A woman has a window in her face: that is the truth. I look like my mother: that is the truth. I want to tell you I am not like her: that is the truth. I am ashamed walking in a woman’s body: that is the truth. I wish to take back everything I say: that is the truth. A window can be a mirror. It can also be a door: that is the truth. As a girl, my mother slept in a shack with no windows and one door: that is the truth. My grandma would slam windows: truth. A mother’s hands are stronger than God: truth. We often use fruit to describe a bruise, like plum or blackberry: truth. My mother’s window blackberried: truth. My mother’s door peached: truth. She loves peaches: that is the truth. My father could not stand them in our house: that is the truth. We had three doors and nine windows in our house: that is the truth. A woman has a face in her window: truth. A father has a window but I don’t know where it is: truth. What burrows is the peach fuzz, he said: that is the truth. I have never been close enough to a peach to eat one: truth. The worst things last on the skin: truth. I don’t like not having things: truth. My father has one door but I can’t find it: truth. Not all windows open: that is the truth. One night I see my father crying in the yard, head in his hands: that is the truth. I make things up that I want for myself: that is the truth.
Copyright © 2018 by Sara Borjas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
my parents were born from a car. they climbed out & kissed the car on its cheek. my grandmother. to be a first generation person. 23 and Me reports i am descendant of pistons & drive trains. 33% irrigation tools. you are what you do. my first job was in a lunch meat factory. now i’m bologna. it’s not so bad being a person. the front seat of a car is more comfortable than the trunk. when they were babies my parents dreamt of being Lamborghinis. not people. you are what your children grow up to do. if i put my parents' names on papers, what happens? the answer is no comment. the answer is quién sabe. the answer is yo no sé, pero no es abogado. people are overrated. give me avocados.
Copyright © 2018 by José Olivarez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Nine goats scamper up the gnarly argan tree and graze it clean. They ingest the wrinkled fruit whole, though it’s the bitter pulp alone that rouses their appetite for more. Sated, they stare at the horizon till branches wear thin and fall. Farmers harvest goats’ droppings to extract the pit rich in kernels of oil. Haven’t you too wished yourself a goat perched punch-drunk on a linden tree, blasé about the gold you might shit, how it might serve both hunger and greed. Haven’t you goaded yourself to balance just a bit longer, chew on some fugitive scents, forget what a ditch the earth is.
Copyright © 2018 by Mihaela Moscaliuc. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 17, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Nobody straightens their hair anymore.
Space trips & limited air supplies will get you conscious quick.
My shea-buttered braids glow planetary
as I turn unconcerned, unburned by the pre-take-off bother.
“Leave it all behind,” my mother’d told me,
sweeping the last specs of copper thread from her front porch steps &
just as quick, she turned her back to me. Why
had she disappeared so suddenly behind that earthly door?
“Our people have made progress, but, perhaps,”
she’d said once, “not enough to guarantee safe voyage
to the Great Beyond,” beyond where Jesus
walked, rose, & ascended in the biblical tales that survived
above sprocket-punctured skylines &
desert-dusted runways jeweled with wrenches & sheet metal scraps.
She’d no doubt exhale with relief to know
ancient practice & belief died hard among the privileged, too.
Hundreds of missions passed & failed, but here
I was strapped in my seat, anticipating—what exactly?
Curved in prayer or remembrance of a hurt
so deep I couldn’t speak. Had that been me slammed to the ground, cuffed,
bulleted with pain as I danced with pain
I couldn’t shake loose, even as the cops aimed pistols at me,
my body & mind both disconnected
& connected & unable to freeze, though they shouted “freeze!”
like actors did on bad television.
They’d watched & thought they recognized me, generic or bland,
without my mother weeping like Mary,
Ruby, Idella, Geneava, or Ester stunned with a grief
our own countrymen refused to see, to
acknowledge or cease initiating, instigating, &
even mocking in the social networks,
ignorant frays bent and twisted like our DNA denied
but thriving and evident nonetheless—
You better believe the last things I saw when far off lifted
were Africa Africa Africa
Africa Africa Africa Africa Africa...
& though it pained me to say it sooner:
the unmistakable absence of the Great Barrier Reef.
