Admittedly I may be blowing my <6 mm mole somewhat
out of proportion in the general scheme of things. At my
last follow-up, Dr. Song gently reminded me that we
entered the “catabasis” phase of my journey through
dermatological oncology some time ago. 

Cata-, from the ancient Greek κατά, or downward, prefixed
to the intransitive form of the verbal stem baínō, to go. It
means a trip to the coast, a military retreat, an endless
windstorm over the Antarctic plateau, or the sadness
experienced by some men at a certain point in their lives. 

In a clinical context, the term may also refer to the decline
or remission of a disease. So why do I still feel a ghostly
pinprick along the crease of my arm where the needle went
in before I went under? I suspect that I am not quite out of
the woods yet. Then again, maybe the woods have yet to
exit me.

Copyright © 2020 by Srikanth Reddy. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 6, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Is is.

There is no distinction between ideology and image.

One.

He records his name on a gold medallion.

Two.

The philosopher must say is.

The world is legion.

The self is a suffering form.

Is is.

Waves rise and fall, but the sea remains.

From Voyager, published by University of California. Copyright © 2011 by Srikanth Reddy. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Then the pulse.
Then a pause.
Then twilight in a box.
Dusk underfoot.
Then generations.

*

Then the same war by a different name.
Wine splashing in a bucket.
The erection, the era.
Then exit Reason.
Then sadness without reason.
Then the removal of the ceiling by hand.

*

Then pages & pages of numbers.
Then the page with the faint green stain.
Then the page on which Prince Theodore, gravely wounded, is thrown onto a wagon.
Then the page on which Masha weds somebody else.
Then the page that turns to the story of somebody else.
Then the page scribbled in dactyls.
Then the page which begins Exit Angel.
Then the page wrapped around a dead fish.
Then the page where the serfs reach the ocean.
Then a nap.
Then the peg.
Then the page with the curious helmet.
Then the page on which millet is ground.
Then the death of Ursula.
Then the stone page they raised over her head.
Then the page made of grass which goes on.

*

Exit Beauty.

*

Then the page someone folded to mark her place.
Then the page on which nothing happens.
The page after this page.

Then the transcript.
Knocking within.

Interpretation, then harvest.

*

Exit Want.
Then a love story.

Then a trip to the ruins.
Then & only then the violet agenda.

Then hope without reason.
Then the construction of an underground passage between us.

From Facts for Visitors by Srikanth Reddy. Copyright © 2004 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of the University of California Press. All rights reserved.

I pry open the files, still packed
        with liquor & strange brine.

Midnight seeps from the cracks
        slow pulp of arithmetic. Four or five

or six at a time, the white men draw
        along the Gordonsville Road, on foot

or on horseback, clustered close—
        each man counting up his hours, the knife

of each man’s tongue at the hinge
        of his own mouth. For ninety-three years

& every time I slip away to read
        those white men line the roadway

secreting themselves in the night air
        feeding & breathing in their private

column. Why belly up to their pay stubs
        scraping my teeth on the chipped flat

of each page? This dim drink only blights me
        but I do it.

Copyright © 2020 by Kiki Petrosino. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Dressed all in plastic,
which means oil,

we’re bright-eyed, scrambling
for the colored cubes

spilled
on the rug’s polymer.

Inside each 
is a tiny car.

When we can’t unscrew the tops
we cry for help.

We’re optimists.

            *

To sleep is to fall
into belief.

Airing even
our worst suspicions
may be pleasurable;

we are carried,
buoyed.

In sleep,
the body can heal,
grow larger.

Creatures that never wake
can sprout a whole new
limb,

a tail.

This may be wrong.

Copyright © 2020 by Rae Armantrout. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The person you are trying

is not accepting. Is not

at this time. Please

again. The person

you are trying is not

in service. Please check

that you have. This

is your call. Your

person is not accepting.

Your person is this

number. You have

not correctly. Your person

is a recording. Again later

at this time. Not accepting.

Copyright © 2020 by Martha Collins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The windshield’s dirty, the squirter stuff’s all gone, so
we drive on together into a sun-gray pane of grime
and dust. My son

puts the passenger seat back as far as it will go, closes
his eyes. I crack my window open for a bit
of fresher air. It’s so

incredibly fresh out there.

Rain, over.
Puddles left
in ditches. Black mirrors with our passing 

reflected in them, I suppose, but I’d
have to pull over and kneel down at the side
of the road to know.

The day ahead—

for this, the radio
doesn’t need to be played.
The house we used to live in

still exists
in a snapshot, in which
it yellows in another family’s scrapbook.

And a man on a bicycle
rides beside us
for a long time, very swiftly, until finally

he can’t keep up—

but before he slips
behind us, he salutes us
with his left hand—

a reminder:

that every single second—
that every prisoner on death row—
that every name on every tombstone—

that everywhere we go—
that every day, like this one, will
be like every other, having never been, never

ending. So
thank you. And, oh—
I almost forgot to say it: amen.

