Lord, let my ears go secret agent, each
a microphone so hot it picks up things
silent, reverbing even the hum of stone
close to its eager, silver grill. Let my ears forget
years trained to human chatter
wired into every room, even those empty
except of me, each broadcast and jingle
tricking me into being less
lonely than I am. Let my ears forget
the clack and rumble, our tambourining and fireworking
distractions, our roar of applause. Let my hands quit
their clapping and rest in a new kind of prayer, one
that doesn’t ask but listens, palms up in my lap.
Like an owl, let me triangulate icy shuffling under snow as
vole, let me not just name the name
when I spot a soundtrack of birdsong
but understand the notes through each syrinx
as a singular missive—begging, flirting, fussing, each
companion call and alarm as sharp with desire and fear
as my own. Prick my ears, Lord. Make them hungry
satellites, have your way with their tiny bones,
teach the drum within that dark to drum
again. Because within the hammering of woodpecker
is a long tongue unwinding like a tape measure from inside
his pileated head, darting dinner from the pine’s soft bark.
And somewhere I know is a spider who births
a filament of silk and flies it to the next branch; somewhere,
a fiddlehead unstrings its violin into the miracle of
fern. And somewhere, a mink not made into a coat
cracks open a mussel’s shell, and with her mouth full
of that gray meat, yawns. Those are your sounds, are they not?
Do not deny it, Lord, do not deny
me. I do not know those songs. Nor do I know the hush
a dandelion’s face makes when it closes, surrenders, then goes
to seed. No, I only know the sound my own breath makes
as I wish and blow that perfect globe away;
I only know the small, satisfactory
popping of roots when I call it weed and yank it
from the yard. There is a language of all
you’ve created. Hear me, please. I just want to be
still enough to hear. Right here, Lord:
I want to be.
Copyright © 2019 by Nickole Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 24, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I know why I fell hard for Hecuba—
shins skinned and lips split to blooming lupine
on her throat’s rough coat, hurled down the whole length
of disaster—I’m sure I’d grown to know
by then to slacken as a sail against
the current and squall of a woman’s woe.
What could I do but chorus my ruddered
howl to hers? When you’re a brown girl raised up
near the river, there’s always a woman
bereft and bank-wrecked, bloodied and bleating
her insistent lament. Ay Llorona—
every crossing is a tomb and a tune,
a wolf-wail and the moon that turns me to
scratch at the tracks of every mud-dirged girl.
Copyright © 2019 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 4, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Translated by Robin Myers
I don’t understand how we walk around the world
as if there were a single way for each of us, a kind
of life stamped into us like a childhood injection,
a cure painstakingly released into the blood with every passing year
like a poison transmuted into antidote
against any possible disobedience that might
awaken in the body. But the body isn’t mere
submissive matter, a mouth that cleanly swallows
whatever it’s fed. It’s a lattice
of little filaments, as I imagine
threads of starlight must be. What can never
be touched: that’s the body. What lives outside
the law when the law is muscled and violent,
a boulder plunging off a precipice
and crushing everything in its path. How do they manage
to wander around so happily and comfortably in their bodies, how
do they feel so sure, so confident in being what they are: this blood,
these organs, this sex, this species? Haven’t they ever longed
to be a lizard scorching in the sun
every day, or an old man, or a vine
clutching a trunk in search of somewhere
to hold on, or a boy sprinting till his heart
bursts from his chest with sheer brute energy,
with sheer desire? We’re forced
to be whatever we resemble. Haven’t
you ever wished you knew what it would feel like to have claws
or roots or fins instead of hands, what it would mean
if you could only live in silence
or by murmuring or crying out
in pain or fear or pleasure? Or if there weren’t any words
at all and so the soul of every living thing were measured
by the intensity it manifests
once it’s set free?
