after Wisława Szymborska

In my dreams,
I lasso a wild steer on the first try.

I chauffeur Picasso
To meet up with Dali—
None of us is happy about this summit.

After licking my fingertips,
I play guitar masterfully.

I use index cards to make sense
Of the universe.

I discover my childhood cat in the neighbor’s tree—
So that’s where you’ve been, you little rascal.

I beg the alligator, por favor,
To make a snap judgement,
Will it be my leg or my arm?

Picture me swimming with dolphins.
Picture me with these dolphins
Sitting in lawn chairs.

I’m full of gratitude—
The lightbulb comes on
When the refrigerator door is opened.

Yes, I’m the scientist who solved laryngitis—
Now all of us howl at our own pleasure.

I get to throw a trophy from a moving car.
When I park my car,
I’m awarded another trophy—
Someone above is giving me a second chance.

Copyright © 2020 by Gary Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m watching an old movie in one corner
of my laptop and in another the shadows
nesting in your neck, the flickering frequencies
of your sweater, and remember the Jack Nicholson
tagline in that movie we almost watched then decided
against fearing the little taser of misogyny:
You make me want to be a better person. Sometimes
the only thing I want is to say marry me
even though we both think marriage is archaic and weird
or at least for us. It’s not marry me I want to say
but rather weld with me like a net we also sit in.
Oh FaceTime face and shadow neck and the almost synced
sound of our shared watching. You have a list of things
that are going to be the death of you,
and so do I, which we cover in our debriefings.
All of this is to say that distance makes my heart go farther
into the terrain of heartfelt and I love it: how ordinarily
classifiable it is like feeling literal figurative butterflies
in your stomach. The good being fundamental.
Surprising love can happen at any part of one’s life
like the pixels deciding when to flicker into bursts.

Copyright © 2020 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

stdnt sks                  
             hw s th flyng thng splld?


tchr sys        
             ll th sft lttrs hv blwn ff
             spll brd
                                                                            lk         brd


tchr tlls stry
                        frst mnfst dstny
                        th bffl wr hntd nd skltns stckd
                        th ntv ppl wr pshd n slghtrd
             tk wht th y cn s

             thn crps plntd nd plntd nd plntd nd plntd
             thn dry nd ht nd dry nd cld nd dry nd ht
                        thn rbbts nd rbbts nd rbbts
                        thn mn clbbd ll th rbbts
             pld nd lghd
                        vrythng brnd
                        ll th ppl thrstd nd th lnd crckd
                        brd jst lft bfr snrs nd snst
                        brd dsspprd
                        thn nsts mpty

stdnt sks       
             wht hppnd t brd?


tchr sys         
             brd sys n brnchs t prch nd crps cllps nd hrvsts nd n wrms s hngry
             brd sys           spk sky                        spk
                                                                                                 drk spk                      
             ll thngs trnd psdwn
                                                                           thn blw wy
             nd trnds nd hrrcns nd wrs nd dss
             nd nthng lvng

stdnt sks       
             dd brd knw?


tchr nswrs    
             brd knw          trd t spk
                                      thrt splt

             brd ndd wtr


stdnt sys       
             whts wtr?

Copyright © 2020 by Anthony Cody. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 2, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated from the Spanish by Joan Larkin and Jaime Manrique

Love opened a mortal wound.
In agony, I worked the blade
to make it deeper. Please,
I begged, let death come quick.

Wild, distracted, sick,
I counted, counted
all the ways love hurt me.
One life, I thought—a thousand deaths.

Blow after blow, my heart
couldn’t survive this beating.
Then—how can I explain it?

I came to my senses. I said,
Why do I suffer? What lover
ever had so much pleasure?


Con el Dolor de la Mortal Herida

Con el dolor de la mortal herida,
de un agravio de amor me lamentaba;
y por ver si la muerte se llegaba,
procuraba que fuese más crecida.

Toda en el mal el alma divertida,
pena por pena su dolor sumaba,
y en cada circunstancia ponderaba
que sobraban mil muertes a una vida.

Y cuando, al golpe de uno y otro tiro,
rendido el corazón daba penoso
señas de dar el último suspiro,

no sé con qué destino prodigioso
volví en mi acuerdo y dije:—¿Qué me admiro?
¿Quién en amor ha sido más dichoso?

From Sor Juana’s Love Poems, translated by Joan Larkin and Jaime Manrique. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. All rights reserved. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets. 

It’s true that I’m im-
patient under affliction. So?
Most of what the dead can

do is difficult to carry. As for
gender I can’t explain it
any more than a poem: there

was an instinct, I followed
it. A song. A bell. I saw
deer tracks in the snow. Little

split hearts beckoned me
across the lawn. My body
bucked me, fond of me.

