The sky tonight, so without aliens. The woods, very lacking
in witches. But the people, as usual, replete
with people. & so you, with your headset, sit
in the home office across the hall, stuck in a hell
of strangers crying, computers dying, the new
father’s dropped-in-toilet baby
photos, the old Canadian, her grandson Gregory,
all-grown-up-now Greg, who gave her this phone
but won’t call her. You call her
wonderful. You encourage her to tell you what’s wrong
with her device. You with your good-at-your-job
good-looking-ness, I bet even over the phone
it’s visible. I bet all the Canadian grandmas
want you, but hey, you’re with me. Hey, take off
that headset. Steal away from your post. Cross
the hall, you sings-the-chorus-too-soon, you
played-tennis-in-college-build, you Jeffrey, you
Jeff-ship full of stars, cauldron full of you,
come teach me a little bit
of nothing, in the dark
Copyright © 2017 Chen Chen. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.
In some other life, I can hear you
breathing: a pale sound like running
fingers through tangled hair. I dreamt
again of swimming in the quarry
& surfaced here when you called for me
in a voice only my sleeping self could
know. Now the dapple of the aspen
respires on the wall & the shades cut
its song a staff of light. Leave me—
that me—in bed with the woman
who said all the sounds for pleasure
were made with vowels I couldn’t
hear. Keep me instead with this small sun
that sips at the sky blue hem of our sheets
then dips & reappears: a drowsy penny
in the belt of Venus, your aureole nodding
slow & copper as it bobs against cotton
in cornflower or clay. What a waste
the groan of the mattress must be
when you backstroke into me & pull
the night up over our heads. Your eyes
are two moons I float beneath & my lungs
fill with a wet hum your hips return.
It’s Sunday—or so you say with both hands
on my chest—& hot breath is the only hymn
whose refrain we can recall. And then you
reach for me like I could’ve been another
man. You make me sing without a sound.
Copyright © 2019 by Meg Day. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Soft as a Claude painting, the yellow sky tonight—
trees in the parking lot still thick, though the air, yes,
has an edge, the honey was solid in the jar
when I opened it this morning, found a single ant
frozen in the dunes, stunned by sweetness.
Can you really die of sweetness? Hard
to say yes, though I want to, looking up at these clouds
that make my heart jump: oh joy in seeing
though I can’t touch, like the girl repeating persimmon
as the waitress in the diner tells her about a tree
at the top of the hill she used to see, how beautiful
that vivid orange fruit was all at once.
Can’t touch them, but I see them in her eyes as
she remembers persimmons. Maybe that was
my mistake: thinking every love was different, a fruit
inside its own clear mason jar—my love, her love, his,
all separate as the trees they fell from. Maybe love
is more contagion, bubbles in a bathtub slowly
swelling, all the little circles drifting, gliding
gently into each other until they burst, until
nothing’s left but foam, the sound of rushing water.
Copyright © 2018 Annie Kim. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.
—after a photograph by Alvin Baltrop
He looks through the wound of my life like it’s light. So I let him. The last cube of ice. Outside the tray. Where I found him. My lover. Melts atop this brick, as if it’s our last whiskey together. His brown, more fragrant, more dangerous than whiskey. You couldn’t miss him. Nothing lasts. Of promise. Such is the promise of light. Not even day breaks between us. Black joy, cresting over and over the summer sun. Kept a spiral of his hair, in a box, like a favour. His favourite pair of trainers. The taste of his lips where we first kissed. Where we first blissed. I couldn’t— though I tried. To keep him. Wouldn’t keep. Still. Nor true. Keep up. How could he keep me, when he refused to keep time? Didn’t keep me in compliments. Was I supposed to keep sweet? Look. We discovered day like it was fire. Flesh, like empire. Touch like bloodlight. Yes. Count me down like a missile. As of tomorrow and the day after. As of this darkening gelatin and silver. As of the moon and the monsoon rain. As of these piers. As of America and all its splendour. As of the alleyway and the archive. As of this F-stop. And this fuck. And the next. As of this click and shutter. As of the daffodil and every queer thing that obliterates winter.
Copyright © 2021 by Omotara James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 4, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.