So what if the old man on the bus is trying and failing to remember his dead mom’s face, as if the past were not a cartoon tunnel scratched on a wall? He’s still trying, and when did we forget our cattle-shoes and feather-parkas, how we carry with us a lowing sadness, an extinguished memory of flight? Today I’m going to count all the blackbirds between the prison and the Walmart where, right now, in its galloping sadness a bald man who sounds like a car horn is hector-lecturing his infant-hushing girlfriend—as her unhappiness, radiant as a cleat, sharp as an ice skate, sprays to a sudden stop. Right now, at the emergency crisis center right next to the gun store, the nurse feels entombed in hours like a fly in amber as the waiting room TVs spin despair’s golden honey— and I think of the ice I waded out on as a kid, of how often the world seems like it’s going to shatter, but then, miraculously, mercilessly, does not.
Copyright © 2019 by Adam Scheffler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
“Habitation” excerpted from Selected Poems 1965–1975 by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1987 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Who comforts you now that the wheel has broken?
No more princes for the poor. Loss whittling you thin.
Grief is the constant now, hope the last word spoken.
In a dance of two elegies, which circles the drain? A token
year with its daisies and carbines is where we begin.
Who comforts you now? That the wheel has broken
is Mechanics 101; to keep dreaming when the joke’s on
you? Well, crazier legends have been written.
Grief is the constant now; hope, the last word spoken
on a motel balcony, shouted in a hotel kitchen. No kin
can make this journey for you. The route’s locked in.
Who comforts you now that the wheel has broken
the bodies of its makers? Beyond the smoke and
ashes, what you hear rising is nothing but the wind.
Who comforts you? Now that the wheel has broken,
grief is the constant. Hope: the last word spoken.
Copyright © 2020 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 21, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.