Once there was a tree with sturdy branches
Olive branch
Executive branch
Branch out
Once there was fruit dropping at the end of the branch

Red soil yields strange fruit
Bitter fruit
Rotten fruit
Fruit flies

Once there was a limb at the end of the brand
Limp limb
Broken limb
Dead limb on a living tree

There were flowers at the end of the tree.
Flowers on a graveside
Open grave
Unmarked grave
Unmapped land, without zip code or address.

At the end of the flowers the blood
The blood, cries
The blood bleeds out
The blood asks: what have you done?

Copyright © 2020 by Chasity Gunn. This poem originally appeared in Electric Moon, October 2020. Used with permission of the author.

The sun was gone, and the moon was coming
Over the blue Connecticut hills;
The west was rosy, the east was flushed,
And over my head the swallows rushed
This way and that, with changeful wills.
I heard them twitter and watched them dart
Now together and now apart
Like dark petals blown from a tree;
The maples stamped against the west
Were black and stately and full of rest,
And the hazy orange moon grew up
And slowly changed to yellow gold
While the hills were darkened, fold on fold
To a deeper blue than a flower could hold.
Down the hill I went, and then
I forgot the ways of men,
For night-scents, heady, and damp and cool
Wakened ecstasy in me
On the brink of a shining pool.

O Beauty, out of many a cup
You have made me drunk and wild
Ever since I was a child,
But when have I been sure as now
That no bitterness can bend
And no sorrow wholly bow
One who loves you to the end?
And though I must give my breath
And my laughter all to death,
And my eyes through which joy came,
And my heart, a wavering flame;
If all must leave me and go back
Along a blind and fearful track
So that you can make anew,
Fusing with intenser fire,
Something nearer your desire;
If my soul must go alone
Through a cold infinity,
Or even if it vanish, too,
Beauty, I have worshipped you.

Let this single hour atone
For the theft of all of me.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Can she be planted where the corner of the garden’s rocks are down?

I would like bleeding heart or fuchsia to redden the banks

In their brief seasons. Rain, rain, Irish rain.

Diamonds on the stamens when the sun goes blind.

And sweet pea, pale pink, pale blue, perfume.

Please, if you can, make sure there is an ash tree, young and tight and green.

And bring back the smell of turf for the burning. Of her. Of me.

Copyright © 2021 by Fanny Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Linda Hogan

Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff

being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.

The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust. 

The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth

to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes, 
made quickly, and without much suffering.

The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.

We know this, though we forget.

Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world

of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.

Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—

scattered so far beyond reach.

Copyright © 2021 by Danusha Laméris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Give me your hand and give me your love,
give me your hand and dance with me.
A single flower, and nothing more,
a single flower is all we'll be.

Keeping time in the dance together,
singing the tune together with me, 
grass in the wind, and nothing more,
grass in the wind is all we'll be.

I'm called Hope and you're called Rose:
but losing our names we'll both go free,
a dance on the hills, and nothing more,
a dance on the hills is all we'll be.


Dame La Mano 

Dame la mano y danzaremos;
dame la mano y me amarás.
Como una sola flor seremos,
como una flor, y nada más.

El mismo verso cantaremos,
al mismo paso bailarás.
Como una espiga ondularemos,
como una espiga, y nada más.

Te llamas Rosa y yo Esperanza;
pero tu nombre olvidarás,
porque seremos una danza
en la colina y nada más. 

From Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin. Copyright © 2003 Ursula K. Le Guin. Courtesy of University of New Mexico Press. 

This much the gods vouchsafe today:
    That we two lie in the clover,
Watching the heavens dip and sway,
    With galleons sailing over.

This much is granted for an hour:
    That we are young and tender,
That I am bee and you are flower,
    Honey-mouthed and swaying slender.

This sweet of sweets is ours now:
    To wander through the land,
Plucking an apple from its bough
    To toss from hand to hand.

No thing is certain, joy nor sorrow,
    Except the hour we know it;
Oh, wear my heart today; tomorrow
    Who knows where the winds will blow it?

This poem is in the public domain. 

His priestly gestures, consecrating the broken eggs,
hands moving over the stove, slabs of meat

skittering in grease, drop biscuits big as a cat’s
head, threaded with cheese.

Him, making the fountain, making lantana, acanthus,
making bloom and ripple, song, making the birds.