Yo no sé cómo se hace para andar por el mundo
como si solo hubiera una posibilidad para cada cual,
una manera de estar vivos inoculada en las venas durante la niñez,
un remedio que va liberándose lentamente en la sangre
a lo largo de los años igual que un veneno
que se convierte en un antídoto
contra cualquier desobediencia que pudiera
despertarse en el cuerpo. Pero el cuerpo no es
una materia sumisa, una boca que traga limpiamente
aquello con que se la alimenta. Es un entramado
de pequeños filamentos, como imagino que son los hilos
de luz de las estrellas. Lo que nunca podría
ser tocado: eso es el cuerpo. Lo que siempre
queda afuera de la ley cuando la ley es maciza
y violenta, una piedra descomunal cayendo
desde lo alto de una cima
arrasando lo que encuentra. ¿Cómo pueden entonces
andar tan cómodos y felices en su cuerpo, cómo hacen
para tener la certeza, la seguridad de que son eso: esa sangre,
esos órganos, ese sexo, esa especie? ¿Nunca quisieron
ser un lagarto prendido cada día del calor del sol
hasta quemarse el cuero, un hombre viejo, una enredadera
apretándose contra el tronco de un árbol para tener de dónde
sostenerse, un chico corriendo hasta que el corazón
se le sale del pecho de pura energía brutal,
de puro deseo? Nos esforzamos tanto
por ser aquello a lo que nos parecemos. ¿Nunca
se te ocurrió cómo sería si en lugar de manos tuvieras garras
o raíces o aletas, cómo sería
si la única manera de vivir fuera en silencio o aullando
de placer o de dolor o de miedo,
si no hubiera palabras
y el alma de cada cosa viva se midiera
por la intensidad de la que es capaz una vez
que queda suelta?
© 2019 Claudia Masin and Robin Myers. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
There's a movie on, so I watch it.
The usual white people
in love, distress. The usual tears.
Good camera work, though:
sunshine waxing the freckled curves
of a pear, a clenched jaw—
more tragedy, then.
I get up for some scotch and Stilton.
I don’t turn on the lights.
I like moving through the dark
while the world sleeps on,
serene as a stealth bomber
nosing through clouds…
call it a preemptive strike,
“a precautionary measure
so sadly necessary in these perilous times”.
I don’t call it anything
but greediness: the weird glee
of finding my way without incident.
I know tomorrow I will regret
having the Stilton. I will regret
not being able to find
a book to get lost in,
and all those years I could get lost
in anything. Until then
it’s just me and you,
plunked down behind enemy lines
with no maps, no matches.
The woods deep.
Copyright © 2007 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Slate. Used with the permission of the poet.
He wanted the God of the flannelgraph, God of the box of crayons, God of grape kool-aid and stale cookies, God of the paper tabernacle, God of the quiz bowl, God of the gold star, God of Aunt Maxine and Uncle Doug.
He got God of the tent meeting, the gospel revival, God of the cold immersion, God of the burning cross, God of Must the Young Die Too?, God of Brother Wyatt, God of the funeral flowers, God of the last verse, sung once again, for the lost, for the sinners, for the unsaved that remain out there—yes, you know who you are.
He wanted a song of the pitchpipe, song of the Rich Old King, song of the red and yellow black and white, song of clap your hands, song of stomp your feet, song of the happy shout, the song sung in rounds.
He heard the altar call song, the invitation song, the revival song, song about a fount of blood, song of the roll call and the last trumpet, song of being blind, song of sinking deep, song of the deep stain, song of the worm.
Let there be a song for the man who doesn’t sing.
Let there be a song for the man who walks away, song of the dark hand, song of the wandering feet, song of the unsung.
Let there be a god of the night bloom, god of the guestroom, god of the quince and winter wheat, god of last call and first guess, god of the frozen drink, god of the hairy chest, god of the road trip, god of the home-grown, god of the homeward and homely, god of the shared home, a repurposed god, god of the unsaid, god of the old church pew at the foot of the bed.
From Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.