Copyright © 2018 by Yona Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
You will transcend your ancestor’s suffering You will pick a blue ball. You will throw it to yourself. You will be on the other side to receive. Green leaves grow around your face. Hair stands on your body. You look at old photographs that say: The bread is warm! A child is a blessing! That’s what I said! I meant it! You could say this is a poem. Like the great halves of the roof that caved and carved together. Found us before words and tender-footing. Before wrongdoing and the octaves of blue above us all.
Copyright © 2018 by Sarah Gambito. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Had I been raised by doves wouldn’t I have learned to fly By wolves to hunt in packs Had I been raised by gods wouldn’t I too be godlike In the movies the orphan is the killer not loved enough unwanted But wasn’t I most wanted My mother fish goddess dove into the sea for the sin of loving a mortal man I love a mortal man too At night I coax him from sleep rousing him with my mouth By day we build high brick walls around us our Babylon Had my mother lived to see me rise from this boundless deep would she recognize me as I have grown large and my arms have become the long arms of the sea reaching over and over for the shore
Copyright © 2018 by Mary-Kim Arnold. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
New moon in midheaven, in Libra. The hermit wields two swords. Temptation overcomes the star. The chariot travails with weakend strength. Death rises to meet every face you meet. Ten wands whittled from prickly ash. Fall in love with a teacher. Build a home on the moon. Grow twinberry and gentian. The chart culminates in a stellium of ginger coins and wild yam discs.
Copyright © 2018 by Sade LaNay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m the matron-king of hell In yoga pants and a disused bra for a laurel & shatter the scene inside your simmering year Like a ransom scene filmed through shattered transom I smear in my glamour I make as if to justify the ways of God to man That’s my ticket in That’s why God lets me speak here Crystostoma’d on his couch Even though I’m derived from Hell Hellish Helenish Hellenic I’m the hanged man in this version pegged up in mine pegged jeans by mine ancles, an inversion mine manacles are monocoles I spit out the key and squinny through the keyhole back at the unquittable world In my rainment of gummy sunglasses and crows wings for epaulets I delicately squawk from the edges of things balance unsteadily on the bust of the goddess squawk: Aeschelus Euphorion Aeschelus Euphorion &: I’m going to tell you something so bad that when you hear it you’re gonna know it’s true. Like all the worst stories It comes from the heart & it goes there too. Back here in St. Joseph County a struck duck flies crown first into the asphalt and is stuck there with its brains for adhesive like someone licked the pavement and sealed it a postalette with its cartoon feet in the air and its Jeff Koon wings that’s roadkill for you: realer than real and the cars mill by with their wheels in reverse heavy as chariots in a dealership commercial and I am walking my dog by the river a matron from hell look on me and despise I am like the river: thick as beer and with a sudsy crown there polyethylene bags drape the banks like herons and a plastic jug rides a current with something like the determination that creases mine own brow as I attempt to burn my lunch off the determination of garbage riding for its drain hey-nonny it’s spring and everything wears a crown as it rides its thick doom to its noplace gently brushed by pollen by the wings of hymenoptera like a helicoptera performing its opera all above Indiana bearing the babes away from their births to their berths in the NICU in Indie-un-apple-us Unapple us, moron God, You’ve turned me Deophobic the greasy tracks you leave all over the internet the slicey DNA in the scramblechondria the torn jeans panicked like space invaders in an arcane video game oh spittle-pink blossom the tree don’t need nomore shook down to slick the pavement like a payslip you disused killer app each thought strikes my brain like the spirals in a ham pink pink for easter sliced by something machinic each thought zeros in flies hapless and demented festooned like a lawn dart finds its bit of eye spills its champagne split of pain then we come to our senses suddenly alone in the endzone
Copyright © 2018 by Joyelle McSweeney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 13, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Ask me again how the story should go. How much the underbelly of my garden held to bring forth spring, how much hunger I had to devour to get the sweetness I wanted from it. Did this devouring frighten you? I frightened myself in how much I promised to tell you if you asked me again about the water the water the water. What errors I made calculating the downward trajectory of memory rattling loose in the inhale, sharp in the shoulder blades exhaling like wings or whales or swizzles of light. Ask me again what I offered as a sacrifice to the rooster crowing his betrayal of morning. Forgiveness, what a sharp blade I press my body hard against.
