Upon the face of darkness beams my soul—
Nearby, behind the curtains of my sight;
And ’round it weary waves of wonder roll—
Sad seas of color o’er dead seas of light:
Here is no Space, no Time—nor day nor night—
Here is the boundless, undiminished Whole—
Here is my soul.
Here is no love that hides beneath its shoal
The sandix that can redden a sea of years;
Here is no lust that lies to Beauty’s mole
And draws from eyes of flint a flood of tears;
Here is no disenchantment and no fears—
No blasted hopes, no jaunty joy, no dole—
Here is my soul.
Now lost in clay and water; now the Whole
Is lost within me: sea and earth and sky
I dismiss from my presence, as I roll
My lids and lo, the lord of night am I.
Into the airless wilderness I fly;
Here is no vain desire, no galling goal—
Here is my soul.
In Eternity, shod with the hoary noul
Of deathless Death—in dim and shimmering shades
Of soilless vales that bosom and cajole
The crystal flowers dropping from cloud-cascades;
Here in the grove of myriad colonnades
Of jet and pearl and amber I now stroll—
Here is my soul.
From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.
haunted by wholeness— bright debris sibilant beneath skin tug-of-warring with gravity, we harvest shine from the caves of mouths & crevices of eyes incandescent as we remember the most massive flares among us, detonate inside each other to hold tiny supernovae in our arms. Crushed bodies craving fusion keep us brimming with enough energy to pass on, keep us lit & lying to ourselves about the eventual & sudden ways we black hole— it already happened, it’s happening anyway, to happen soon, scattering all that we think matters so much now for another radiant giant to gather then fling across galaxies again—reconstituted & scorched clean, new turmoil begging from the inside out to burn.
From Starshine & Clay (Four Way Books, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Used with the permission of Four Way Books.
two arms in air,
in dance, after catastrophe.
the body the universe the body
the fabric held at two points:
i am lamb. i am shepherd.
a star waits.
the stars are a map in the noon of it all.
a letter, a relic from a gone civilization.
a ن holds the tail of the snake.
a ن holds a star in its ark.
a ن is a prayer before Time.
hearsay: the whale swallowed the sun.
there, an eclipse, the sun’s wispy corona.
hearsay: the whale spit it out.
returned our sun to us, this time.
a small circle silences.
a set of small teeth doubles.
this, the machine,
my grandmother’s language,
gifted her by holy fish,
forbidden her by man.
in a dream, she and i,
two pisces fish, whispering friends
in the noon of it all.
a ن today
on my brother’s door.
a ن between my legs.
a ن on my neighbor’s cheek.
you, you hold the broken in me.
you, you hold the setting sun.
you, you escape
the mouth of death.
in the noon
of the universe.
single seed. bijou in float.
there, there waits the ark.
A note on this poem, an invitation:
Oh noon, the letter ن, intoning the -n- sound, pronounced noon.
A Semitic letter, really, in Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and through some
starcrossed lineage, it has a cousin in Sanskrit, maybe even the same DNA.
Some say the letter got its shape from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a snake.
Some say the snake morphed into a whale, a fish, a dolphin. In the Qur’an,
the Surah of The Pen begins by saying that the ن and the pen are in the act of
writing, as if the ن were capable of script, were it not script itself. Were it not
a snake, a whale, a palimpsest. What writes us as we write it. In Arabic class,
Professor Hani drew a ن on the board and asked us what it looked like.
He wanted us to say a cup. We saw an ark instead, a boat. And true,
the ancients believed it might be a cup. And true, the scholars
believe it to be a boat, holding a seed, the seed of the universe,
awaiting rebirth after apocalypse. Birth, as in pregnant
womb, though this isn’t in the scholarly texts.
Some liken it to a setting sun.
And Jonah, prophet who found God in the whale.
The floating diacritical dot, Jonah escaping death.
A noon as the beginning and end of existence.
These days, in Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere
being ravaged by death squads,
a symbol is painted on people’s doors.
For anyone who does not submit to tyranny.
There, there waits the ark.
Copyright © 2021 by Kamelya Omayma Youssef. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
It felt familiar, your mouth moving
up my side like a gale warning. My
arm calico—mammatus clouds—
blood brought to the surface.
Now I understand my childhood
home. Releasing shingle after shingle
into the brutal air. Our front door
torn and flat in the yard. Violent
gusts whipping through the marshes—
the back of your hand.
Of what I have unlearned
this was the hardest.
One sandpiper singing
still, desire does not
have to leave you
Copyright © 2022 by Meghann Plunkett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
The world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind happiness not always being so very much fun if you don’t mind a touch of hell now and then just when everything is fine because even in heaven they don’t sing all the time The world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind some people dying all the time or maybe only starving some of the time which isn’t half so bad if it isn’t you Oh the world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t much mind a few dead minds in the higher places or a bomb or two now and then in your upturned faces or such other improprieties as our Name Brand society is prey to with its men of distinction and its men of extinction and its priests and other patrolmen and its various segregations and congressional investigations and other constipations that our fool flesh is heir to Yes the world is the best place of all for a lot of such things as making the fun scene and making the love scene and making the sad scene and singing low songs of having inspirations and walking around looking at everything and smelling flowers and goosing statues and even thinking and kissing people and making babies and wearing pants and waving hats and dancing and going swimming in rivers on picnics in the middle of the summer and just generally ‘living it up’ Yes but then right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician
From A Coney Island of the Mind, copyright ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.