Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My love is as ancient as my blood.
And of course my blood is still mine
because a woman, sweetened black
with good song, pulled me from the river
like an axe pulled back from the bark.
I learned love, first, as scar.
And of course my love is only mine
because I found the nerve to say it is.
Ha, My love is mine.
But was first my mother’s. Not the how
but the why. But was first her mother’s.
Not the how but the why.
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how;
Not the how; Not the how; Not the how.
I am bored with this beat. I seek
a different dance toward death.
Lord, listen up. Lean in:
I crave a love that happens as sweetly
as it was named. If love must be swung,
let it soften. Not split.
Copyright © 2019 by Donte Collins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.
I love two dogs, even when they’re killing a baby possum near the columbines, shaking the varmint until the death squeal chokes to a gargle, and both dogs stand before the bloody marsupial nosing it to move, because that’s Nature, right? (And whom did I just ask whether that was right?) (And what’s a moral quandary for a possum?) I love the dog who leans, matter-of-fact in her need, and the big smile of the small Pit Bull. But when I am a hummingbird, finally, I will beat my wings eighty times per second, thousands of seconds and eighty thousands and thousands of my splendiferous beating wings, faster than all of the eighty thousand beautiful things in the world, and no one will stop me or catch me or take my picture, I will be too fast, and I will dive into the meat of the possum and beat there, the mean, bloody thing alive again.
Copyright © 2019 by Alan Michael Parker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Why make so much of fragmentary blue In here and there a bird, or butterfly, Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye, When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue? Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)— Though some savants make earth include the sky; And blue so far above us comes so high, It only gives our wish for blue a whet.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Poetry? It's a hobby. I run model trains. Mr. Shaw there breeds pigeons. It's not work. You dont sweat. Nobody pays for it. You could advertise soap. Art, that's opera; or repertory-- The Desert Song. Nancy was in the chorus. But to ask for twelve pounds a week-- married, aren't you?-- you've got a nerve. How could I look a bus conductor in the face if I paid you twelve pounds? Who says it's poetry, anyhow? My ten year old can do it and rhyme. I get three thousand and expenses, a car, vouchers, but I'm an accountant. They do what I tell them, my company. What do you do? Nasty little words, nasty long words, it's unhealthy. I want to wash when I meet a poet. They're Reds, addicts, all delinquents. What you write is rot. Mr. Hines says so, and he's a schoolteacher, he ought to know. Go and find work.
From Complete Poems by Basil Bunting, published by Bloodaxe Books (2000). Copyright © 1985 by the estate of Basil Bunting. Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books. All rights reserved.
Love me stupid.
Love me terrible.
And when I am no
mountain but rather
a monsoon of imperfect
thunder love me. When
I am blue in my face
from swallowing myself
yet wearing my best heart
even if my best heart
is a century of hunger
an angry mule breathing
hard or perhaps even
hopeful. A small sun.
Little & bright.
Copyright © 2019 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Never, never may the fruit be plucked from the bough
And gathered into barrels.
He that would eat of love must eat it where it hangs.
Though the branches bend like reeds,
Though the ripe fruit splash in the grass or wrinkle on the tree,
He that would eat of love may bear away with him
Only what his belly can hold,
Nothing in the apron,
Nothing in the pockets.
Never, never may the fruit be gathered from the bough
And harvested in barrels.
The winter of love is a cellar of empty bins,
In an orchard soft with rot.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We pay to enter the dirty
pen. We buy small bags of feed
to feed the well-fed animals. We are
guests in their home, our feet
on their sawdust floor. We pretend
not to notice the stench. Theirs
is a predictable life. Better,
I guess, than the slaughter,
is the many-handed god. Me?
I’m going to leave here, eat
a body that was once untouched,
and fed, then gutted and delivered
to my table. Afterwards, I’ll wash
off what of this I can. If I dream
it will be of the smallest goat,
who despite her job, flinched
from most of the hands. Though
she let me touch her, she would not
eat from my palm. In my dream,
she’ll die of old age
and not boredom.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
we won’t tell you where it lies, as in time we might need the minor intimacy of that secret. just creatures, heavy with hope & begging against the grave song inside our living, we have agreed his death is the one cold chord we refuse to endure from the sorry endlessness of the blues. & if ever we fail to bear the rate at which we feel the world pining for the body of our boy, we can conjure that mole—the small brown presence of it tucked where only tenderness would think to look—& recall when it seemed nothing about our child could drift beyond the terrible certainty of love’s reach.