Here is how you bear this flourish.
Bud, I’m buckling to blossoms now.

Copyright © 2020 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The great thing
is not having
a mind. Feelings:
oh, I have those; they
govern me. I have
a lord in heaven
called the sun, and open
for him, showing him
the fire of my own heart, fire
like his presence.
What could such glory be
if not a heart? Oh my brothers and sisters,
were you like me once, long ago,
before you were human? Did you
permit yourselves
to open once, who would never
open again? Because in truth
I am speaking now
the way you do. I speak
because I am shattered.

From The Wild Iris, published by Ecco Press, 1992. Copyright © 1992 by Louise Glück. All rights reserved. Used with permission. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2020.

I beg for invisible fire.

Every night I pray to love,
please invent yourself.

I imagine a place after this place
and I laugh quietly to no one
as the hair on my chin
weeds through old makeup.

When I go to sleep
I am vinegar inside clouded glass.
The world comes to an end
when I wake up and wonder
who will be next to me.

Police sirens and coyote howls
blend together in morning’s net.
Once, I walked out past the cars
and stood on a natural rock formation
that seemed placed there to be stood on.
I felt something like kinship.
It was the first time.

Once, I believed god
was a blanket of energy
stretched out around
our most vulnerable

when really,

she’s the sound
of a promise

Copyright © 2020 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

once, while on a coke binge,
and away from my mother,
my father drove his car
across the sand
and into the pacific ocean.
before he had done that,
he had given away
all of his possessions,
and eaten
a steak dinner.
he survived.
And then,
he was able
to torture us
with his aristocratic ascetic drama
for years to come.
you can take a pisces
to water,
and all it will do
is challenge them
to cry more than the sky;
i say this with admiration.
how would it serve me
to make this up.

like my father,
i sometimes threaten
to succumb to wounds
and don the trappings
of desires
disguised as needs.
you may know them:
the sensible shoe;
the classical beauty;
the manicured hand
offered in neoliberal compromise.

i once told konrad
about how i successfully destroy
my attraction to strangers.
i imagine them standing above me,
as i lay prone
before them in their bed,
watching as they try
to get themselves
hard and or wet.
then i imagine
their sheets,
the hovering echo
of their mother,
the amount of humidity
in their bedroom,
if they put music on,
how their underwear
tucks in and around
their ass—
and usually,
around this time,
i’ve lost all
interest in them—

“that is so virgo of you,”
konrad said, admiringly.
“that is 1,000 percent virgo.”
virgo could be
my gender, or
it could be
my sexuality.
virgo in narrative lust;
virgo in high fantasy;
virgo in unhappy ending.

i don’t know
what i like more:
the desire, or
the agonizing pleasure
of self-torture.
i like girls, but
don’t seem to like me;
In That Way, at least.
i love women
i love men,
just as i love
all of g-d’s creatures;
but that doesn’t mean
that i want them,
or to be wanted by them.

hotly spayed virgin
in heat that i am,
i don’t think that
i have a gender,
but i can now
certainly have an orgasm.
i orgasmed
on my way
to the slaughterhouse;
i orgasmed
on the
kill floor.

i wouldn’t say
that the struggle
is between
masculine and feminine.
there’s nothing
that i’m attached to,
i assure you.
i pluck the sinew,
and hold the cup
marked by my lipstick
up to the cloud’s mouth.
i acquire the fear
that i don’t hear
the affect,
because i don't have
the affect.
i would say
that the struggle
is between
decidedly unmasculine
and afeminine.
the struggle
is between
indecision and not caring.

like all good
poor people and aristocrats,
i know how to have a good time.
why i refuse to
is my own problem.
like all good
leftists of a certain region,
i have never read marx
or the bible.
i know the gossip
well enough
to kneel and resist.
for example,
or perhaps,
for instance,
i was content enough
to be a corpse eater
among the lotus eaters,
and then a lotus eater
among the petroleuses.
and now,
i’m a petroleuse
among the corpse eaters.