My husband, the blue room, the bright room, best china,
best silver lifted from a box in the closet,

its red beds of best silver, put back later for later.
My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.

See him, crying in the Dublin airport—
he doesn’t want you to see. Can you see

the eucomis, its waxy leaves, its stalk blossoming
in the hot sun, pushing up among the marigolds?

Scars from this or that on shin or back, wrist or hand,
the way the garden loves him, the bees.

Him among the lilies, his hands lilies, his mouth
a twist of quince, his scent.

My husband among the lilies.

My husband, sauntering down the aisles. Him, sauntering
down the aisles at the flea market, dust settling

on everything, his small flashlight, his blue eyes,
his sound of geese, a train. Look,

something glitters and is gone. My husband, the gold
in the trees, falling, and him, a coverlet of mulch

across the beds, or asleep, the heat of him,
the hot water bottle of him, the cat purring at our feet.

My husband who is not my husband who is still mine.
The blue walls say so, the orchid deciding to bloom again.

Copyright © 2014 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.

translated from the German by Edward Snow

Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape
and the little churchyard with its lamenting names
and the terrible reticent gorge in which the others
end: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lay ourselves down again and again
among the flowers, and look up into the sky.

“Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape” from Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Translation copyright © 1996 by Edward Snow.

(Ghost-Story)

Out of the storm that muffles shining night
Flash roses ghastly-sweet,
And lilies far too pale.
There is a pang of livid light,
A terror of familiarity,
I see a dripping swirl of leaves and petals
That I once tended happily,
Borders of flattened, frightened little things,
And writhing paths I surely walked in that other life—
Day?

My specter-garden beckons to me,
Gibbers horribly—
And vanishes!

This poem is in the public domain.

Still are there wonders of the dark and day:
   The muted shrilling of shy things at night,
      So small beneath the stars and moon;
   The peace, dream-frail, but perfect while the light
      Lies softly on the leaves at noon.
         These are, and these will be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Each dawn, while yet the east is veiléd grey,
   The birds about her window wake and sing;
      And far away, each day, some lark
   I know is singing where the grasses swing;
      Some robin calls and calls at dark.
         These are, and these will be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

The wild flowers that she loved down green ways stray;
   Her roses lift their wistful buds at dawn,
      But not for eyes that loved them best;
   Only her little pansies are all gone,
      Some lying softly on her breast.
         And flowers will bud and be
             Until eternity;
But she who loved them well has gone away.

Where has she gone? And who is there to say?
   But this we know: her gentle spirit moves
      And is where beauty never wanes,
   Perchance by other streams, mid other groves;
      And to us there, ah! she remains
         A lovely memory
             Until eternity;
She came, she loved, and then she went away.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ghosts of all my lovely sins,
     Who attend too well my pillow,
Gay the wanton rain begins;
     Hide the limp and tearful willow.

Turn aside your eyes and ears,
     Trail away your robes of sorrow,
You shall have my further years,—
     You shall walk with me tomorrow.

I am sister to the rain;
     Fey and sudden and unholy,
Petulant at the windowpane,
     Quickly lost, remembered slowly.

I have lived with shades, a shade;
     I am hung with graveyard flowers.
Let me be tonight arrayed
     In the silver of the showers.

Every fragile thing shall rust;
     When another April passes
I may be a furry dust,
     Sifting through the brittle grasses.

All sweet sins shall be forgot;
     Who will live to tell their siring?
Hear me now, nor let me rot
     Wistful still, and still aspiring.

Ghosts of dear temptations, heed;
     I am frail, be you forgiving.
See you not that I have need
     To be living with the living?

Sail, tonight, the Styx’s breast;
     Glide among the dim processions
Of the exquisite unblest,
     Spirits of my shared transgressions. 

Roam with young Persephone,
     Plucking poppies for your slumber …
With the morrow, there shall be
     One more wraith among your number.

From Enough Rope (Boni & Liveright, 1926) by Dorothy Parker. This poem is in the public domain.

              10

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea

Copyright © 1956, 1984, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust from The Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage. Reprinted by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

With gypsies and sailors,
Wanderers of the hills and seas,
I go to seek my fortune.
With pious folk and fair
I must have a parting.
But you will not miss me,––
You who live between the hills
And have never seen the seas.

From The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) by Langston Hughes. This poem is in the public domain.