I told a million lies now it’s time to tell a single truth
Sometimes I cry
It’s hard dealing with my pride
Not knowing whether to fight or flee
Sometimes I cry
Hard to maintain this image of a tough guy
When deep down inside I am terrified
If I ever told you I wasn’t scared I lied
Struggling to make it back
To society and my family
I cry
I cry for my son who I barely see
Due to these mountains
And me and his mom’s beef
I cry for my siblings who never knew their older brother
Because he stayed in the streets
I cry for my grandma who is now deceased
I cry for my life, half of which they took for me
I cry for my anger and rage
The only emotions I can show in this place
I cry for how we treat each other inside these walls
I cry for the lack of unity we have most of all
When will it end I want to know
Till then all I can do is let these tears flow

Copyright © 2019 by DJ. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 19, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

I awake to you.  A burning building.  
The alarm is my own.  Internal alarm, clock alarm, 
then coming through your very walls.  The alarm 
is of you.  I call first with my mouth.  Then with my phone.
No one.  Then maybe someone.  Then yes, a fire fighter, or two, is coming.  
Outside, the children gather and gawk.  Cover their ears from the blare.
They are clothed in their footed pajamas.  We are all awake now. Even you,
the burning building.  
I’m leaving, I say.  I look them each in the eyes, the mouths, the chests.  
I look at their footed feet.
I’m leaving you burning.   The children can walk.  The children can follow.
The building burns now behind me.  You burn, 
behind me.  The alarm
Screams.  No. No.
Not screaming. 
There is a field between us.  
Now you are calling. 
And now beseeching.
Behind me the children are a trail of children.  Some following.  Some clinging.
And now you, my home, my building, burn and burn.
There is a mountain between us.
And now you are ringing.  
And now you are singing.
I look back.  Back to you, burning building.
You are a glowing dancer, you are a façade on sparkling display.
Now a child.  Or two.  Or three.  Pilgrim children. Between me 
And you.  

Copyright © 2020 by Tiphanie Yanique. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

            Another banishment
of-the-eldest-son story, he says
            he was the coal burning
his family’s hatred,
            the son who wouldn't stay

for his mother's madness.

He walked with the mute girl

            out of the locked ward
one summer afternoon into a field
            where she looked
in slow motion, pointed to the hills
            and sun, bent

down to finger one blade of grass,
            then another. She picked
a daisy.
            Flower, she said.

he took her back

locked her in.

Copyright © 2017 Susan Landgraf. Originally appeared in Kestrel, Spring 2017. Reprinted with permission of the author.

When I was a child I would run
through the backyard while my father
yanked dandelions, daisies, thistles, crabgrass,
mowed, rearranged the stones around the porch—
the task of men, though I didn’t know.
Blushed with cartoons and chocolate milk
one Saturday, I found a bee working
a dandelion for its treasure the way
only God’s creatures can, giving
and giving until all that is left
is the act itself—and there’s faith, too,
my mother used to say in her magnolia lilt.
It comes as it comes—there’s a road to follow.
When I swat the bee, I plea in triumph.
My father, knee-drenched in manhood,
grins and his gold tooth glistens a likely tale.
And when the bee stings my ear,
I run to him screaming as my mother
runs outside hearing her only child’s voice
peel back the wallpaper. She charms my ear
with kisses. This afternoon, I notice a bee
trapped inside the window as my mother
on the phone tries to still her voice
to say her mother has died. I wonder if he can
taste the sadness, the man on TV tells the other.
The bee is so calm. The room enlists
a fresh haunting, and the doorframe bothers.
To believe her when she says—
as the bouquet of yellow roses on the dresser
bows its head and the angles of my clay bloom
with fire—it’ll be okay, is my duty as son.
My mother sits in the hospital in San Antonio,
motherless—my mother is now a mother
without the longest love she’s ever known.
My mother who used to wake up
before the slap of sunrise with my father
to build new rooftops. My mother who wrote
“I pray you have a great day”
on stupid notes tucked in my lunchbox.
My mother who told the white woman 
in Ross to apologize for bumping into me
as I knocked over a rack of pantyhose.
My mother who cried in Sea-Tac airport
as I walked through customs, yes-ing
the woman who asks, Is it his first time
moving from home? My mother who looks
at me with glinted simper when the pastor spouts
“disobedient children.” My mother who was told
at a young age she’d never give birth,
barren as she were. My mother, my mother.
What rises inside me, I imagine inside her, although
I’ve never had a mother leave this earth.
I’ve never been without love.