Copyright © 2020 by Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

no pencil

on gelatine paper

no intricate live edge

of the Missouri

no breaking sod

to mine it for wheat

no magnate's gold to

drive our bodies into the fields

no wheat sliding east down

easements that pierce the treaty lands

no ghost of Dorothy

sits up in my body

no craft cocktail:

John Brown's Dugout              14 bucks             

no wet grass curls

above and beneath us

no tractorsfulls of

whiskey empties

no empty words

silting our throats up

no empty bowl

of cut-up peaches

no wombs lit

up with atrazine

no place but

that's just hearsay

Copyright © 2020 by Kerry Carnahan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 18, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

                                                you think I’m kind on the daily
                                                —and my healing
                                                always soft
                   you don’t see me 
                                                beat to the ground 
                                                the Forehead Man 
                                                & his Mouse-God friend—how 
                                                I bonked the lights out 
           from their faces til one 
                          had no teeth 
                     and the other—
                                                only a mouth 
                                                stuffed full of them—
           across this white field
                                                I use my own Pointy thing
                                                Stabbing—after all is always 
     you see—they did not see 
                my Rage coming—
                                                said they wanted me
                                                to go Home—Go back
                                                their jaws cajoled— 
                                   Go back 
                                                to where you’re from-from
                                         & so 
                      they saw me Go
                                                & Go
                                                —with each blue 
                                                wide-eyed Stab— 
                               and Stab—
                           into the bone 
                    & mush of them—
                   Home to my Rage
                                                and they—such slabs 
                                                of meat—

Copyright © 2020 by Aldrin Valdez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

the day after the mulberry tree fell on its belly, the army bombed a truck
full of black umbrellas sent from russia against the tyranny of rain. they
said, the black umbrellas are no longer allowed in the mountains. hats
are. guns are. gods are. the trees are offensive to the sky. then
they called our language mountain, then they pronounced it dead.

we are in a dream, you said. undo the pain before you speak
against the gods with mouths full of rain. a tongue cut in half
becomes sharper, you said. date your wound.

Copyright © 2020 by Öykü Tekten. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

But this poem’s got no parents
snapped to life, ditched its
Bildung and flooded backwards
over the border to Canada               it has no appetite,
health or grudges     no sour feelings keep it up at night
no autobiography left to compose of glances,
tresses, snap decisions, remarkable
and unremarkable men        water slouching
through a bathroom ceiling in a singular home
Candy a class act when a landscape
painter at pop punk court
I’ll outlast both, and dexedrine, and I'm not sorry
more like you discover melodrama
in the windows of the technically not that rich

Copyright © 2020 by Kay Gabriel. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

