it is a terror
in the closet   her knees
are limp     eyes straining to see 
every object glows with a 
private halo     pulling down
her skirt       the trickle 
of urine along her thigh and calf
she wipes it carelessly with her hand
biting her lips she fixates on
pebbles and rusty nails along 
the path to the truck            it is an oblivion
seen in matter-of-fact gestures
wiping the child’s nose with her fingers
she says     blow     his eyes shine     as she 
feels the pressure of the doorknob        palms 
wet slipping out of her grasp            she whispers
not now        not yet       we’ve been so careful
he’s a good child         just a little more time
she pleads with them       we will not be 
careless anymore         this time the knob falls 
into the glare of lights        voices scream
orders she does not understand    but obeys
blow    she tells him pulling down her skirt
and wiping his nose with her fingers     later
it is still over      has been over 
since the knob slipped from her hand
like the wet fish that jumped while she tried
to scale it      later after the not yet
not now       the walk nude across the yard
she glimpses the meaning of the order
allows her eyes to widen for one
moment and see the path             it is a coldness
never before felt or imagined       she clutches 
her hands tearing at her thighs    wailing 
to the others she tries to lean on them
to explain the mistake    the small error
nothing is irrevocable     she screams     nothing 
to them trying to lean      they push her away
and her hands cup the knob     for a better hold
to keep out the light        her world is cement
stone    iron 


listening to conversations        over brandy
i am always amazed at their certainty
about the past      how it could have been
different      could have been     turned around
with what ease       they transport themselves
to another time/place      taking the comfort
confidence of an after-dinner drink

                       it would be too impolite
of me to say       my mother hid with me
for two years among ignorant peasants    who
would have turned us in      almost at once      had 
they known who we were      who would have watched 
with glee while we were carted off      even though
grandad had bounced me on his knees and fed me 
from his own spoon      and my mother is a frightened 

                        it would be too impolite 
to say     you do not know yourselves     you do not know 

"perspectives on the second world war" from Her Birth and Later Years: New and Collected Poems1971-2021 © 2022 by Irena Klepfisz. Published by Wesleyan University Press. Used by permission.

translated from the German by Pierre Joris

Aspen tree, your leaves gaze white into the dark.
My mother’s hair ne’er turned white.

Dandelion, so green is the Ukraine.
My fair-haired mother did not come home.

Rain cloud, do you dally by the well?
My quiet mother weeps for all.

Round star, you coil the golden loop.
My mother’s heart was seared by lead.

Oaken door, who ripped you off your hinges?
My gentle mother cannot return.



Espenbaum, dein Laub blickt weiß ins Dunkel.
Meiner Mutter Haar ward nimmer weiß.

Löwenzahn, so grün ist die Ukraine.
Meine blonde Mutter kam nicht heim.

Regenwolke, säumst du an den Brunnen?
Meine leise Mutter weint für alle.

Runder Stern, du schlingst die goldne Schleife.
Meiner Mutter Herz ward wund von Blei.

Eichne Tür, wer hob dich aus den Angeln?
Meine sanfte Mutter kann nicht kommen.

Copyright © 2020 by Pierre Joris. From Memory Rose into Threshold Speech: The Collected Earlier Poetry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020) by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris. Used with the permission of the translator.

was no consolation to the woman
whose husband was strung out on opioids.

Gone to a better place: useless and suspect intel
for the couple at their daughter’s funeral

though there are better places to be
than a freezing church in February, standing

before a casket with a princess motif. 
Some moments can’t be eased

and it’s no good offering clichés like stale
meat to a tiger with a taste for human suffering.

When I hear the word miracle I want to throw up
on a platter of deviled eggs. Everything happens

for a reason: more good tidings someone will try
to trepan your skull to insert. When fire

inhales your house, you don’t care what the haiku says
about seeing the rising moon. You want

an avalanche to bury you. You want to lie down
under a slab of snow, dumb as a jarred

sideshow embryo. What a circus.
The tents dismantled, the train moving on,

always moving, starting slow and gaining speed,
taking you where you never wanted to go.

Copyright © 2024 by Kim Addonizio. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 12, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The mirror shows me how my end begins:
expectant paunch ballooning out the skin,
my stomach pushes out the cotton shirt.
Or else my death was born onto the earth
with me and is this shadow I see gaze
out of the mirror’s labyrinth, and fear
is facing my own face that disappears
like shower steam’s evaporating glaze.
Or else I am my death, bloated fat cells
within me are time bombs and the last tick
detonates the body politic.
Or else it’s something more than I can tell:
thing in the mirror, a stillbirth, unsexed,
pushing the belly out. And what comes next?

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

for Janice Mirikitani

I watched you survivesurvive
your thick hair and wide laugh
a list of words we were not allowed
to write into poems
the blanket is the night
you were too bright to be a star
to give blankets is an ancient trick
for you, a balm
and June who if she was her month
straddling spring and summer
with her arches, tunnels, bridges
then you, might have been her
balance, an autumn predicting
softness, snow that never reaches fog
snow that illuminates no mattermatter the time
you and she making us make words
and we brokebroke by making words
matter and you blanket and stars both and all.

Copyright © 2022 by Youmna Chlala. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

If our angels hover above us,
they will see a darkening cornfield, the spectral traces
of lightning bugs, and two brothers
lying among the stalks.  
We come because sometimes it is hard to live.

The cornstalks, limp under the tropical sun,
revive in the cool of twilight.
The angels will know we have been here for hours.
They will land and rest their feathers around us
and whisper soothing names of winged things: finch, monarch,
whippoorwill, ptarmigan, Daedalus, Icarus, Gabriel ...

The angels will bend down and touch their faces
onto ours and borrow our eyes: Earlier,
a horse slipped, breaking its leg.  
A boy stood beside his younger brother. 
Their father came into the stable, carrying a gun.
Quails flitted out of a bamboo tree; the boy 

traced the trail that had led him here,
the field tilled by the dead horse,
where his brother laid down,
dust on his cheeks.

From Imago by Joseph O. Legaspi (CavanKerry Press, 2007). Copyright © 2007 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the poet.

the way it ricocheted—a boomerang flung 
from your throat, stilling the breathless air.

How you were luminous in it. Your smile. Your hair 
tossed back, flaming. Everyone around you aglow.

How I wanted to live in it those times it ignited us 
into giggles, doubling us over aching and unmoored

for precious minutes from our twin scars—
the thorned secrets our tongues learned too well

to carry. It is impossible to imagine you gone, 
dear one, your laugh lost to some silence I can’t breach,

from which you will not return.

for Fay Botham (May 31, 1968–January 10, 2021)

Copyright © 2022 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.