Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.

From A Book of Music by Jack Spicer. Appears in My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan University Press, 2008). Used by permission.

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow:
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

This poem is in the public domain.

All Nashville is a-chill! And everywhere,
As wind-swept sands upon the deserts blow,
There is, each moment, sifted through the air,
A powered blast of January snow.
O thoughtless Dandelion! to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.
And yet, thou blasted, yellow-coated gem!
Full many hearts have but a common boon
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem.
When once the heart-blooms by love’s fervid breath
Is left, and chilling snow is sifted in,
It still may beat, but there is blast and death
To all that blooming life that might have been.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

All this noisy commotion isolated a fairly
small universe of nothing special.
I had faced the assistant to the incumbent, 
his failed face of poetry bottomless 
with self-pride and a satisfaction that fed his wolf. 
And he was a wolf
and when I scoffed at him 
with some penetration I could see the clamor 
of his wounds but also the vanity 
in his recognitions. He believed I was undeserving
and thought it his right to judge, and his
judgment, a stun gun, took
my gender and race and euthanized
its center, and he thought this 
was an extension of the occult, 
that it was the intuition 
of a bright star
affecting forward. 
I wanted him to see this in a particular
light but the particular worsened into 
a bruise of matter far more inhumane,
and I fell into its hole and he, with his glee,
had no idea, because his gender and race
gave him the privilege to look down
and see how my skeleton warped my will
but not the firmament of my broadness,
and what I know now as measuring across
power and enduring many luminary deficits
that come out of symptoms and their fallen edges. 

Copyright © 2014 by Prageeta Sharma. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 13, 2014. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

This poem is in the public domain.

As I must mount to feed those doves of ours,  
Perhaps you too will spend nocturnal hours   
      Upon your roof   
      So high aloof 
That from its terraced bowers   
We catch at clouds and draw a bath from showers.  
Before the moon has made all pale the night,  
Let's meet with flute and viol, and supper light :  
A yew lamb, minted sauce, a raisined bun,  
A melon riper than the melting sun—  
A flask of Xeres, that we've scarce begun—  
We'll try the « lunar waltz » while floats afar  
Upon the liquid night—night's nenuphar.  
Or else, with senses tuned alike perchance,  
Reclining love will make the heavens dance;  
And if the enemy from aerial cars  
Drops death, we'll share it vibrant with the stars!

 This poem is in the public domain.

The days unfold
like maps. Fresh dirt
in the garden, black
as cake, grows warm.

The roses perform
a silent recital,
each playing its part
from memory. I wait

for my father the way
men wait for a train.
I wait for my father
the way a dancer

waits for music.
My mother is a curtain
in the window.
She calls me in

to fit my shadow
for a suit. I keep still
as she pinches the tape
around its wrist.

Around her neck
my mother’s pearls
clink like teeth.
Your shadow grows

faster than you do,
she says. She says
that waiting is
a kind of dancing.

At night I dance
with the stillness.
My blood waits
behind my chest

like a man behind
a locked door.
My father waits
in another country.

Copyright © 2014 by Ryan Teitman. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on January 9, 2014. 

It’s like ants
and more ants.

West, east
their little axes

hack and tease.
Your sins. Your back taxes.

This is your Etna,					
your senate						
											
of dread, at the axis					
of reason, your taxi					
					
to hell. You see
your past tense—

and next? A nest
of jittery ties.

You’re ill at ease,
at sea,

almost in-
sane.  You’ve eaten

your saints.  
You pray to your sins.

Even sex 
is no exit. 

Ah, you exist.  

Copyright © 2014 by Donna Masini. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 21, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

With fruit and flowers the board is decked,
    The wine and laughter flow;
I'll not complain—could one expect
    So dull a world to know?

You look across the fruit and flowers,
    My glance your glances find.—
It is our secret, only ours,
    Since all the world is blind.