And as the procession

before me fled one seemed to

know as one whose years the mask

and smokeless altars interpose


numerous as the dead

from whose forms shadows

pass and

of that great crowd rearranged

the thrush and thrift and edelweiss: a

SHAPE whose garments in the changing

seasons as yet formless against

the trembling like the

lifting of a veil

Copyright © 2020 by Lynn Xu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

“to touch and at once be touched”
            —Joshua Beckman

to touch and at once be touched
that’s what the poem does
reaches out w/ its long spindly arms its grandmother arms to hold you    but you are the arms also in the act of reaching, enfolding in yourself all the primness and solidarity and creakiness of the grandparent as it holds you thru the reaches of time  and you are time itself  grandfather time grandparent time  the grandiosity of time ticking away in its grandparent clock, the clock that haunted the halls of your grandparents and the further forebears that measure things not by clocks, but by the sun.  as the dawn rang out, everything was ok, we—our forebears—noted where the light of the sun first fell on the earth at dawn, bitole the sun’s rays, these were holy holy and where they fell is where we placed our firepit, and around that pit laid four stones, and those stones were the four directions, and from them measured out four tipi poles at equal distance, and between these eight more fanning out, and atop it erected a tipi the home of the holy person, and atop the tipi a crown of evergreens and other plants, yaa da’a’ah, the tops of the poles unshorn of their leaves, blessings were conferred, songs happened in time, to the beat of the deerhoof rattle, not to a beat itself  since a rattle’s noise is disparate, spread out, but to the idea or the sense of a beat nestled at the center of the shaking of the rattle and its small collection of sounds, thrill of the pulsatile universe unfolding across time, ‘across’ as if time were a length of thread, or a thing traversed in space    songs, poetry happened across the pulse of time, they were not like a painting making its ‘same damn face whether the Louvre was open or closed,’ but like music    happening in time, so that you couldn’t look at the whole thing all at once, you couldn’t look at its face headon    you had to perceive it apace, at a pace     it didn’t matter whether time was a thing you believed in or not, whether time was a thing that was real or not, whether it coalesced with space, the space you moved through with your foot on the real earth.        you spoke to your lover on a thing called ‘facetime’ because you were far apart in space, hours apart in time, you could not hold each other but you could see each other’s face, you could see the face but not touch it, it was a face as represented by a screen, your faces appeared to each other on this screen  and your voices too could be beheld, perceived, in and across time, and across space  they could be beheld but not touched, face-to-face you could be, of a kind, but your cheeks could not touch like in the song where the lovers danced cheek-to-cheek, and your lover said they didn’t want to have a relationship through this thing through this ‘face’ and this ‘time’ and you agreed.    a thing that everafter sterilized your concern into a thing seen but untouchable, like the painting in the museum, which could be looked and looked at only. ‘touch me only with thine eyes’ some prim poet probably once said.  ‘look but don’t touch’ one of my parents said to the other, speaking of attractive people.  that the gaze is said to touch, it is said to do violence.  take that sunmote out of your eye when you look at me.  take that beam out of your eye.  i am a crap.  i am a happenstance.  i am holy holy.  christ’s eyebeams pierced thomas too you know.    a woman wore the feather of a flicker on the top of the red blanket she wore around her shoulders in the peyote meetings of the lipan, who kept the beat first by a bow they hit with a stick, a stick not an arrow and then by various drums of water.  who tie up a drum in the flick of an eye.    a flicker is so called because the undersides of its wings are yellow, you see them in a golden flash flashing across the forest.  by you i mean me.  my lover once held me creakily in grandparent arms before it became an insect  and one calling all of the old ones of the desert to us, even embarrassed about the beat that it made because it was not native, it being the lover, still it was a holy thing, holy holy, díyín, díyínde, a holy person, singing a double beat, first to the earth and then to me, i am erthes i said, erthes, as two syllables, i felt the pricks the holy pricks of the lauered on the crown of my head and i felt them seeding, i felt them being seeded there, holy holy, there is no god there is only dííyi robert said, but what accounts for that thing we saw in the desert.    i seed and then i saw it, i seed and saw it,  a seesaw is a thing that you see and then you saw, it measures vision across time as the bodily movement of two children going up and going down, sawed in half the measure of my eye, the top of my head took clean off.  looking is not the same as touching.  there is a frog that looks with bifocular vision, the top half of its eye evolved a skill for looking above water, and the bottom half of its eye for looking below water.  when isánáklesh came out of the water she danced on the shore but for a long time she stayed in the water with her face half-submerged.  they didn’t know if it was a man or a woman.  when she came out of the water the bottom half of her face was stained with the minerals of the primordial pond.  the bottom half of her face looked white.  now they paint the girl that way with klesh  the white clay  the earth  on the bottom half of her face.  but she is isánáklesh now she is not the girl anymore.    poetry occurs in time, syllable by syllable.  a trance-state occurs peripherally, serially, over and over and in that state you ‘passed’ time but you didn’t notice the passing of time.  you were as it were beyond time,  though occurring in time and primarily to the beat of the rattle and the rhythm of the singing.    you can touch and be touched in a poem, though it come thru the ear, tho it come through the eye, it touches in the way a person is said to be touched, i’m touched you say when a thing touches you emotionally, and you touch your heart to indicate the heart, to say that that is where you are touched.  the heart is understood to be the seat of love.  a pulse is measured there, a cardiac pulse whose stoppage or whose arrest is death, the stopping or the stoppage of cardiac time.    we saw a snake upon the trail, a smooth green snake undulated into curves, elegant s-like curves upon the moss, hello i said, can i touch you i said, and taking its calm aspect for an acquiescence gently stroked the back of its back   and the snake  straightened out, and faced its face toward me, i do not know what this means in snake language.  perhaps i was touched to touch a snake, touched as in mad, mad as in crazy, feet not on the earth, not on the erthes as the creature itself was, and not its avatar, its whole body upon the earth.    time can have a wrinkle in it,   and wrinkles  can be ironed out.

Copyright © 2020 by Julian Talamantez Brolaski. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

A thin wet sky, that yellows at the rim,
And meets with sun-lost lip the marsh’s brim.

The pools low lying, dank with moss and mould,
Glint through their mildews like large cups of gold

Among the wild rice in the still lagoon,
In monotone the lizard shrills his tune.

The wild goose, homing, seeks a sheltering,
Where rushes grow, and oozing lichens cling.

Late cranes with heavy wing, and lazy flight,
Sail up the silence with the nearing night.

And like a spirit, swathed in some soft veil,
Steals twilight and its shadows o’er the swale.

Hushed lie the sedges, and the vapours creep,
Thick, grey and humid, while the marshes sleep.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Behold, the morning-glory’s sky-blue cup
Is mine wherewith to drink the nectar up
That morning spills of silver dew,
And song upon the winds that woo
And sigh their vows
Among the boughs!

