Last night I asked my mother to cornrow my hair
A skill I had been practicing since last summer
But always ended with a tumbleweed excuse of a braid
My black has always resided in braids
In tango fingers that work through tangles
Translating geometry from hands to head
For years my hair was cultivated into valleys and hills
That refused to be ironed out with a brush held in my hand
I have depended on my mother to make them plains
I am 18 and still sit between my mother’s knees
I still welcome the cracks of her knuckles in my ears
They whisper to me and tell me the secret of youth
I want to be 30 sitting between my mother’s knees
Her fingers keeping us both young while organizing my hair
I never want to flatten the hills by myself
I want the brush in her hand forever
Copyright © 2020 by Micah Daniels. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
“There’s a lot of waiting in the drama of experience.”
Lyn Hejinian, Oxota
No signal from the interface except for a frozen half-bitten fruit.
Other than that, no logos. An hour is spent explaining
to the group what I’ve forgotten, to do with the mistranslation
of a verb that means driftingbut can imply deviance.
The next hour goes by trying to remember, in the back of my mind,
the name of the artist who makes paintings on inkjets.
Why I’d think of him escapes me. Now my gaze circles the yoga bun
of the tall woman in front of me. I didn’t pay $20 to contemplate
the back of her head. It’s killing me. The pillars and plaster
saints with their tonsures floating amid electronic sound waves.
At such volume they could crumble. The virgin safe in a dimly lit
niche as the tapping on my skull and the clamor of bones or killer
bees assaults the repurposed church. This is what I sought, while
in another recess I keep hearing Violeta’s “Volver a los diecisiete”
and seventeen-year-olds marching against the nonsense of arming
teachers. If I were an instrument. A bassoon. In the source language
we don’t say “spread the word.” Pasa la voz is our idiom, easily
mistaken for a fleeting voice. From the back row all I see is fingers
gliding in sync with her vocalizations. How fitting a last name
like halo. Lucky for us here time is measure and inexplicable
substance. That’s when I decide to stop fighting the city. Use it in my
favor. Speak to strangers. Demolish the construct in the performance.
Copyright © 2019 by Mónica de la Torre. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Dream on, for dreams are sweet:
Do not awaken!
Dream on, and at thy feet
Pomegranates shall be shaken.
Who likeneth the youth
of life to morning?
’Tis like the night in truth,
Rose-coloured dreams adorning.
The wind is soft above,
The shadows umber.
(There is a dream called Love.)
Take thou the fullest slumber!
In Lethe’s soothing stream,
Thy thirst thou slakest.
Sleep, sleep; ’tis sweet to dream.
Oh, weep then thou awakest!
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
A boy, prettier than me, who loved me because
my vocabulary and because my orange pills, once asked me
to translate my father’s English.
This poem wants me to translate it too.
Idiot poem, idiot hands for writing it
an accent isn’t sound.
Only those to whom it seems alien
would flatten an accent to sound.
My poem grew up here, sitting in this American chair
staring out at this lifeless American snow.
Black grass dying up out of this snow,
through a rabbit’s
long tracks, like a ghost
But even that’s a lie.
Just black grass, blue snow.
I can’t write this
without trying to make it
beautiful. Submission, resistance, surrender.
inspecting Adam, the devil entered his lips,
Watch: the devil enters Adam’s lips
crawls through his throat through his guts
to finally emerge out his anus.
He’s all hollow! the devil giggles.
He knows his job will be easy, a human just one long desperation
to be filled.
My father’s white undershirt peeking out
through his collar. My father’s hand slicing skin, gristle,
from a chicken carcass I hold still against the cutting board.
Sometimes he bites his bottom lip to suppress
what must be
rage. It must be rage
because it makes no sound. My vast
terror at what I can’t hear,
at my ignorance, is untranslatable.
My father speaks in perfect English.
Copyright © 2021 by Kaveh Akbar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.