Copyright © 2018 by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
(Stand Your Ground) In this one, ladies and gentlemen, Beware, be clear: the brown man, The able lawyer, the paterfamilias, Never makes it out of the poem alive: The rash, all-too-daily report, The out of the blue bullet Blithely shatters our treasured Legal eagle’s bones and flesh— In the brusque spectacle of point-blank force, On a crimsoned street, Where a revered immigrant plummets Over a contested parking spot, And the far-seeing sages insist, Amid strident maenads Of at-the-ready patrol car sirens, Clockwork salvos, The charismatic Latino lawyer’s soul Is banished, elsewhere, without a shred Of eloquence in the matter— And the brute, churning Surfaces of the world, They bear our beloved citizen away— Which means, austere saints And all-seeing masters, If I grasp your bracing challenge: At our lives’ most brackish hour, Our highest mission isn’t just to bawl, But to turn the soul-shaking planet Of the desecrated parking lot (The anti-miracle), The blunt, irascible white man’s Unnecessary weapon, And the ruse of self-defense Into justice-cries and ballots? Into newfound pledges and particles of light? in memory of J. Garza, 1949-2017
Copyright © 2018 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
I like literature that makes me think: Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, A constant reference to the things that I’m supposed to want, but ironically, but effectively, like a commercial that employs racial stereotypes but still makes me want to go to that restaurant to scoop the vestiges of salad on my plate with a piece of bread. Before I moved, I was obsessed with the mall. I wanted to spray myself with scents and wear overpriced loungewear as a nihilistic act. I like Instagram posts that make me think: Crystals, juice, my psychic, These collective practices of the personal. I can feel my heart is a gravitational force, and my head bonded only by mystical means. One end attracts, the other repulses. Some of my friends live in the neighborhood, some live in the woods. We talk about how to combat gentrification and what to do if you see a ghost. I like Twitter posts that make me think: Meaningless, prescription drugs, inadequacy. I felt resistant to aimless positivity for a long time. I wanted to be a soulless yoga bitch with blacked out eyes doing drugs on a pontoon, a perfect body filled with destruction. I wanted to create a cult to my body, but most jobs think its cute to show gratitude with carbs and Seroquel gives me the munchies. I like life experiences that make me think: Fish tank, trees, justice, we made it, aliens, secret society, perfect feed, torrent download, hair and makeup, freak paradise, small objects on a window sill, sweet flea market find, alternative section, slow motion suburban intro with darkwave soundtrack, oasis in the ghetto with organic snacks, etc.
Copyright © 2018 by Bree Jo'ann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Through predictive analytics I understood the inevitability of the caged-up babies They keep coffins at the border for when the refugees get too far from home How many thousands of bodies can we fit in a tent or a swimming pool We can live without the unknown in front of us if we keep enough babies in cages The cardboard box sleeps one kid comfortably Two is snug efficient recommended in times of austerity Relational values change in relation to market sentiments This is the danger of having too much access to illegal bodies Let’s pretend the illegal bodies are bankers Let’s stick all the bankers in cages Let’s shove shit in their mouths Let’s pretend they are eating cryptocurrency Let’s create a crisis let’s induce inflation Let’s undervalue the cost of their bodies I dream of an economy where one arrested immigrant is replaced with one dead banker I am not responsible for my dreams rather I am responsible for what I do with my dreams When the sleep medication wears off I am alone with the machines that watch me The global economy brightens my room with the surveillance of my rotten assets
Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Borzutzky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Everything in the beginning is the same.
Clouds let us look at the sun.
Words let us watch a man about to be killed.
The eye-hollows of his skull see home.
When they stone him,
he knows what a stone is—each word, a stone:
The hole of his nose
as dark as the door I pass through.
I wander the halls numerously.
He’s no longer my grandfather in weight.
Among old bodies piled high, they aim.
Living can tranquilize you.
Copyright © 2018 by E. J. Koh. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
it ends my sleep to want my story about
my skin melting in the sun that day of
summer and a doctor who tells me i am dying,
that thing i hide under my nails like dirt
scratched from summer skin.
so i pick up a pencil and begin to erase myself.
erasure is sometimes editing.
immigration is always editing.
my father with the heart that chokes
him in his sleep, in his shorter and shorter
walks around concrete and glass sculptures,
around mother who keeps leaning one
way then the other at the precipice of fall
as he yells promises at her to keep her alive.