This poem is in the public domain.

some trust the tarot
                   or the feel
      of a new tattoo

or messages that seem
                  to descend
     to a higher form

             all figures
             all for show

    once love one
    love's master

as when overcoming
          her resistance
     the way she wanted

beautiful ambient light
of the end of days
              like a limb
     I never had
                  that still felt
like it was missing

Copyright © 2014 by Buck Downs. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 25, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ 
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.  
and I confess I’m looking 
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn 
is peeking into my third-floor window 
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed 
for three weeks before I slide 
from sink to stove in one long groove 
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched 
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver 
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back 
and just like that I’m a lizard grown 
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man 
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone knows 
my heart’s broke and no one is home. 
Just like that, I’m water. 
Just like that, I’m the boat. 
Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world 
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just 
what comes between the dancing. And bam!, 
my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s 
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true 
I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days 
and no one ever said I could sing but 
tell me my body ain’t good enough 
for this. I’ll count the aches another time, 
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back, 
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones, 
I’m missing the six biggest screws 
to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind-
rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I’m a flung open door. 

Copyright © 2014 by Patrick Rosal. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 18, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.


My marriage ended in an airport long ago.
I was not wise enough to cry while looking for my car,

walking through the underground garage;
jets were roaring overhead, and if I had been wise

I would have looked up at those heavy-bellied cylinders
and seen the wheelchairs and the frightened dogs inside;  

the kidneys bedded in dry ice and Styrofoam containers.
I would have known that in synagogues and churches all over town 

couples were gathering like flocks of geese 
getting ready to take off,  while here the jets were putting down 

their gear, getting ready for the jolt, the giant tires 
shrieking and scraping off two 

long streaks of rubber molecules,
that might have been my wife and I, screaming in our fear.

It is a matter of amusement to me now,    
me staggering around that underground garage,  

trying to remember the color of my vehicle,
unable to recall that I had come by cab—

eventually gathering myself and going back inside,
quite matter-of-fact,

to get the luggage 
I would be carrying for the rest of my life.

Copyright © 2013 by Tony Hoagland. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 25, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Twilight—and you
Quiet—the stars;
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
Your provocative laughter,
The gloom of your hair;
Lure of you, eye and lip;
Yearning, yearning,
Languor, surrender;
Your mouth,
And madness, madness,
Tremulous, breathless, flaming,
The space of a sigh;
Then awakening—remembrance,
Pain, regret—your sobbing;
And again, quiet—the stars,
Twilight—and you.

This poem is in the public domain.

He often expressed
A curious wish,
To be interchangeably
Man and fish;
To nibble the bait
Off the hook,
Said he,
And then slip away
Like a ghost
In the sea.

This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on June 9, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.


This is the way water 
thinks about the desert.
The way the thought of water 
gives you something 
to stumble on. A ghost river.
A sentence trailing off
toward lower ground.
A finger pointing
at the rest of the show.

I wanted to read it. 
I wanted to write a poem 
and call it "Ephemeral Stream"
because you made of this 
imaginary creek
a hole so deep 
it looked like a green eye 
taking in the storm, 
a poem interrupted 
by forgiveness.

It's not over yet.
A dream can spend 
all night fighting off 
the morning. Let me
start again. A stream 
may be a branch or a beck, 
a crick or kill or lick,
a syke, a runnel. It pours 
through a corridor. The door 
is open. The keys
are on the dashboard. 

Copyright © 2014 by Elizabeth Willis. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 2, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)		
	

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock 
opens and the clock closes and the book 

opens to song so the snow geese murmur 
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out, 
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap  

whose pages are aflame with life, whose 
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath, 
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

Copyright © 2014 by Maureen Seaton. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on April 17, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I cannot wait for fall parties.
The invitations have begun to roll in.

I used to think I loved summer parties
until they got this year so sweaty and sad,

the whole world away at the shore,
sunk in sweet and salt.

Goodbye, summer: 
you were supposed to save us

from spring but everyone just slumped
into you, sad sacks 

pulling the shade down on an afternoon 
of a few too many rounds. 

Well, I won’t have another.
I’ll have fall. The fall of parties

for no reason, of shivering rooftops,
scuffed boots, scarves with cigarette holes.

I’ll warm your house.
I’ll snort your mulling spices.

I’ll stay too late, I’ll go on a beer run,
I’ll do anything 

to stay in your dimly lit rooms 
scrubbed clean of all their pity.

Copyright © 2013 by Becca Klaver. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

And I carried to that emptiness
between us the birds
that had been calling out

            all night. I carried an old
            bicycle, a warm meal,
            some time to talk.