Copyright © 2019 by Geffrey Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.
Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways—
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?
I want to ask them
if they don’t remember—
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?—
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.
They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.
Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.
There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?
There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.
"Love at First Sight" from MAP: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska, translated from Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Copyright © 2015 by The Wislawa Szymborska Foundation. English copyright © 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
(Suggested by post-game broadcasts)
Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting and baseball is like writing. You can never tell with either how it will go or what you will do; generating excitement— a fever in the victim— pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter. Victim in what category? Owlman watching from the press box? To whom does it apply? Who is excited? Might it be I? It’s a pitcher’s battle all the way—a duel— a catcher’s, as, with cruel puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly back to plate. (His spring de-winged a bat swing.) They have that killer instinct; yet Elston—whose catching arm has hurt them all with the bat— when questioned, says, unenviously, “I’m very satisfied. We won.” Shorn of the batting crown, says, “We”; robbed by a technicality. When three players on a side play three positions and modify conditions, the massive run need not be everything. “Going, going . . . ” Is it? Roger Maris has it, running fast. You will never see a finer catch. Well . . . “Mickey, leaping like the devil”—why gild it, although deer sounds better— snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest, one-handing the souvenir-to-be meant to be caught by you or me. Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral; he could handle any missile. He is no feather. “Strike! . . . Strike two!” Fouled back. A blur. It’s gone. You would infer that the bat had eyes. He put the wood to that one. Praised, Skowron says, “Thanks, Mel. I think I helped a little bit.” All business, each, and modesty. Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer. In that galaxy of nine, say which won the pennant? Each. It was he. Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws by Boyer, finesses in twos— like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre- diagnosis with pick-off psychosis. Pitching is a large subject. Your arm, too true at first, can learn to catch your corners—even trouble Mickey Mantle. (“Grazed a Yankee! My baby pitcher, Montejo!” With some pedagogy, you’ll be tough, premature prodigy.) They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying indeed! The secret implying: “I can stand here, bat held steady.” One may suit him; none has hit him. Imponderables smite him. Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it! Celebrity costs privacy!) Cow’s milk, “tiger’s milk,” soy milk, carrot juice, brewer’s yeast (high-potency— concentrates presage victory sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez— deadly in a pinch. And “Yes, it’s work; I want you to bear down, but enjoy it while you’re doing it.” Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain, if you have a rummage sale, don’t sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh. Studded with stars in belt and crown, the Stadium is an adastrium. O flashing Orion, your stars are muscled like the lion.
From The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. Copyright © 1961 Marianne Moore, © renewed 1989 by Lawrence E. Brinn and Louise Crane, executors of the Estate of Marianne Moore.
Tiger beetles, crickets, velvet ants, all
know the useful friction of part on part,
how rub of wing to leg, plectrum to file,
marks territories, summons mates. How
a lip rasped over finely tined ridges can
play sweet as a needle on vinyl. But
sometimes a lone body is insufficient.
So the sapsucker drums chimney flashing
for our amped-up morning reveille. Or,
later, home again, the wind’s papery
come hither through the locust leaves. The roof
arcing its tin back to meet the rain.
The bed’s soft creak as I roll to my side.
What sounds will your body make against mine?
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Jacobs. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
You, rare as Georgia
spell that catches
us by surprise.
The too-early blooms,
tricked, gardenias blown about,
circling wind. Green figs.
Nothing stays. I want
to watch you walk
the hall to the cold tile
night, a lifetime.
From Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995–2015. Copyright © 2016 Kevin Young. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf.
Can a simple dress become a coping mechanism?
—NPR August 18, 2020
So many years of misguided self-reflection,
examining every curve in the mirror! Alone,
locked down, I buy online three ice blue
nightgowns I discover I can live in. I glide
through living room, dining room, hall, off the floor
slightly; like the great opera stars of the 20th century,
I’m dressed for singing! My kitchen becomes the stage
of the Met. Cutting the garlic, my hand floats, my
large self floats; I breathe in & out, completely;
the blue nightgown floating around my ankles.
Copyright © 2021 by Toi Derricotte. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.