Behold, I’m rich in diamonds rare,
And pearls, and breathe a golden air;
My room is filled with shattered beams
Of light; my life is one of dreams,
In my hut on
The hills of dawn.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after René Auberjonois

Wet, where all I had longed for             
was the determined touch of softness. Wet, 

             I watched the solids come and go. 
             I counted feet, that ache

and echo of planets, became 
the prosecutor and defense 

             of my own heart, that red-tailed escape 
             from the struggle to represent 

the shapes required of love. 
A rose bud, briefcase 

             or snarling mutt, pea soup, 
             blood blister—I knew hate most

not as these but in my 
formlessness, poured into a coffee cup

            my keeper mimicked to sip. 
             I could not honey my clay. 

The shape of our star days, 
a hum in the rookery of birds 

             I’d know, and never be.
             And when I found my people—

when my people meddled 
with me—they opened a hole 

             to home in the punch-clock 
             of deep space I was destined 

to fall through.

Copyright © 2020 by Halee Kirkwood. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 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.

The night air is filled
with the scent of apples,
and the moon is nearly full.

In the next room, Jim
is reading; a small cat sleeps
in the crook of his arm.

The night singers are loud,
proclaiming themselves
every evening until they run

out of nights and die in
the cold, or burrow down into
the mud to dream away the winter.

My office is awash in books
and photographs, and the sepia/pink
sunset stains all its light touches.

I’ve never been a good traveler,
but there are days, like this one,
when I’d pay anything to be in

another country, or standing on
the cold, grey moon, staring back
at the disaster we call our world.

We crave change, but
turn away from it.
We drown in contradictions.

Tonight, I’ll sleep
blanketed in moonlight.
In my dreams, I’ll have

nothing to say about anything
important. I’ll simply live my life,
and let the night singers live theirs,

until all of us are gone.
I won’t say a word, and let
silence speak in my stead.

Copyright © 2020 by William Reichard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I drew a picture long ago—
    A picture of a sullen sea; 
A picture that I value now
    Because it clears Life’s mystery. 

My sea was dark and full of gloom; 
   I painted rocks of sombre hue. 
My sky alone bespoke of light, 
    And that I painted palest blue.

But e’en across my sky of blue
    Stretched troubled clouds of sodden gray, 
Through which the sun shone weak and dim, 
    With only here and there a ray. 

Around my rocks the yellow foam 
   Seemed surging, moaning in despair
As if the waves, their fury spent, 
   Left naught but desolation there. 

Three crafts with fluttering sails I drew, 
    And one sailed near the rocks of gray, 
The other on its westward course, 
   Went speeding out of danger’s way.

The other still outdistanced them 
    Where sky and water seemed to met. 
I painted that with sails full set, 
    And then my picture was complete.

My life was like the sullen sea, 
   Misfortunes, woes, my rocks of gray, 
The crafts portrayed Life’s changing scenes, 
   The clouded sky Life’s troubled Day.

I longed to paint that picture o’er
   Without the rocks of sombre hue; 
Without the troubled clouds of gray,
  I’ll paint the sky of brightest blue.

My sea shall lay in calm repose, 
    No hint of surging, moaning sigh.
My crafts, unhindered by the rocks,
  Shall speed in joyous swiftness by.

But this shall be when brightest hours
  Of hope and cheer are given me.
I’ll paint this picture when Life’s sun 
   Shines clear upon Prosperity 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,

anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make

a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.

Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,

O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:

Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—

even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokesIndian raise stalks in solidarity.

Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.

Copyright © 2020 by Tiffany Midge. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

It was snowing on the monuments
My dead father’s name next to my living mothers

You went further back into the cemetery
There where so many lies remain lost to winter

There with the named and the nameless
It was snowing on the monuments

All horizons packed with cloud cover
Some of us left in the vehicles
We came in

Some became some final gesture
Of departure’s sun borne reflect
behind auto glass
heat blowing feeling back into a face

It was snowing on the monuments
Even in the warmth of an engine turning over
You must forget how we came to this place
How we leave

A procession of memory
an immersion in going away

Voices of older songs already
In the broken gone
As some wheel turns us back
Onto a gray road

Copyright © 2020 by Gordon Henry. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Fannie Akpik
leads her dance group
at the high school hallway in Utqiagvik.
clear as a loon's call,
as the warm center of the lagoon where dreams come to surface.
Songs erupted from the Qargi,
flash in the dark,
piece of the moon bitten off,
landing at the tip of the drum stick.
Sealgut covering of prayers
whirring like wind slipping into tied-up hoods.
Whalers come home
to their Elders' voices,
their hands that shape sod and clear snowy pathways,
enunciating real people sounds that shiver
on the tunnel between the heart and throat.

