It's not the first time
we've bitten into a peach.
But now at the same time
it splits--half for each.
Our "then" is inside its "now,"
its halved pit unfleshed--

what was refreshed.
Two happinesses unfold
from one joy, folioed.
In a hotel room
our moment lies
with its ode inside,
a red tinge,
with a hinge.

From Cornucopia by Molly Peacock. Copyright © 2002 by Molly Peacock. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
               Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
               Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
               This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
               Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
               Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
               'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
               Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
               With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
               Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
               Of 'Never—nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
               Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
               She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
               Shall be lifted—nevermore!

This version appeared in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849. For other versions, please visit the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#R.

Blue, but you are Rose, too,
and buttermilk, but with blood
dots showing through.
A little salty your white
nape boy-wide.  Glinting hairs
shoot back of your ears' Rose
that tongues like to feel
the maze of, slip into the funnel,
tell a thunder-whisper to.
When I kiss, your eyes' straight
lashes down crisp go like doll's
blond straws.  Glazed iris Roses,
your lids unclose to Blue-ringed
targets, their dark sheen-spokes
almost green.  I sink in Blue-
black Rose-heart holes until you
blink.  Pink lips, the serrate
folds taste smooth, and Rosehip-
round, the center bud I suck.
I milknip your two Blue-skeined
blown Rose beauties, too, to sniff
their berries' blood, up stiff
pink tips.  You're white in 
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and saltly, speckled
like a sky.  I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair's
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears.  But where white
spouts out, spills on your brow
to clear eyepools, wheel shafts
of light, Rose, you are Blue.

From Nature: Poems Old and New by May Swenson, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © 1994 the Literary Estate of May Swenson. Used with permission.

In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.

In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,

you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him

about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.

They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend

the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?

I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair

of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.

My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,

isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend

Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.

Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns

to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like

this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother

more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is

already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.

While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation

clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid

in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,

& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me

what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily

talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets

slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.

Remind me, he says
to our family.

Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

I.

my lover is a woman
& when i hold her
feel her warmth
     i feel good
     feel safe

then—i never think of
my family’s voices
never hear my sisters say
bulldaggers, queers, funny
     come see us, but don’t
     bring your friends
          it’s ok with us,
          but don’t tell mama
          it’d break her heart
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

II.

my lover’s hair is blonde
& when it rubs across my face
it feels soft
     feels like a thousand fingers
     touch my skin & hold me
          and i feel good

then—i never think of the little boy
who spat & called me nigger
never think of the policemen
who kicked my body & said crawl
never think of Black bodies
hanging in trees or filled
with bullet holes
never hear my sisters say
white folks hair stinks
don’t trust any of them
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother talk
of her backache after scrubbing floors
never hear her cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

III. 

my lover's eyes are blue
& when she looks at me
i float in a warm lake
     feel my muscles go weak with want
          feel good
          feel safe

then—i never think of the blue
eyes that have glared at me
moved three stools away from me
in a bar
never hear my sisters rage
of syphilitic Black men as
guinea pigs
     rage of sterilized children
          watch them just stop in an
          intersection to scare the old
          white bitch
never feel my father turn
in his grave
never remember my mother
teaching me the yes sirs & ma'ams
to keep me alive
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

IV.

& when we go to a gay bar
& my people shun me because i crossed
the line
& her people look to see what's
wrong with her
     what defect
     drove her to me

& when we walk the streets
of this city
     forget and touch
     or hold hands
          & the people
          stare, glare, frown, & taunt
               at those queers

i remember
     every word taught me
     every word said to me
     every deed done to me
          & then i hate
i look at my lover
& for an instant
     doubt

then—i hold her hand tighter
     & i can hear my mother cry.
     Lord, what kind of child is this?

"My Lover Is a Woman" by Pat Parker © Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, used with permission.

          for Noko

after ruining another season’s harvest— 
over-baked in the kitchen oven then 
rehydrated in her home sauna
Aunt Yuki calls upon her sister,

paper sacks stuffed full of orange
fruit, twig and stalk still intact
knows that my mother sprouts seedlings 
from cast off avocado stones, revives 

dead succulents, coaxes blooms out of orchids 
a woman who has never spent a second 
of her being on the world wide web, 
passes her days painting the diversity of 

marshland, woodland, & shoreline; 
building her own dehydrator fashioned from 
my father’s work ladders, joined together 
by discarded swimming pool pole perched 

high to discourage the neighbor’s cats 
that invade the yard scavenging for koi 
“Vitamin D” she says, as she harnesses 
the sun, in the backyard the drying device

mutates into painting, slow dripped
sugar spilling out of one kaki fruit
empty space where my father untethers
another persimmon, he swallows whole

Copyright © 2010 by Shin Yu Pai. Used with permission of the author.

For all the bother, it's the peeling away
we savored, the slow striptease
toward a tender heart—

how each petal dipped in the buttery sauce
was raked across our lower
teeth, its residue

less redolent of desire than sweet restraint,
a mere foretaste of passion,
but the scaly plates

piled up like potsherds in a kitchen midden,
a history in what's now
useless, discarded—

so we strained after less and less as the barbs
perhaps drew a little blood
and we cut our way

into the core to rid us of the fiber
that would stifle every ut-
terance between us.

