To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last
inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice
for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be
no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China
for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go
fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say
their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,
can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—
a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.
To be a backpack of PB&J & every
thing I know, for my brothers, who are becoming
their own storms. To be, for me, nobody,
homebody, body in bed watching TV. To go 2D
& be a painting, an amateur’s hilltop & stars,
simple decoration for the new apartment
with you. To be close, J.,
to everything that is close to you—
blue blanket, red cup, green shoes
with pink laces.
To be the blue & the red.
The green, the hot pink.
From When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. Copyright © 2016 by Chen Chen. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
Dressed all in plastic,
which means oil,
we’re bright-eyed, scrambling
for the colored cubes
on the rug’s polymer.
is a tiny car.
When we can’t unscrew the tops
we cry for help.
To sleep is to fall
our worst suspicions
may be pleasurable;
we are carried,
the body can heal,
Creatures that never wake
can sprout a whole new
This may be wrong.
Copyright © 2020 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
The season turned like the page of a glossy fashion magazine. In the park the daffodils came up and in the parking lot, the new car models were on parade. Sometimes I think that nothing really changes— The young girls show the latest crop of tummies, and the new president proves that he's a dummy. But remember the tennis match we watched that year? Right before our eyes some tough little European blonde pitted against that big black girl from Alabama, cornrowed hair and Zulu bangles on her arms, some outrageous name like Vondella Aphrodite— We were just walking past the lounge and got sucked in by the screen above the bar, and pretty soon we started to care about who won, putting ourselves into each whacked return as the volleys went back and forth and back like some contest between the old world and the new, and you loved her complicated hair and her to-hell-with-everybody stare, and I, I couldn't help wanting the white girl to come out on top, because she was one of my kind, my tribe, with her pale eyes and thin lips and because the black girl was so big and so black, so unintimidated, hitting the ball like she was driving the Emancipation Proclamation down Abraham Lincoln's throat, like she wasn't asking anyone's permission. There are moments when history passes you so close you can smell its breath, you can reach your hand out and touch it on its flank, and I don't watch all that much Masterpiece Theatre, but I could feel the end of an era there in front of those bleachers full of people in their Sunday tennis-watching clothes as that black girl wore down her opponent then kicked her ass good then thumped her once more for good measure and stood up on the red clay court holding her racket over her head like a guitar. And the little pink judge had to climb up on a box to put the ribbon on her neck, still managing to smile into the camera flash, even though everything was changing and in fact, everything had already changed— Poof, remember? It was the twentieth century almost gone, we were there, and when we went to put it back where it belonged, it was past us and we were changed.
From What Narcissism Means to Me. Copyright © 2003 by Tony Hoagland. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.
The old man cruises our neighborhood
in a 2-tone Chevy built like a fort;
he offers 25 cents to the girls
who’ll come close enough to let him pinch
a cheek—gaze hidden behind dark
glasses, one hand on the wheel,
one eye on the rearview mirror.
Across the street, we dare
each other: you do it; no,
you do it—pulled as much by the glory
of what a whole quarter buys,
by the yearning to be wanted
by someone—we’re just trailer court kids
on a Saturday morning made of asphalt,
shaggy pines and rain. Our mothers
chain smoke Pall Malls inside thin walls,
fathers or stepfathers or mothers’ boyfriends
out hunting work or already drinking.
We’ve all spent nights waiting outside The Mecca
in our parents’ old cars, peering over back seats
into dark windows as if wishing
could erase those light-years of distance.
I am a hungry heart on skinny legs,
standing on the edge of a journey—
no maps, no guides, instincts muddled
by neglect or abandonment or mistake;
naked, letting other people dress me
in trust, shame, lust. I want to say
I will learn how to hide my longing—
that invisible sign scrawled on my forehead
like an SOS revealing my location to the enemy—
but the truth is something more like this:
If there is a patron saint of trailer courts,
if Our Lady of the Single-Wide watches over
potholed streets, crew-cut bullies,
stolen bikes and wildflower ditches, if
children learn to brandish scabs and scars
like medals; if a prayer exists to banish predators—
well, no one taught me that magic.
So I step into that road, cross that street,
take that bribe—and keep walking, out
of that trailer park, away from that childhood.
I follow my hunger, my emptiness, the flame
on my forehead not betrayal but reminder:
it’s not wrong to want, to ask—not wrong—
I keep the beacon lit so love might see me.
Copyright © 2021 by Deborah A. Miranda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.