Copyright © 2020 by Ishmael Angaluuk Hope. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

What is this nameless something that I want,
Forever groping blindly, without light,—
A ghost of pain that does forever haunt
My days, and make my heart eternal night?
I think it is your face I so long for,
Your eyes that read my soul at one warm glance;
Your lips that I may touch with mine no more
Have left me in their stead a thrusting lance
Of fire that burns my lips and sears my heart
As all the dreary wanton years wear through
Their hopeless dragging days. No lover’s art
Can lift full, heavy sorrow from my view
Or still my restless longing, purge my hate,
Because I learned I loved you, dear, too late. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 28, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I gaze into her eyes—their tender light,
And strong, illumes my spirit's darkest night,
And pours rich glory on me as a star
Which brings its silver luster from afar.

Sweet thoughts and beautiful within me burn,
And heaven I see what way soe’er I turn;
In borrowed radiance of her soulful glance
All things grow tenfold lovely and entrance.

I touch her willing hand—as gentle dove
It rests within my own, in trusting love;
And yet it moves me with a power so deep,
My heart is flame, and all my pulses leap.

I breathe her name unto the flowers: they bloom
With rarer hues, and shed more rich perfume!
The skylark hears it, as he floats along,
And adds new sweetness to his morning song.

Oh magic name! deep graven on my heart,
And, as its owner, of myself a part!
It hath in all my daily thoughts a share,
And forms the burden of my nightly prayer!

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

O’ King build me more templar
more handsome and muscular.
Build me a chest made of barley fire.
Set it ablaze each morning for sunlight.
Build me legs quick as a chariot,
light as a doe’s, strong as a current runs through a river. It

must all mean something if I am the third son of my father. It
must all mean something if my body is a ravaged temple.
What does it mean if his body is a ravaged temple? Wretched chariots
we carry burdened with copper and birch bark inside muscled
and fatty hearts. Siken wrote about bodies being possessed by light,
I should have known those antlers were never copper but always fire.

Your tongue always tasted of fire.
The ash of it.
The lie of it. But one hundred legs of running men leaves me light
around the temples.
I have a weakness for muscular.
I have a brain full of char rioting

in an underwater circus. I hold my breath as his chariot
is unplugged from the wall. The immediate silence. No more fire
here. I wanted you to be muscular
and fit, healthy as an ox. The attraction I feel for it.
We can only build the most modest of temples
when all we have is moonlight.

Moonlit / chariot / racing toward a temple
fire / The idea of it / muscular

I’ve always loved Absalom, not because he’s handsome and muscular
but because he had the King’s heart. Let there be light.
Let it / arrive in a horse-drawn carriage.
Let it arrive as fire.
O’ King build my body a temple,

make my heart more corpuscular than muscular. Make me a chariot
light of ire.
It's so lonely and cold inside this scalpel-ruined templum.

Copyright © 2020 by b: william bearhart. Reprinted with the permission of Carrie Bearhart. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.

a refrigerator
makes a lot
of sound
so does a bird
people are
always talking
full of love
& pain
we started
a fund
and the dogs 
are needing
some money &
I don’t know
how to do
it & I’ll
learn from
one of them
Tom’s blue
shirt & glasses
are perfect.
My teeshirt
is good
my pen
I breathe.

Copyright © 2020 by Eileen Myles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 3, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

My mother married a man who divorced her for money. Phyllis, he would say, If you don’t stop buying jewelry, I will have to divorce you to keep us out of the poorhouse. When he said this, she would stub out a cigarette, mutter something under her breath. Eventually, he was forced to divorce her. Then, he died. Then she did. The man was not my father. My father was buried down the road, in a box his other son selected, the ashes of his third wife in a brass urn that he will hold in the crook of his arm forever. At the reception, after his funeral, I got mean on four cups of Lime Sherbet Punch. When the man who was not my father divorced my mother, I stopped being related to him. These things are complicated, says the Talmud. When he died, I couldn’t prove it. I couldn’t get a death certificate. These things are complicated, says the Health Department. Their names remain on the deed to the house. It isn’t haunted, it’s owned by ghosts. When I die, I will come in fast and low. I will stick the landing. There will be no confusion. The dead will make room for me.