I would have brought
them to you sooner
but was afraid your own

            hopelessness would keep you
            crouched there. If you spring up,
            let it not be against me

but like a weed or a
fountain.  I grant you
the hard spine of your

            childhood.  I grant you
            the frowning arc of this morning.
            If I could I would grant you

a bright throat and even
brighter eyes, this whole hill
of olive trees, its

            calmness of purpose.
            Let me not forget
            ever what I owe you.

I have loved the love
you felt for those gardens
and I would grant you

            the always steadying
            presence of seeds. 
            I bring to that trouble

between us a bell that might
blur into air.  I bring the woods
and a sense of what lives there.

            Like you, I turn to sunlight for
            answers.  Like you, I am
            not sure where it has gone.

Copyright © 2013 by Joanna Klink. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 10, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.


a party. Everybody
at home getting
ready. Pulling
on boots, fixing
their hair, planning
what to say if
she's there, picking
a pluckier lipstick,
rehearsing a joke
with a stickpin
in it, doing
the last minute
fumbling one does
before leaving for
the night like
tying up the dog or
turning on the yard
light. I like to think
of them driving,
finding their way
in the dark, taking
this left, that right,
while I light candles,
start the music softly
seething. Everything
waiting. Even
the wine barely
breathing. 

Copyright © 2013 by Todd Boss. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 8, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

You walked in like the light
From every sun that rose 
This year had exploded
Symmetrically from your eyes
I was uncertain—no I was certain 
I wanted your eyes to shoot 
Laser beams straight through me
It was certain we were soon to be
Bound by something mythological
It was certain that when you moved
The hair away from my mouth 
A locust in your eyes 
Moved farther afield
It was uncertain if one day
We would be saying 
I will not love you
The way I love you presently
It was certain we spoke
The danger language of deer
Moving only when moving 
Our velvet bodies in fear

Copyright © 2014 by Christie Ann Reynolds. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 27, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I’d lean close, my ear
to her whisper and roar,
her tongue scattered
with stars.
 
She’d belt her brassy voice
over the waves’ backbeat.
No one sings better than her.
 
Would she ever bite
the inside of her cheek?
 
Would she yell at the moon
to quit tugging at her hem,
or would she whistle, drop
her blue dress and shimmy
through space to cleave
to that shimmer?
 
What did she mean to say
that morning she spit out
the emaciated whale
wearing a net for a corset?
 
All this emptying
on the sand. Eyeless
shrimp. Oiled pelicans.
 
Within her jaws the coral forests,
glittering fish, waves like teeth,
her hungry mortal brine.

Copyright © 2014 by Marie-Elizabeth Mali. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2014. Browse the Poem-a-Day archive.

See the stars, love,  
In the water much clearer and brighter  
Than those above us, and whiter,  
Like nenuphars.  
  
Star-shadows shine, love, 
How many stars in your bowl?  
How many shadows in your soul,  
Only mine, love, mine?  
  
When I move the oars, love,  
See how the stars are tossed, 
Distorted, the brightest lost.  
—So that bright one of yours, love.  
  
The poor waters spill  
The stars, waters broken, forsaken.  
—The heavens are not shaken, you say, love, 
Its stars stand still.  
  
There, did you see  
That spark fly up at us; even  
Stars are not safe in heaven.  
—What of yours, then, love, yours?
  
What then, love, if soon  
Your light be tossed over a wave?  
Will you count the darkness a grave,  
And swoon, love, swoon?

This poem is in the public domain.

It's all I have to bring today—
This, and my heart beside—
This, and my heart, and all the fields—
And all the meadows wide—
Be sure you count—should I forget
Some one the sum could tell—
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

This poem is in the public domain.

Skinny dirt road
In the middle of the ocean.
That led to the house of art.
I took it. The engine nearly
Drowned. I lied that it was fun
That I'd do it again. When I got to
That shore
The house was gone and when
I looked back, so was the path.
Now I'm old. Drown in my bed
A thousand miles inland.
For years I thought
I could
Art my way back. Cats sing
Of rose dawns. This country's a
Mirror image
Of the one I left, except
I've bad dreams. And
You're the only
Person who's not here.
Is it the same
For you.

