When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
News item from the New York Times on the lynching of a Negro at Smithville, Ga., December 21, 1919: “The train was boarded so quietly . . . that members of the train crew did not know that the mob had seized the Negro until informed by the prisoner’s guard after the train had left the town . . . A coroner’s inquest held immediately returned the verdict that West came to his death at the hands of unidentified men.”
So quietly they stole upon their prey
And dragged him out to death, so without flaw
Their black design, that they to whom the law
Gave him in keeping, in the broad, bright day,
Were not aware when he was snatched away;
And when the people, with a shrinking awe,
The horror of that mangled body saw,
“By unknown hands!” was all that they could say.
So, too, my country, stealeth on apace
The soul-blight of a nation. Not with drums
Or trumpet blare is that corruption sown,
But quietly—now in the open face
Of day, now in the dark—and when it comes,
Stern truth will never write, “By hands unknown.”
From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.
is like being burned up
in a twelfth-floor elevator.
Or drowned in a flipped SUV.
It’s like waking with scalpels
arrayed on my chest.
Like being banished to 1983.
Having a fight with you
is never, ever less horrid: that whisper
that says you never loved me—
my heart a stalled engine
out the little square window.
Your eyes a white-capped black sea.
Copyright © 2022 by Patrick Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
An old man planted and dug and tended,
Toiling in joy from dew to dew;
The sun was kind, and the rain befriended;
Fine grew his orchard and fair to view.
Then he said: 'I will quiet my thrifty fears,
For here is fruit for my failing years.'
But even then the storm-clouds gathered,
Swallowing up the azure sky;
The sweeping winds into white foam lathered
The placid breast of the bay, hard by;
Then the spirits that raged in the darkened air
Swept o'er his orchard and left it bare.
The old man stood in the rain, uncaring,
Viewing the place the storm had swept;
And then with a cry from his soul despairing,
He bowed him down to the earth and wept.
But a voice cried aloud from the driving rain;
"Arise, old man, and plant again!"
This poem is in the public domain.
My native tongue doesn’t allow
imperfect tense, so it’s difficult
to say how something might used
to happen but no more. Elizabeth
used to walk among these trees.
She used to walk among these trees
but doesn’t anymore. Elizabeth
is no more though she used to be.
She doesn’t anymore but she used
to walk among these trees because
she used to be happy but only
for a short while before she descended
in despair. Elizabeth we could say
used to walk among these trees
because they made her happy.
Elizabeth used to be but no more.
Copyright © 2022 by Michael Simms. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.