Copyright © 2020 by Richard Siken. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

We might have coupled
In the bed-ridden monopoly of a moment
Or broken flesh with one another
At the profane communion table
Where wine is spilled on promiscuous lips

We might have given birth to a butterfly
With the daily news
Printed in blood on its wings.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I knew for years the archaic term for refrain
               the part of the song you carry—
is burden. It carries you. Refrain, also, as in
               hold back. The burden holds me back.
If I didn’t have you, my father said, passing
               the fire, I’d get out to help. It made me
imagine people inside. I lived instead.
               Burden, I learned, after the bees began
producing rust-honey in their rust-wax
               hives, is also what you feed
into the blast furnace. A burden of rust-honey,
               into the furnace shaft. The slag
is gummy. It sounds impossible. It’s also
               dull. The house kept burning and we ran
for help. It means we’d stopped to watch.
               It sounds impossible. It’s also dull.
Tenderly, though, his running desperate, 
               yet matching his steps to the child’s. 
A sweet smell in the tetanus.

Copyright © 2020 by Zach Savich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 9, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I like being with you all night with closed eyes.
What luck—here you are
along the stars!
I did a road trip
all over my mind and heart
there you were
kneeling by the roadside
with your little toolkit
fixing something.

Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.

Copyright © 2020 by Anne Carson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Something like a wooden pearl, what gall
forms here, irritation’s
gemstone on the oak-
leaf-underneath I thought was a berry, seed-
case, or oak-faced
scrotum-like excrescence

the oak tree seemed to make of itself
in extremis involved
with power. For no
reason when we were girls plucking these woodland
BBs from the
branch to flick at the back

fence, about so much unsuspecting
I was mistaken by
meticulously more single-minded than
the mere widest
distribution of seed

over the furthest expanse; as I
follow American
history, small and
solitary, intravenously driven
living syringe
mainlined into the green

vein of oakleaf to position with
the earthly pulse of her
otherworldly self-
sufficient piercing ovipositor her
shimmering eggs,
the oak gall wasp is un-

American mother of the year.
Patriotism, meet
a biochemical je ne sais quoi charms the
of the oakleaf’s force to

form a cradle for each minuscule
egg something like the way
our human flesh scabs
over. And not just any oak—oak gall wasps
an oak known as your own

are implicit in every acorn,
including the sprouting
one you carried home
rolling slowly around the base of a wet
Dixie Cup your
first grade teacher told you

would, with patience, be as tall as you
one day, and capable
in time of crushing
you in bed, unsentimental consequence
of gravity
which is a consequence

of the curvature of spacetime, but
what isn’t? I sold the
house behind which my
son and I once planted such an acorn and
even enclosed
it in a pathetic

ring of prefabricated fencing
I fought counter-clockwise
against the coil to
unspool off a metal roll like a robot
fabric bolt to
shield it from the orphan

fawns. If that oak rises still, witness
to the sleep of someone
else’s child now through
an underestimated August storm, I
do not know, or
in what health, but if rise

it does, safe in her hyperbaric
chamber, as athlete gods
sleep between stages
on the tour de France, there the gall wasp grows in
my divestment.
Such a fundamental

hunger stirs in the oak gall dark, if
you listen you might hear
her chew her way out
of oakleaf where she incubates encrypted
in her first meal.
Unless—and this is life

on earth, as much a miracle of
drudgery and lust as
you or me or the
gall wasp— another even more strategic
to-the-second power

brood parasite wasp oak-injects with
finer, more exacting
a second egg. The two sister together
in the waspworld
prenatal ritual

juices, downloading the vital re-
directed principles
of oak into their
maturing, crackling bodies. You’ve been to sleep-
overs; girls grow
strong touching each other’s

bodies with stories of mutual
incrimination. What
confidence betrayed
then when duplicitous behind her back. To
emerge, as we
learned, wasps chew their exit

through the gall; but in the case of a
hosting wasp, she’s compelled
to stop by something
that most entomologists don’t read enough
novels to understand.

Whether social dynamics are more
or less legible to
an outsider, I’m
too far inside the gall to tell, since it was
I who dug the
hole, placed the acorn, shooed

the beast, and waited for the oak to
leaf that the gall wasp could
deposit there her
egg inspiring thus the oak to cradle it
that a second
wasp could parasitize

the parasite wasp—as is drawn out
over several seasons
of elaborate
out-maneuverings in parish, parlor, and
palace on the
BBC. But this is

an American transition of 
power. Don’t look away.
I don’t want to end
this poem bleeding but the wasp does eat the
wasp, and up through
the top of her head like

the goddess she is, enters the hell-
scape. It’s happening now;
it happened. Unless,
that is, through the bedroom window where sleeps the
child of someone
else now, the beautiful

oak I tenderly tended alread- 
y crashed.