Copyright © 2013 by Ana Božičević. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 26, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

What little I know, I hold closer, 
more dear, especially now
that I take the daily
reinvention of loss as my teacher.
I will never graduate from this college,
whose M.A. translates
“Master of Absence,”
with a subtext in the imperative:
Misplace Anything.
If there’s anything I want, it’s that more
people I love join the search party.
You were once renowned
among friends for your luck
in retrieving from the wayside
the perfect bowl for the kitchen,
or a hand carved deer, a pencil drawn
portrait of a young girl
whose brimming innocence
still makes me ache. Now
the daily litany of common losses
goes like this: Do you have
your wallet, keys, glasses, gloves,
giraffe? Oh dear, I forgot
my giraffe—that’s the preferred
response, but no: it’s usually
the glasses, the gloves, the wallet.
The keys I’ve hidden. 
I’ve signed you up for “safe return”
with a medallion (like a diploma)
on a chain about your neck.

Okay, today, this writing, 
I’m amused by the art of losing.  
I bow to Elizabeth Bishop, I try 
“losing faster”—but when I get 
frantic, when I’ve lost
my composure, my nerve, my patience, 
my compassion, I have only
what little I know
to save me. Here’s what I know:
it’s not absence I fear, but anonymity.
I remember taking a deep breath, 
stopped in my tracks.  I’d been
looking for an important document 
I had myself misplaced; 
high and low, no luck yet.  
I was “beside myself,”
so there may have indeed been
my double running the search party.
“Stop,” you said gently.  “I’ll go
get Margaret. She’ll know where it is.”
“But I’m Margaret,” I wailed.
“No, no.” You held out before me
a copy of one of my books,
pointing to the author’s photograph,
someone serious and composed.
“You know her. Margaret 
Gibson, the poet.” We looked 
into each others’ eyes a long time. 
The earth tilted on its axis, 
and what we were looking for,
each other and ourselves,
took the tilt, and we slid into each others’ arms, 
holding on for dear life, holding on. 

Copyright © 2014 by Margaret Gibson. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 18, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I have wanted other things more than lovers …	
I have desired peace, intimately to know	
The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment,	
To learn by heart things beautiful and slow.	
 
Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted;
And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part;	
All dim things, layers of river-mist on river—	
To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart.	
 
I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids,	
Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth.
I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion;	
And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south.	
 
These things have I wanted more than lovers …	
Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass—	
Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers.
Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Who are you
long legged
woman in my dream
kissing me open mouthed
pressing me for ice
we fetch together naked
from the freezer
with bright aluminum tumblers
red deep blue purple
icy water
so cold it hurts
lips and teeth and membrane
lacy lattices of ice
shattering on our tongues
who are you
how could I have forgotten
my bright aluminum tumblers
I had to hold with both hands
they couldn’t be broken
even if I dropped them
that’s how little I was

Copyright © 2013 by Michael Ryan. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 13, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

My childhood home I see again, 
    And sadden with the view; 
And still, as memory crowds my brain, 
    There's pleasure in it too.

O Memory! thou midway world 
    'Twixt earth and paradise, 
Where things decayed and loved ones lost 
    In dreamy shadows rise,

And, freed from all that's earthly vile, 
    Seem hallowed, pure, and bright, 
Like scenes in some enchanted isle 
    All bathed in liquid light.

As dusky mountains please the eye 
    When twilight chases day; 
As bugle-notes that, passing by, 
    In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall, 
    We, lingering, list its roar— 
So memory will hallow all 
    We've known, but know no more.

Near twenty years have passed away 
    Since here I bid farewell 
To woods and fields, and scenes of play, 
    And playmates loved so well.

Where many were, but few remain 
    Of old familiar things; 
But seeing them, to mind again 
    The lost and absent brings.

The friends I left that parting day, 
    How changed, as time has sped! 
Young childhood grown, strong manhood gray, 
    And half of all are dead.

I hear the loved survivors tell 
    How nought from death could save, 
Till every sound appears a knell, 
    And every spot a grave.

I range the fields with pensive tread, 
    And pace the hollow rooms, 
And feel (companion of the dead) 
    I'm living in the tombs.

This poem is in the public domain.

A low, quiet music is playing—
distorted trumpet, torn bass line,
white windows. My palms
are two speakers the size
of pool-hall coasters.	
I lay them on the dark table
for you to repair.

Copyright © 2010 by Carl Adamshick. From Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author.

Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft vapory air,
Ere, o'er the frozen earth, the loud winds run,
Or snows are sifted o'er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skirts the way,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.

This poem is in the public domain.

I dip my hands in April among your faces tender,
O woven of blue air and ecstasies of light! 
Breathed words of the Earth-Mother, although it is November, 
You wing my soul with memories adorable and white. 

                               I hear you call each other: 
"Ah, Sweet, do you remember 
The garden that we haunted—its spaces of delight?
The sound of running water—the day's long lapse of splendor, 
The winds that begged our fragrance and loved us in the night?"

This poem is in the public domain.

if I had two nickels to rub together
I would rub them together

like a kid rubs sticks together
until friction made combustion

and they burned

a hole in my pocket

into which I would put my hand
and then my arm

and eventually my whole self––
I would fold myself

into the hole in my pocket and disappear

into the pocket of myself, or at least my pants

but before I did

like some ancient star

I’d grab your hand

Copyright © 2013 by Kevin Varrone. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 17, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Over the shop where silk is sold
Still the dragon kites are flying.

This poem is in the public domain.

Q.  You’re Such a Disciplined Writer.  Were You Always That Way?


A.  When I was in graduate school, I worked part-time at a local
library.  I ran the used bookstore in the basement.  The money 
came  in handy.  There was plenty of time to study. 

I learned to know the regulars who talked about living with pain 
and waiting for bland meals to be delivered.

One sweltering afternoon I read about Tibetan body breakers 
who dismember corpses with their hatchets and flaying knives 
so the vultures will have an easier time.

I imagined my own body and the monks asking, “What did this 
one do?” And the answer would be, “Not much.”  As the hand I 
could have written with flew away from the wrist. 

Copyright © 2014 by Ron Koertge. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on March 19, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

                              Said the Barnacle,

You enchant me, with your carnival
of force.

Yours is a system of slow.

There is you, the pulley
and there is you, the weight.

Your eyes wide on a hymn.

Your deep song like the turn
of that first,

that earliest of wheels.


                              Said the Whale,

I have seen you, little encruster,
in that business of fouling the ships.

Known, little drum machine, you
to tease out food from the drink.

Little thimble of chalk and hard water.

You could be a callus of whiter skin.

You could be a knucklebone. You
who hang on me,

like a conscience.

Copyright © 2014 by Cecilia Llompart. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 28, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The night comes down, in ever-darkening shapes that seem—
To grope, with eerie fingers for the window—then—
To rest to sleep, enfolding me, as in a dream
            Faith—might I awaken!
 
And drips the rain with seeming sad, insistent beat.
Shivering across the pane, drooping tear-wise,
And softly patters by, like little fearing feet.
            Faith—this weather!
 
The feathery ash is fluttered; there upon the pane,—
The dying fire casts a flickering ghostly beam,—
Then closes in the night and gently falling rain.
            Faith—what darkness!

This poem is in the public domain.

Sometimes I wish I didn't think in words
and that instead for each thought I thought I drew upon an image,
and that I was able to organize each image in a linear way that would be like sort of like reading
and that instead of trying to describe the edges around something
I could just think the color around the edges of the image to be darker,
that the detail on the image could become more or less detailed depending 
on how much clarity I believe I needed to disclose at the time
For instance, instead of saying love, I could just think watermelon
I could just think of a watermelon cut in half, lying open on a picnic table
The inside would be just as moist as it was pink
I could picture cutting up pieces and giving them out to my friends.
It wouldn't have to be sunny
It wouldn't have to be anything else then just that
It would really simplify my walk home at night, 
where every thought I think is some contrived line I repeat over and over to myself
Words are always just replaced with new ones
The pictures would never need to know otherwise

Copyright © 2014 by Jackie Clark. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2014.


And how to fill them 
is the problem of cigarettes and paint.  

First time I felt my undoing 
was in front of 

a painting—Sam Francis, I believe.  

Oh, his bloomed out, Xanax-ed California.

I liked the word guard, but you know

we made each other
nervous, standing too close

for everyone concerned. All art being 

a form of violence
as a peony 
is violence. 

Here you come

with your open hands. 