Copyright © 2020 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Those years are foliage of trees
their trunks hidden by bushes;
behind them a gray haze topped with silver
hides the swinging steps of my first love
the Danube.

On its face
grave steel palaces with smoking torches,
parading monasteries moved slowly to the Black Sea
till the bared branches scratched the north wind.

On its bed
a great Leviathan waited
for the ceremonies on the arrival of Messiah
and bobbing small fishes snapped sun splinters
for the pleasure of the monster.

Along its shores
red capped little hours danced
with rainbow colored kites,
messengers to heaven.

My memory is a sigh
of swallows swinging
through a slow dormant summer
to a timid line on the horizon.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Why don’t more animals pass through here? Dale asked
There were none
But sounds
shifting in thick oil
behind the cement wall
that kept precisely those animals out

the moon was rising
a bruise was rakish on the moon’s right brain
A coyote to the southwest on the roof of the hotel
birds, nightbirds   a dog

Why didn’t more animals pass through
The strangulation of the self
to alert the family   by way of torched skin
and a thin buoy of breathing
to one’s individuality
as a service
to extinction   personal in-fruition

Is Jupiter red? One star was the question
meeting itself in the atom-sphere

Animals were parading eating the mustards
and ants   fallen fruits

a grapefruit? I asked.
a pear, Dale said.

We were in the sly suburbs, sitting by a swimming pool
The lack of animals was the consequence
of enforcement   the prospectus of looking
at oneself   and seeing an end the end
when the ark has been sent off
depleted in the mirage of heat
curling the horizon
to the contemplation of the human
on the shore

the contemplation is impatient
Why stammer   animals are on the roof
in the trees   the wall that starts at the ground
fences, applications,
hedgerows, motion lights
gates, kitchen windows,

animals are abundant
Why don’t more humans pass through here?

Copyright © 2018 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

What is water but rain but cloud but river but ocean 
but ice but tear.

What is tear but torn what is worn as skin as in as out
as out.

Exodus. I am trying to tell a tale that shifts like a gale
that hurricanes and casts a line

that buckles in wind that is reborn a kite a wing. 
I am far

from the passage far from the plane of descending
them,

suitcases passports degrees of mobility like heat 
like heat on their backs. 

This cluster of fine grapes Haitian purple beige
black brown.

Copyright © 2020 by Danielle Legros Georges. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Bird dogs, they say—

the kind that chase something in flight.
try to capture with its teeth
a winged ceremony,
feathers dripping from each of their mouths.
The first dog was just plain old.
The second died of a heart worm pill —my father neglected to purchase.
What else has he let die?
My mother fixed his plate every night,
never bought a car, or shoes, or skirt
without his permission.
She birthed children and raised them.
She, my sister, and I—

winged things in the air.
I knew there was blood under the ground.
No surprise when I found the house was sinking.
Our dogs always stayed outside, not allowed
in the living room.
Only the basement,
where my father stayed, slept, fixed things.
My mother, a silent companion.
The dog barks and my father goes running.
The dog dies
and we bury my mother.
Graves for everyone
We bark
and feathers fall from my father’s teeth.
He barks and becomes the tree.
The bark remembers phantom noose
and screams.
The screech becomes a bullet
without a window to land through,
just a body,
a backyard,
a shovel.

Copyright © 2020 by Barbara Fant. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

I am hovering over this rug
with a hair dryer on high in my hand
I have finally, inevitably, spilled
red wine on this impractically white
housewarming hand-me-down from my cousin, who
clearly, and incorrectly, thought this was a good idea

With the help of a little panic,
sparkling water and a washcloth,
I am stunned by how quickly the wine washes out,
how I was sure this mistake would find me
every day with its gaping mouth, reminding me
of my own propensity for failure
and yet, here I am
with this clean slate

The rug is made of fur,
which means it died
to be here

It reminds me of my own survival
and everyone who has taught me
to shake loose the shadow of death

I think of inheritance, how this rug
was passed on to me through blood,
how this animal gave its blood
so that I may receive the gift of its death
and be grateful for it

I think of our inability
to control stories of origin
how history does not wash away
with water and a good scrub 

I think of evolution,
what it means to make it through
this world with your skin intact,
how flesh is fragile
but makes a needle and thread
of itself when necessary

I think of all that I have inherited,
all the bodies buried for me to be here
and stay here, how I was born with grief
and gratitude in my bones

And I think of legacy,
how I come from a long line of sorcerers
who make good work of building
joy from absolutely nothing

And what can I do with that
but pour another glass,
thank the stars
for this sorceress blood
and keep pressing forward

Copyright © 2020 by L. Ash Williams. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

She said, I wish I prayed, I would pray for you. And,

we all wanted a shape of prayer in our brains, taking over

instead of it chomping on itself. Stupid little elf. God has

never come to me. We surrender in the teeming utterance

of materials soaked with sentences already made in air

and by machines. The country says Freedom, crushed under

its own dream weight. I did not make up this song. Design

Within Reach is having a “Work from home sale.” The coming

apart, the giant laceration across the sky, we all feel it. Look

at the fire, look at it, like all the rage of all the smallest beings.