Copyright © 2020 by Robyn Schiff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I wonder 
how it would be here with you,
where the wind 
that has shaken off its dust in low valleys
touches one cleanly, 
as with a new-washed hand, 
and pain
is as the remote hunger of droning things,
and anger 
but a little silence 
sinking into the great silence.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 12, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I was the starlight
I was the moonlight
I was the sunset,
Before the dawning
          Of my life;
I was the river
Forever winding
To purple dreaming,
I was the glowing
Of youthful Springtime,
I was the singing
Of golden songbirds,—
        I was love.

I was the sunlight,
I was the twilight, 
I was the humming
Of winged creatures
    Ere my birth;
I was the blushing
Of lily maiden,
I was the vision
Of youthful striving,
I was the summer,
I was the autumn,
I was the All-time—
      I was love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 13, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

A silence slipping around like death,
Yet chased by a whisper, a sigh, a breath;
One group of trees, lean, naked and cold,
Inking their cress ’gainst a sky green-gold;
One path that knows where the corn flowers were;
Lonely, apart, unyielding, one fir;
And over it softly leaning down,
One star that I loved ere the fields went brown.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 20, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

The shrieks of children
tumbling in the roaring body of the ocean
                 is glee.
But fill me with dread—glee? the ocean? children?
And the hysterical 
           wisteria. That frantic and purple
                      emissary of the encroaching jungle. 
I think the jungle will win, wind—in the end—its tensile vines
around the throats and raised swords of sun scorched monuments,
collapse the flag poles and balustrades, whatever stakes
           are planted there, will charge
the volition of its green abundance, wild against the wild
                     volition of the frothing ocean. Marry it. What children
will march in that conjugal procession with crowns of kelp
                                             and frantic purple flowers?

Copyright © 2020 by Genya Turovskaya. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 21, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I give up touch. My hand holds stems 
         of air, while I remember 
         the long hair I wore 
         as a not-girl child. 

 I give up touch to feel 
         safe in a body. How could I be 
         the girl they saw the man 

         I am? Somewhere beyond language 

we are touching 
only the long hair   

of the cool stream 
meeting the lake   

and I remember   

sky when I look down 
into its surface, my face 
only veil, and below, rocks fish   

my shadow. My pulse. Sun and moon 
         set and rise. Everywhere branches 
         tangle. Mist from the lake 

         catches in my beard. Once a butterfly 
         rested there. The moment I said I’m not 

         a flower, she lifted away 
         and I was all bloom.  

What is our essence and who 
         drinks its nectar? A small god 

         surely lives in my throat 
         a kind of temple. I have fed him flesh 

         from the forest floor 
         and he cradles my eyes 

         and he grows me up 
         into the green 
         of trees. I know 

         he’s gold though he’s only ever been 
         visible in dreams. He appears 

         as my mother, childhood 
         pets, a first love, a ghost 

         story whispered over flashlight 
         in a backyard tent, neighbors 
         whose names I’ve lost.   

Here is where I try to hear him.   

Here is where I study how to love him 

         bring him elderberry, oxeye 
         daisy, row of purple 
         foxglove, leopard 
         slug, mock orange, morning 
         glory, mountain lettuce.   

It rains here often. I learn to be water 
in a garden. A handsome solitude is not the same   

as loneliness. It’s here I call my little gold god   

beloved, friend. 

Copyright © 2020 by Ely Shipley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 22, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

That is solemn we have ended,—
     Be it but a play,
Or a glee among the garrets,
     Or a holiday,

Or a leaving home; or later,
     Parting with a world
We have understood, for better
     Still it be unfurled.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Day is at the gate,
    I am risen late;
Clouds laze in the air,
    Clouds sleep on the grass;
I have song to spare
    Till the shadows pass.

Day is at the noon,
    No thread of bow or moon;
Rain is in the air,
    Drenched and limp the grass;
I have song to spare
    Till the shadows pass.

Day is at the close,
    Faith no logic knows;
Rain-clouds blur the air,
    All the world is dun;
I have song to spare
    Till to-morrow’s sun.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 27, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

You know I know what I’m doing.
I’m always with you.

I’m watching these lines get to you.
This is how we’re close.

We can’t have knowing looks
(we’re both as good as dead)

so we have these knowing lines,
typing till the clock says stop.

And if in the course of struggle
a foot slips and we fall,

what does that matter?
I won’t come back to you

when the song is over.
I will not want you

or your unsuitable house and lot.
Expect to miss me, though—

expect ice and snow, rain and hail.
To be embarrassed. To be changed.

To write the year on a check
and be one hundred years off.

To let it go
when I express displeasure.

To let my anger go. Just drop it. Just take it
as you drop it.

Just take it
and go.

Copyright © 2020 by Jacqueline Waters. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 31, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.