In god’s gleaming empire, herds of triceratops
lunge up on their hind legs to somersault
around the plains. The angels lie in the sun
using straight pins to eat hollyhocks. Mostly
they just rub their bellies and hum quietly

to themselves, but the few sentences
they do utter come out as perfect poems.
Here on earth we blather constantly, and
all we say is divided between combat
and seduction. Combat: I understand you perfectly. 
Seduction: Next time don’t say so out loud.
Here the perfect poem eats its siblings

in the womb like a sand shark or a star turning
black hole, then saunters into the world
daring us to stay mad. We know most of our
universe is missing. The perfect poem knows
where it went. The perfect poem is no bigger
than a bear. Its birthday hat comes with
a black veil which prattles on and on about

comet ash and the ten thousand buds of
the tongue. Like people and crows, the
perfect poem can remember faces and hold
grudges. It keeps its promises. The perfect
poem is not gold or lead or a garden gate
locked shut or a sail slapping in a storm.
The perfect poem is its own favorite toy.

It is not a state of mind or a kind of doubt
or a good or bad habit or a flower of any
color. It will not be available to answer
questions. The perfect poem is light as dust
on a bat’s wing, lonely as a single flea.

Copyright © 2017 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The hand was having a hard time holding the pen.

A superficial cut.

A long clear silent night.

A book held open by a dolostone.

The occupant selects a sentence, No one knows
how small the smallest life is.

If there’s a call, it will not be answered.

A bath; the burning of sweetgrass soothe the limbs.

As a memory stings the brain.

The furniture serviceable but weird, on the verge
of grotesque.

The vein of light under the door is a comfort
To the occupant.

The air inhales the passerine lines of a single singer.

A motorcycle saws through the song and goes.

An appliance purrs at intervals.

The pen was bought in Gubbio near
the thin band marking the great dying of dinosaurs.

The pen, a gift.

It has been designed to coax a scream
of beauty from a fissure

of  hairiness.

Iridium in the nib.

Copyright © by C. D. Wright. Used with the permission of the author.

I heard it on the radio,
A woman’s voice saying,
I like for you to be
The space far away

Where poetry figures out
Why you are still
But not absent,
Why you can hear

From somewhere
What’s coming next.
But her voice could not touch
What had flown away.

Nor could she kiss
My mouth, though I repeat
What was understood
Each night and each day.
 

Copyright © 2016 David Biespiel. Used with permission of the author.

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

This poem is in the public domain.

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

                 *

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

                  *

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Copyright © by the Estate of Archibald MacLeish and reprinted by permission of the Estate.

How should I know? The enormous wheels of will  
  Drove me cold-eyed on tired and sleepless feet.  
Night was void arms and you a phantom still,  
  And day your far light swaying down the street.  
As never fool for love, I starved for you;
  My throat was dry and my eyes hot to see.  
Your mouth so lying was most heaven in view,  
  And your remembered smell most agony.  
   
Love wakens love! I felt your hot wrist shiver  
  And suddenly the mad victory I planned
  Flashed real, in your burning bending head...
My conqueror’s blood was cool as a deep river  
  In shadow; and my heart beneath your hand  
  Quieter than a dead man on a bed. 

This poem is in the public domain.

Tell me no more of minds embracing minds, 
     And hearts exchang'd for hearts; 
That spirits spirits meet, as winds do winds, 
     And mix their subt'lest parts; 
That two unbodied essences may kiss, 
And then like Angels, twist and feel one Bliss. 

I was that silly thing that once was wrought 
     To practise this thin love; 
I climb'd from sex to soul, from soul to thought; 
     But thinking there to move, 
Headlong I rolled from thought to soul, and then 
From soul I lighted at the sex again. 

As some strict down-looked men pretend to fast, 
     Who yet in closets eat; 
So lovers who profess they spririts taste, 
     Feed yet on grosser meat; 
I know they boast they souls to souls convey, 
Howe'r they meet, the body is the way. 

Come, I will undeceive thee, they that tread 
     Those vain aerial ways 
Are like young heirs and alchemists misled 
     To waste their wealth and days, 
For searching thus to be for ever rich, 
They only find a med'cine for the itch.

This poem is in the public domain.

Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th'hills shadow steals.
Off with your wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes: and then safely tread
In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes heaven's angels used to be
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these Angels from an evil sprite:
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
 License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
 Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are as Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,
That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed.
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife, show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence:
 To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
What need'st thou have more covering than a man?

This poem is in the public domain.

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
   That floats on high o’er Vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
   A host of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
   And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
   Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
   Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
A Poet could not but be gay
   In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the shew to me had brought:

For oft when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude,
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2017. This poem is in the public domain.

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; 
Lengthen night and shorten day; 
Every leaf speaks bliss to me, 
Fluttering from the autumn tree. 
I shall smile when wreaths of snow 
Blossom where the rose should grow; 
I shall sing when night’s decay 
Ushers in a drearier day.
 

This poem is in the public domain.