in this journey that began with his misstep
across waters and languages and his
hands on my face teaching me to long
how did he mean to rewrite me—
what will i say to the sky and the soil
neither foreign or home when they are
all gone leaving me to hold our name up
alone when i am neither tree nor
in the mirror i look for my head that
has begun to shake, the weight of how
much i am afraid, how it makes me look
like mother when i was a boy—seeing
it for the first time in her, demanding
she make it stop—
this fear of sleep has kept me up for years
did you know? because in dreams there is always
a point when your mother dies while
you are traveling through space searching
for your lost child and other such
i spent the day moving my body, guided
by a stranger’s voice and somewhere
on the floor my bones recognized pain
told me that in this too / (that is my body)
there are borders to cross
there are borders not meant to cross
interstitial—it’s a new word i learned
something about the space between
things, but it is obvious like my body that
wants to break, that space is the thing not
the between, the mass that cannot be occupied
a space between spaces that tell me
i am a child of none
i capture my hand grasping at the sky outside
the window of another plane in mid-flight.
it was orange. it wasn’t anything.
and the hand belonged to no one.
there was only the reaching.
Copyright © 2018 by Chiwan Choi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Which is to say that like a good theoretical objectified body, my identity was created not by me but by the various desires and beliefs of those around me. – Daniel Borzutzky My body is a small cave door it’s a slick whale a jubilant sea of tall grass that sways & makes its way across countries & lovers I love love-making I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in touch I have these breasts & some would want to come on hands & knees to worship them call me flower or desert Maybe I was only supposed to be stone or a baby eel long & layered a nun? I don’t remember ever saying yes just no I am searching for my own body not the one I was told is so I want to be always open like a canyon Maybe I was only supposed to be tree or temple In some circles I am just an open gate a sinful bauble Once someone said you are this & I never questioned it I am searching my own body for God or someone like her—
Copyright © 2018 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
California is a desert and I am a woman inside it.
The road ahead bends sideways and I lurch within myself.
I’m full of ugly feelings, awful thoughts, bad dreams
of doom, and so much love left unspoken.
Is mercury in retrograde? someone asks.
Someone answers, No, it’s something else
like that though. Something else like that.
That should be my name.
When you ask me am I really a woman, a human being,
a coherent identity, I’ll say No, I’m something else
like that though.
A true citizen of planet earth closes their eyes
and says what they are before the mirror.
A good person gives and asks for nothing in return.
I give and I ask for only one thing—
Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me. Hear me.
Hear me. Bear the weight of my voice and don’t forget—
things haunt. Things exist long after they are killed.
Copyright © 2018 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
what I really mean. He paints my name across the floral bed sheet and ties the bottom corners to my ankles. Then he paints another for himself. We walk into town and play the shadow game, saying Oh! I’m sorry for stepping on your shadow! and Please be careful! My shadow is caught in the wheels of your shopping cart. It's all very polite. Our shadows get dirty just like anyone’s, so we take them to the Laundromat—the one with the 1996 Olympics themed pinball machine— and watch our shadows warm against each other. We bring the shadow game home and (this is my favorite part) when we stretch our shadows across the bed, we get so tangled my husband grips his own wrist, certain it’s my wrist, and kisses it.
Copyright © 2018 by Paige Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 6, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Out of albumen and blood, out of amniotic brine, placental sea-swell, trough, salt-spume and foam, you came to us infinitely far, little traveler, from the other world— skull-keel and heel-hull socketed to pelvic cradle, rib-rigging, bowsprit-spine, driftwood-bone, the ship of you scudding wave after wave of what-might-never-have-been. Memory, stay faithful to this moment, which will never return: may I never forget when we first saw you, there on the other side, still fish-gilled, water-lunged, your eelgrass-hair and seahorse-skeleton floating in the sonogram screen like a ghost from tomorrow, moth-breath quicksilver in snowy pixels, fists in sleep-twitch, not yet alive but not not, you who were and were not, a thunder of bloodbeats sutured in green jags on the ultrasound machine like hooves galloping from eternity to time, feet kicking bone-creel and womb-wall, while we waited, never to waken in that world again, the world without the shadow of your death, with no you or not-you, no is or was or might-have-been or never-were. May I never forget when we first saw you in your afterlife which was life, soaked otter-pelt and swan-down crowning, face cauled in blood and mucus-mud, eyes soldered shut, wet birth-cord rooting you from one world to the next, you who might not have lived, might never have been born, like all the others, as we looked at every pock and crook of your skull, every clotted hair, seal-slick on your blue-black scalp, every lash, every nail, every pore, every breath, with so much wonder that wonder is not the word—
Copyright © 2018 by Suji Kwock Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.