms witness bear
They who laid the sleeper there
Loved him well.
In the dust that closed him o'er
Planted they the garden store
Deemed most sweet,
Till the fragrant gleam, outspread,
Swept in beauty from his head
To his feet.
Still, in early springtime's glow,
Guelder-roses cast their snow
O'er his rest;
Still sweet-williams breathe perfume
Where the peonies' crimson bloom
Drapes his breast.
Passing stranger, pity not
Him who lies here, all forgot,
'Neath this earth;
Some one loved him—more can fall
To no mortal. Love is all
Life is worth.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
junk yard, Goodwill, crushed cans, buy-1-get-1-free, re-runs, dead leaves in the pool, no lifeguard, landlord no English, bounced check, smog check, two—no, need three jobs, back entrance, under the table, no ride after school, loud dogs, mean neighbors, no neighbors, someone died there, FOR RENT sign, up for months, rusted carts, bruised fruit, free bones, just ask, beef tongue, chicken broth, chicken hearts, clouded eye of fish on ice, fry it extra crispy, the house smells like patis and Windex and roses from the rosewater bath to heal the kidney, traffic, church is packed, late for church, not going to church, news of a shooting, news of a robbery, news of the boy raped at prom, pictures of the teens in court, animals!, those crying parents, his crying parents, Rodney King, Reginald Denny, everyone’s yelling on Ricki or Jerry or Maury or Montel and Oprah is on the cover of her own magazine, dentist office, insurance voucher, no social, permanent address, temporary address, magazines with the address torn off, it’s your first time, the handsome dentist says, he touches you and you feel special and rich and white and American and healthy and taken care of, T.C.C.I.C., keep in touch, have a nice summer, we’ll be friendz 4 forever, never change
Copyright © 2019 Jan-Henry Gray. This poem was originally published in Quarterly West. Used with permission of the author.
Dubbed undetectable, I can’t kill
The people you touch, and I can’t
Blur your view
Of the pansies you’ve planted
Outside the window, meaning
I can’t kill the pansies, but I want to.
I want them dying, and I want
To do the killing. I want you
To heed that I’m still here
Just beneath your skin and in
The way anger dwells in a man
Who studies the history of his nation.
If I can’t leave you
Dead, I’ll have
You vexed. Look. Look
Again: show me the color
Of your flowers now.
From The Tradition. Copyright © 2019 by Jericho Brown. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.
Exotic, “omg so thick,” a rug, so to speak—
black cortex, I can almost be beautiful
with you. Once, mother snatched
my split ends like newly acquired money
and named them Taliban Beard.
I never wanted this much of anything,
so I scissored you at the scrunchy
and sold you all to the World Wide Web.
In plastic bags, you were shipped
next to different manes, the past
stored in your filaments like fetuses
in formaldehyde, fragrances distending
as if skin of people huddled
into the eyeless belly of a boat at night.
Cut and alone, dark keratin lies cold
in factory halls: congregation of wait,
you’re patient until you too are wanted.
But when my spools stop, and the silence holds—
let them braid you into other heads.
Let them brush you for my funeral.
Let those of you spared on hospital tiles,
picked from lovers’ teeth, and nestled deep
in the vacuum, or shampooed
between dirt and debris in drains, light up.
May you glow with the weight of love
you can only share with what pries
out of yourself. Those stuck to balloons,
left in brushes, escapees taken away to elsewhere—
what is to be said of you? I won’t be gone
until you are. Heavy root
that rots to bloom when I shrink—
stay and conquer the sargasso in my tomb.
Copyright © 2019 Aria Aber. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.
between their brows—
blood flowers bloom.
Child of summer
horses in the mud.
under storm, ferrying
the jewel beetle.
falling on a
Copyright © 2019 Ryan C. K. Choi. This poem originally appeared in Kenyon Review, May/June 2019. Reprinted with permission of the author.