Copyright © 2020 by Dawn Lundy Martin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 6, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

For Laquan McDonald

I think it’s quails lining the road but it's fallen Birchwood.

What look like white clouds in a grassy basin, sprinklers.

I mistake the woman walking her retriever as a pair of fawns.

Could-be animals. Unexplained weather. Maybe they see us

that way. Knowing better, the closer they get. Not quite ready to let it go.

Copyright © 2020 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Idra Novey

On a dirt road

On a drive to el campo

You found a batey

I cut the cane 

We sucked on a stalk

You gave me your arms 

I swam in the river

We locked the door 

Then the lights went out 

And the radio played 

You fingered the pesos 

I walked to the beach

We fried the fish 

You ate the mango  

I jumped in the water

We bought the flowers

Then the migrants came

And you bartered for more 

Then the sirens blared

And they were carried away

But we didn’t stop them 

Then the ocean swept

And the palm trees sagged

They were foreigners

We were foreigners  

And we lived there

Copyright © 2020 by Jasminne Mendez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 15, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

translated by Bryan Mendoza

It’s a spacious chamber.
Well lit.
A light that refracts the distant woodland.

Over the table lies
the body and the wings
outspread
like sails of a shipwreck.

They’ve stitched together the carnage
with no other motive
than something comparable to mercy.

Soon the volunteers will arrive
and they’ll take the body,
including the wings
to the landfill.

 


Disección del cadáver de Pegaso

 

Es una sala espaciosa.
Muy clara.
Es luz que refracta el bosque lejano.
Sobre la mesa yacen
el cuerpo y las alas
extendidas
como velas de bajeles deshechos.
Han hilvanado el despojo
sin otro motivo
que algo semejante a la caridad.
Pronto llegarán los voluntarios
y se llevarán el cuerpo,
incluidas las alas,
al basural.

© 2020 Julio Pazos Barrera and Bryan Mendoza. Published in Poem-a-Day in partnership with Words Without Borders (wordswithoutborders.org) on September 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Wisława Szymborska

In my dreams,
I lasso a wild steer on the first try.

I chauffeur Picasso
To meet up with Dali—
None of us is happy about this summit.

After licking my fingertips,
I play guitar masterfully.

I use index cards to make sense
Of the universe.

I discover my childhood cat in the neighbor’s tree—
So that’s where you’ve been, you little rascal.

I beg the alligator, por favor,
To make a snap judgement,
Will it be my leg or my arm?

Picture me swimming with dolphins.
Picture me with these dolphins
Sitting in lawn chairs.

I’m full of gratitude—
The lightbulb comes on
When the refrigerator door is opened.

Yes, I’m the scientist who solved laryngitis—
Now all of us howl at our own pleasure.

I get to throw a trophy from a moving car.
When I park my car,
I’m awarded another trophy—
Someone above is giving me a second chance.

Copyright © 2020 by Gary Soto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 29, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the beginning there was darkness,
then a bunch of other stuff—and lots of people.
Some things were said and loosely interpreted,

or maybe things were not communicated clearly.
Regardless—there has always been an index.
That thing about the meek—how we

shall inherit the earth; that was a promise
made in a treaty at the dawn of time
agreed upon in primordial darkness                

and documented in the spiritual record.
The nature of the agreement was thus:
The world will seemingly be pushed past capacity.

A new planet will be “discovered” 31 light-years away.   
Space travel will advance rapidly,
making the journey feasible. The ice sheets will melt.

Things will get ugly. The only way to leave
will be to buy a ticket. Tickets will be priced at exactly
the amount that can be accrued

by abandoning basic humanity.
The index will show how you came by your fortune:            
If you murdered, trafficked or exploited the vulnerable,

stole, embezzled, poisoned, cheated, swindled,
or otherwise subdued nature to come by wealth
great enough to afford passage to the new earth;

if your ancestors did these things and you’ve done nothing
to benefit from their crimes yet do nothing to atone
through returning inherited wealth to the greater good

you shall be granted passage. It was agreed.
The meek shall stay, the powerful shall leave.
And it all shall start again.

The meek shall inherit the earth,
and what shall we do with it,
but set about putting aside our meekness?

Copyright © 2020 by Rena Priest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.