In our quest for that morsel,
how we risked silence,
risked even
love.

From The Burning of Troy by Richard Foerster. Copyright © 2006 by Richard Foerster. Used by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

                             again, been trailing
behind my lace                

                                       again, been

telling all my suns they need to hold
a holy but even summer’s a slicker,
mama, a wash,
                           & another thing is

thunder, I may wish
                      for the sword but I’m soft
in the skirt when I see

 

                                     the girls soft
in theirs, I know, the unknown
                                                  parts

 

from them, & then it’s a fury in the
May my mind lost

                         as if the garden God
pruned His men out of
                                    fed the fire out
from under feeling

 

                          what I feel what I tell
myself to remember

                        sulfur, smoked between

 

her lips I heard
                                  the coming of
the Lord but couldn’t loose
                                myself, mama,
couldn’t burn my bad

 

                                old beauty down
to the cherry topping a tube of paper
rolled around then licked, livid,
                                                 was her
tongue dried
                       honey, burnt marvel,
the slats of a barn raised up
                                          hallelujah
the hands

                 said they feared a Lord with
ugly lips, I know

 

                       it’s not right but I
don’t

            know what my left is doing,
mama, under
                        the hunger I found my
self in half
                   a mine & half
                                             a her

 

bodied, cold as cut grocery
                                roses, a bloomed
sickness all pink smelling, mama, & I
don’t know if it’s my

 

                               self or your God
I should blame.

© Copyright 2018 by Emma Bolden. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 93.

(The Sensitive Male Chapter)
 

Awkward and dry is love.
A moist kiss simmers as cherry pie.

A peck reddens into poppy.
Several feed like birds in your hands.

The first kiss carries history. The customary roses,
a bouquet received by two.

On the right side of her mouth, she is your mother.
On the left side, she's the sister you never had.

If delicate yet firm, a kiss can resuscitate the drowned Ophelia;
hurried and open-mouthed, moths flutter out of her body.

A kiss that glides smoothly possesses the pleasant lightness of tea.
If it smudges, prepare yourself for children.

A kiss that roams the curving of the lips,
the tongue still tracing the slopes even
without her near is a poet's muse.

When bitten on the lower lip—I am your peach—
if she’s left there biting, dangling, she'll burn the tree.

When she's sucking your lips as if through a straw
she wants you in her.

Never quite touching, sky and earth bridged
by clouds of breath, speak in recitation:

Because I am the ocean in which she cannot swim,
my lover turned into the sea.

Or cradle her in the cushions of your lips,
let her sleep in the pink.

From Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Used with the permission of the author.

before sleep
and carry a box cutter
for protection
you are an animal that is all loins
and no dexterity
you are the loneliness
and non-loneliness of a planet with a flag in it
and something ugly raccoon-paws
the inner lining of your throat
but you swallow it
and you smash a snow globe in a parking lot
and you leave the door open
to the tea factory’s peppermint room
contaminating everything
the sleepytime blend
the almond sunset and genmaicha
the hibiscus broth your parents made you drink
to prevent recurrent UTIs
and outside the palm trees
in need of treatment for exotic diseases
keep dying
slowly like a woman circling a parking lot
and if you had to name what you think you are
you would say bogwolf
and the thing clawing your throat
draws blood
but you swallow it
and you live for the ways people in love penetrate
each other
for the sweetness of lichens
for the return of normal hand smell
after wearing latex gloves
you thank the bones that made your soup
and all the brake pedals that aren’t broken

Copyright © 2019 by Ruth Madievsky. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

O LORD, when the Angel said Listen
when the Angel said Do not fall to the earth for anyone

we were already stained in glass.

A circle of black flies biting
our arrival. Scales scraped off of a fish.

Starved girls folded at a line from Leviticus.

This is how it happened: one day we looked outside
& the bloated bodies of frogs were fucking up the yard.

Our hands bled. We saw Rorschach blood in our wounds,

Pietà in egg yolks. There was a hope chest & a threshold
& a bridegroom—revoltingly pagan. We said

Bring us the coat-check ticket for our eyes.

Nothing was so underpaid as our attention.
If ghost, if whore, if virgin—same origin story:

because X was a face too lovely, Y was a corpse in the lake.

Our sisters said Wait. Our mothers said Stay the hell awake.
We bled on our white clothes—we bore them redly

to the table. Our fathers said Tell me, will you ever

feed me something that isn’t your own trouble?
We cast away stones. There was room at the inn.
 
There was time to be floated as witches.

When night came, an egg-moon slid over the steeple.
We stared at the blue yolk yawning in the fire.

Our Father. Who Art in Heaven.

There were men in the alley. We knew them by name.
They said they wanted to prove we were holy.

Your angel said Listen

There are not vultures enough
in this world, there are not crows

to shoot out of the sky in a shaking black line.

Please, we’ve been trying
to say out loud the words for this—

to see You write it out red

in a fish-hooked curve. Have mercy—
Mouth of Poison Flowers: Speak.

Mouth of Asphodel—Say it.

From Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.