I found the lion in my living room
curled on the carpet, licking his red claws,
and he looked up, haloed with fur,
a bloom of blood around his smile,
and yawned his jaws so wide
I saw between his great black lips
my world in all its flaming symmetry,
the corona of cities, people tithing to war ships
that rip the blue sky-fabric of the sea,
falling towers and those trapped underneath,
the trillion suns like sparkles
on his tongue, each planet crushed
like a mint between his teeth.

I won’t say this was a dream.
How could it be? I felt the hot rubber
of his lips, the tongue’s wet slubber,
the sirocco of his breath steaming my face
as I gripped those jaws and wrestled
in a whirl with the dumb beast.

I won’t claim this was a vision.
It was the lion for real this time,
the beast whose hunched muscle
I’d always sensed in the dark apartment,
whom I’d known only by long scribbles
of yellow hair left on the couch,
and the shadow paws that push me
down into the bed at night.
Now here he was, upright beast
playing claw-piano on my back
and letting out a bomb blast roar
as we knocked lamps to the floor and danced.

At last, he rolled on his side and gazed
from carnivorous amber eyes
as if to say, “Stroke me, I won’t attack.”
“Simba,” I said, and lost my hands
inside the nimbus of his mane,
and then I felt my way down
to his haunches, combed his hide,
the reddened prairie of his wheatgrass pelt
until it seemed it was my own body streaking
like yellow lightning across the veldt,
and I felt the slender springbok neck
between my teeth, pulsing, and bellowed
with all the joyous pain of being
soiled with lion funk, rank and dancing,
a fifty year old man in a lion suit.

I won’t say this is true, but it’s true 
when I come home the frizzy neighborly 
lap cats leave off from chasing squirrels, 
snuffle up to me like kittens,
and though this lion with sinews that stretch 
like symbols into the infinite and the carnal
will curl up and go to sleep again
will go back to being a paper lion, 
unreal but leaving remembrances 
coiled yellow on my carpets, 
I still feel his oven breath, the arc lamps 
of his eyes, and feel the great paw at night
pushing me down into the shadow cave 
where the rest of my self 
breathes asleep, never to be known, 
never to be born for real.

From Beast in the Apartment (Sheep Meadow Press, 2014) by Tony Barnstone. Copyright © 2014 by Tony Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author. 

At Shaw’s Market the lobster tank sits
to the right of the fish counter, just left 
of the freezer with the fish sticks and frozen 
perch. Therein lie the lobsters, stacked like 
so many traps, brackish and silent, their pincers 
rendered useless, wrapped shut tight in yellow 
plastic. Scuttled into these briny and light-dulled 
shallows, they hulk like the wrecks of some 
forgotten sea floor. One evening, uneasy, 
I went home to read what I could: phylum, 
arthropoda – cousins to trilobites, crabs, insects, 
spiders. I studied the neurobiology, learned 
lobsters have hundreds of eyes but do not see, 
not exactly, and I thought of one I judged 
somnolent flinching his taped pincers at my 
reflection looming like an eclipse, my domestic-
ated glimpse into the deep, what terror
he must have felt coupled with an absence 
of sediment that must have felt like, well, 
nothing. Six hundred million years, I thought 
of him there, sedated, stunned by the salt light. 
The next day I returned intending to purchase 
several and set them free; failing, I drove by 
myself to the beach where I stared at the sea. 
Lobsters once ruled all I could see, their armored 
carapaces inviolable, feeding on anything that 
might be. Lords of the Cambrian prehistory, 
they crawled out of time and into the late 
Quaternary, which is to say, us, left to rule 
the world as we must. What thief waits for 
me, I can’t help but think, as I leave the store
with my groceries, feel my way through the lot
looking for my lost sedan, crawling with unease
through the summer dark and soft salt-breeze?

Copyright © 2003 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in Bowdoin Magazine, Vol. 74, No. 2 (Winter 2003). Used with the permission of the author.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
               Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
               Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
               This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
               Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
               Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
               'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
               Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
               With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
               Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
               Of 'Never—nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
               Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
               She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
               Shall be lifted—nevermore!

This version appeared in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849. For other versions, please visit the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#R.

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This poem is in the public domain.

there are stars in their caps, soldiers
crouched as if the revolution
only walks at knee level. before them, a sea 

of students: one adjusting his glasses, his face 
turned towards some invisible turmoil, 
this refusal that could bring everything 

tomorrow or simply life. or simply 
bullets slicing the Square, shouts 
& fears running & running into bodies

that ripple 
onto concrete 
like children 

napping under Beijing sun, 
eyelids still as peace—          still
as red pooling, as ink

resisting its meaning—           resisting
the fist of a government crushing ambitions
into pennies 

while a single protestor, white 
shirt tucked in like my father 
wears to church, stands 

before a tank 
the way one stands 
before god:

where it moves, he moves. 
where he stands, it stops. 

man & machine dancing, 
carrier bag swinging from his left 
hand, the other one raised as if

he were hailing a cab, having just 
purchased books for the semester, a pack 
of calligraphy paper & an album 

by John Denver, who my immigrant father 
first heard in China in 1979, Denver’s twang 
blaring across campus, in the halls, on the streets, ringing

through every child’s freedom dream—
so almost-heaven that my father, 
upon hearing the news, eats 

his oatmeal in silence, watches
the spoon’s craters disappear
into mush and the clouds

that float over Arizona 
desert, how they divide light 
from the road.

Copyright © 2024 by Marisa Lin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

A naked child is running
along the path toward us,
her arms stretched out,
her mouth open,
the world turned to trash
behind her.

She is running from the smoke
and the soldiers, from the bodies
of her mother and little sister
thrown down into a ditch,
from the blown-up bamboo hut
from the melted pots and pans.
And she is also running from the gods
who have changed the sky to fire
and puddled the earth with skin and blood.
She is running--my god--to us,
10,000 miles away,
reading the caption
beneath her picture
in a weekly magazine.
All over the country
we're feeling sorry for her
and being appalled at the war
being fought in the other world.
She keeps on running, you know,
after the shutter of the camera
clicks. She's running to us.
For how can she know,
her feet beating a path
on another continent?
How can she know
what we really are?
From the distance, we look
so terribly human.

From A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women, edited by Marilyn Arnold, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, and Kristen Tracy, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.