when you break thru
a poet here
not quite what one would choose.
I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted
but I can show you
enough to love
to break your heart
From Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems (City Lights Publishers, 1990). Copyright © 1990 Diane di Prima. Used with permission of Sheppard Powell.
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a’climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark,
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back;
Don’t you sit down on the steps,
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard;
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
This poem is in the public domain.
Bird dogs, they say—
the kind that chase something in flight.
try to capture with its teeth
a winged ceremony,
feathers dripping from each of their mouths.
The first dog was just plain old.
The second died of a heart worm pill —my father neglected to purchase.
What else has he let die?
My mother fixed his plate every night,
never bought a car, or shoes, or skirt
without his permission.
She birthed children and raised them.
She, my sister, and I—
winged things in the air.
I knew there was blood under the ground.
No surprise when I found the house was sinking.
Our dogs always stayed outside, not allowed
in the living room.
Only the basement,
where my father stayed, slept, fixed things.
My mother, a silent companion.
The dog barks and my father goes running.
The dog dies
and we bury my mother.
Graves for everyone
and feathers fall from my father’s teeth.
He barks and becomes the tree.
The bark remembers phantom noose
The screech becomes a bullet
without a window to land through,
just a body,
Copyright © 2020 by Barbara Fant. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
His drinking was different in sunshine,
as if it couldn’t be bad. Sudden, manic,
he swung into a laugh, bought me
two ice creams, said One for each hand.
Half the hot inning I licked Good Humor
running down wrists. My bird-mother
earlier, packing my pockets with sun block,
had hopped her warning: Be careful.
So, pinned between his knees, I held
his Old Style in both hands
while he streaked the sun block on my cheeks
and slurred My little Indian princess.
Home run: the hairy necks of the men in front
jumped up, thighs torn from gummy green bleachers
to join the violent scramble. Father
held me close and said Be careful,
be careful. But why should I be full of care
with his thick arm circling my shoulders,
with a high smiling sun, like a home run,
in the upper right-hand corner of the sky?
Published in Open House (W. W. Norton 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Beth Ann Fennelly. Used with the permission of the author.