Copyright © 2013 by Louise Mathias. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 20, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Driving alone at night, the world’s pitch, black velvet
stapled occasionally by red tail lights
on the opposite highway but otherwise mild
panic when the eyes’ habitual check
produces nothing at all in the rearview mirror,
a black blank, now nothing exists
but the dotted white lines of the road,
and the car scissors the blackness open
like the mind’s path through confusion,
but still no clarity, no arrival, only Pennsylvania darkness,
rocks, cliffs, vistas by day that thicken to black. It’s
sensual, though, too, and interestingly mental. What
I do alone, loving him in my mind. Trying not to
let imagination win over reality. Hurtling through the night
passions so spent become facts one observes. Not tempered,
just momentarily out of view by the body that perceives them.
Turning that into my prayer: to be deprived.

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Grotz. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 4, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

This poem is in the public domain.

There may be chaos still around the world,
This little world that in my thinking lies;
For mine own bosom is the paradise
Where all my life’s fair visions are unfurled.
Within my nature’s shell I slumber curled,
Unmindful of the changing outer skies,
Where now, perchance, some new-born Eros flies,
Or some old Cronos from his throne is hurled.
I heed them not; or if the subtle night
Haunt me with deities I never saw,
I soon mine eyelid’s drowsy curtain draw
To hide their myriad faces from my sight.
They threat in vain; the whirlwind cannot awe
A happy snow-flake dancing in the flaw.

This poem is in the public domain.

who visits me in a hospital

Like a fleet with bellying sails, 
Like the great bulk of a sea-cliff with the staccato bark 
     of waves about it, 
Like the tart tang of the sea breeze
Are you;
Filling the little room where I lie straitly on a white 
     island between pain and pain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Today a rainstorm caught me
and I still have not recovered
myself with drier blankets
The brown leaves blowing
off the trees, squirrels
and robins cheering them on, but not

cheering me     And anxiousness has an owl
by the throat, has me pill-popped up
to Heaven Hill, head spinning one hundred eighty
degrees, looking to the past and the future
for some news about the present

which of course is useless     Even I know that     Mean-
while, Agnes upstairs plays with Grace—
the little neighbor girl—not the idea of unmerited
forgiveness in light      The two of them make up
words to no music or to My Fictions
and The Saddest Landscape

Sometimes it’s hard to say which,
no matter how hard I pretend to listen
I am no expert at thunder and lightning
I am no expert at eggbirds and ghost-
typing the air to remember a song

Today a rainstorm caught me up
The rain came down, and it still comes down
The rain comes down is all I know

about how sometimes life finds me stupid on the porch
with a couple of empty beer bottles,
humming and waiting for god knows what, some
warm weather to calm me, a few minor thoughts
All these days, reasons end somewhere

The water still rolls with an owl in its blood
We reverberate through it very softly

Copyright © 2014 by Matt Hart. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 31, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

To the dragon
any loss is
total. His rest 
is disrupted
if a single 
jewel encrusted
goblet has
been stolen.
The circle
of himself
in the nest
of his gold
has been
broken. No
loss is token.

Copyright © 2014 by Kay Ryan. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on January 10, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

I think I detect cracked leather.
I’m pretty sure I smell the cherries
from a Shirley Temple my father bought me

in 1959, in a bar in Orlando, Florida,
and the chlorine from my mother’s bathing cap.
And last winter’s kisses, like salt on black ice,

like the moon slung away from the earth.
When Li Po drank wine, the moon dove
in the river, and he staggered after.

Probably he tasted laughter.
When my friend Susan drinks
she cries because she’s Irish

and childless. I’d like to taste,
one more time, the rain that arrived
one afternoon and fell just short

of where I stood, so I leaned my face in,
alive in both worlds at once,
knowing it would end and not caring.

Copyright © 2013 by Kim Addonizio. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 3, 2013. 

I know it must be winter (though I sleep)—
I know it must be winter, for I dream
I dip my bare feet in the running stream,
And flowers are many, and the grass grows deep.

I know I must be old (how age deceives!)
I know I must be old, for, all unseen,
My heart grows young, as autumn fields grow green
When late rains patter on the falling sheaves.

I know I must be tired (and tired souls err)—
I know I must be tired, for all my soul
To deeds of daring beats a glad, faint roll,
As storms the riven pine to music stir.

I know I must be dying (Death draws near)—
I know I must be dying, for I crave
Life—life, strong life, and think not of the grave,
And turf-bound silence, in the frosty year.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.