Copyright © 2020 by Luther Hughes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 23, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ask me about the time
my brother ran towards the sun
arms outstretched. His shadow chased him
from corner store to church
where he offered himself in pieces.

Ask me about the time
my brother disappeared. At 16,
tossed his heartstrings over telephone wire,
dangling for all the rez dogs to feed on.
Bit by bit. The world took chunks of
my brother’s flesh.

Ask me about the first time
we drowned in history. 8 years old
during communion we ate the body of Christ
with palms wide open, not expecting wine to be
poured into our mouths. The bitterness
buried itself in my tongue and my brother
never quite lost his thirst for blood or vanishing
for more days than a shadow could hold.

Ask me if I’ve ever had to use
bottle caps as breadcrumbs to help
my brother find his way back home.
He never could tell the taste between
a scar and its wounding, an angel or demon.

Ask me if I can still hear his
exhaled prayers: I am still waiting to be found.
To be found, tell me why there is nothing
more holy than becoming a ghost.

Copyright © 2020 by Tanaya Winder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

My father is a quiet man
    With sober, steady ways;
For simile, a folded fan;
    His nights are like his days.

My mother's life is puritan,
    No hint of cavalier,
A pool so calm you're sure it can
    Have little depth to fear.

And yet my father's eyes can boast
    How full his life has been;
There haunts them yet the languid ghost
    Of some still sacred sin.

And though my mother chants of God,
    And of the mystic river,
I've seen a bit of checkered sod
    Set all her flesh aquiver.

Why should he deem it pure mischance
    A son of his is fain
To do a naked tribal dance
    Each time he hears the rain?

Why should she think it devil's art
    That all my songs should be
Of love and lovers, broken heart,
    And wild sweet agony?

Who plants a seed begets a bud,
    Extract of that same root;
Why marvel at the hectic blood
    That flushes this wild fruit?

This poem is in the public domain.

Some are teethed on a silver spoon,
    With the stars strung for a rattle;
I cut my teeth as the black raccoon—
    For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,
    And heralded by a star;
They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown
    On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame
    The opulent fairies be;
Dame Poverty gave me my name,
    And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—
    "Bad time for planting a seed,"
Was all my father had to say,
    And, "One mouth more to feed."

Death cut the strings that gave me life,
    And handed me to Sorrow,
The only kind of middle wife
    My folks could beg or borrow.

This poem is in the public domain.

I have turned our childhood into a few dozen verses;
there are places for dramatic pause,
and where memory failed,
I embellished a bit.

You’ve grown impatient with me
and my so-called poetic license;
I don’t remember that
has become your weary mantra.

I am learning to excavate the good times too.
Can’t you see where I’ve colored some words?
Inserted those tender moments?

A famous writer once said that eventually
I will tire of myself and will be compelled
to tell the I-less stories….I anxiously await that moment.
But for now, I want to tell them about our war with mama’s illness
and how at school we were maimed for being foreign.

Remember D?
When they chased us up Tioga Street
and accused us of having voodoo and
scanned our dark bodies for tribal scars
and discovered the cayenne pepper we had hidden;
to throw in their faces,
to sting them,
to make them fear us,
to be left alone,
to be African.

I have managed to poem all my pain;
tell me,
what do you do with yours?

Copyright © 2008 by Trapeta Mayson. This poem originally appeared in The American Poetry Review, November 2008. Used with permission of the author.


I witnessed nothing
to speak of because
we were Free.

My life at four was the same
as at three. Then whispers wound
into my ears, or,

Father never whispered–
he gave me fire to breathe–
all the oxygen lit the room,

burning me up until my breath
writhed in the body’s drum.
Nothing changed but my mind.



I have a sense of him having said–
to Mother? a Soldier?–
something, but recall

none of the words,
only a sentence ending,
susurrous, in a hiss.

I froze. Put together
the words were menacing, sneak-
attacks, after which fear

riddled me day and night
like bullets. I have never not lived
with the fact of having heard,



the tear in me trauma
rent when I secreted
zero at the bone.

Father was high up–I never got
his echelon straight before the war
was over–but he was someone

who knew things
done to whom by whom
and when I snuck to the door

to listen the sound words
made was lightning flashed
right into my skull.

Originally published in Shenandoah. Copyright © 2019 by Cynthia Hogue. Used with the permission of the poet.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
     And he said:
     Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
     For they have their own thoughts.
     You may house their bodies but not their souls,
     For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
     You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
     For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
     You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
     The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
     Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
     For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

From The Prophet (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.