wake up when he mentions colors
and light, streets they’ve walked—
Second Avenue, West 20th, Park.
This guy is happy, right? they ask;
who am I to answer. What I like
about Schuyler is the way sonatas
and Coca-Cola flourish in the same stanza,
morning glories opening
their bright mouths, and trailing down
tender vines.

I don’t drink soda and I never listen
to Faure as much as I should
(What voice
is chanting always be better?). What I like is
the pyrotechnics always just past
the paper horizon,
waiting to burst from underneath.
It’s the idea that it’s enough to think
one thing and then say it: maybe a stapler sits
like a black jaw on the desk while the aloe
stretches half-parabola curves
towards the light and an avocado shell
waits to be rubbish.

There are, of course, always going to be people
who hook us under the sternum and pull
us forward with wire until our own bones break
to make us relinquish them. And in their wake we watch
their boat sail away with a mast solid as the Empire
State Building and all flags in array. Goodbye, little sailor,
I’ll miss you
when I drift down under dark water
where there are shipwrecks and bleached whale
bones and fish bright as constellations, but not enough
to keep swimming.

Copyright © 2016 by Kate Angus. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

The morning sky is clouding up
and what is that tree,
dressed up in white? The fruit
tree, French pear. Sulphur-
yellow bees stud the forsythia
canes leaning down into the transfer
across the park. And trees in
skimpy flower bud suggest
the uses of paint thinner, so
fine the net they cast upon
the wind. Cross-pollination
is the order of the fragrant day.
That was yesterday: today is May,
not April and the magnolias
open their goblets up and
an unseen precipitation
fills them. A gray day in May.

From Other Flowers by James Schuyler. Copyright © 2010 by James Schuyler. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux . All rights reserved.

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
With a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

This poem is in the public domain.

Only through a disaster or a renovation
does the entire brick side of a house come down
and in this case the workmen threw stoves and refrigerators
out the windows, letting them bounce
off the fire escapes into the little Brooklyn yard.
And I wouldn’t presume to say
they did it gleefully, but the brute force
resulting in the massive sound
well, it would be difficult not to feel some satisfaction
I would think, but I don’t take apart
whole houses for long hours at a time, and I
can’t say how anything around me experiences life—
for instance whether the sparrows
who burrow in the small hill of dirt
by sitting close as cookies on a cookie sheet
then fluttering and chittering, and turning a bit
like gears in a watch, and more chittering
as if they are winding it—
whether enjoyment comes to the sparrows;
nor the tenor when the mice, bucking expectation
change direction to squeeze inside
after the long winter, seemingly undeterred by the four of us
having an earnest discussion about the painting in the Whitney
but racing—calmly, somehow—between the couches
as if it were their private two a.m.;
or the ants who also appeared in the kitchen as if
the first daffodils in the yard trumpeted directions to them
to carry items thrice their size right away
finding just what they needed, a year later;
and all this triggering a cleaning jag
during which I pulled the refrigerator and stove
out from the wall, cleared the shelves, took out the rugs
and saw the naked planes and corners
we made a life within, while across the yards
the construction crew, passing
their own halfway point, had begun to rebuild the place.
How emphatically the truly knowledgeable have worked
to insure we don’t ascribe delight
to living things other than ourselves! But when
the cardinal joins his mate on the top of the fence—
a peck on the beak—framed by the bared stories of the house
and the furred buds on the winter straw of a bush
look like green hoofs about to gallop into leafness
you can’t tell me to separate
the work of instinct from the moment for a jay
when something feels one-hulled-sunflower-seed-better
than the moment-before-the-sunflower-seed
or to deny that fortune in this place
has allowed optimism to alight with sunlight
on the orange construction helmet of the man now
home in bed—regardless, regardless of it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Greenbaum. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sewing patterns are designed for imaginary
people, based on average measurements
taken in the 1930s by the WPA

and adjusted over the decades by the Industry.

I sew a Misses 14, designed for a woman
5’5” to 5’6”, 36/28/38,

which is to say no one,

so I alter the pattern to fit a phantom of me
instead of a phantom of her.

She doesn’t need any more dresses.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Chase Twichell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I almost met you
On a Saturday
In Gloucester.
The wind blew easterly.
There was a jar of mums
On a table near the window.

Their yellows were calling
To each other.

Place-names
Were put back
In the pencil drawer
Before I noticed your shadow.

Copyright © 2017 by Fanny Howe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Three paces down the shore, low sounds the lute,
The better that my longing you may know;
I’m not asking you to come,
But—can’t you go?

Three words, “I love you,” and the whole is said—
The greatness of it throbs from sun to sun;
I’m not asking you to walk,
But—can’t you run?

Three paces in the moonlight’s glow I stand,
And here within the twilight beats my heart.
I’m not asking you to finish,
But—to start.

This poem is in the public domain. 

I walked down alone Sunday after church
   To the place where John has been cutting trees
To see for myself about the birch
   He said I could have to bush my peas.

The sun in the new-cut narrow gap
   Was hot enough for the first of May,
And stifling hot with the odor of sap
   From stumps still bleeding their life away.

The frogs that were peeping a thousand shrill
   Wherever the ground was low and wet,
The minute they heard my step went still
   To watch me and see what I came to get.

Birch boughs enough piled everywhere!—
   All fresh and sound from the recent axe.
Time someone came with cart and pair
   And got them off the wild flower’s backs.

They might be good for garden things
   To curl a little finger round,
The same as you seize cat’s-cradle strings,
   And lift themselves up off the ground.

Small good to anything growing wild,
   They were crooking many a trillium
That had budded before the boughs were piled
   And since it was coming up had to come.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Vision of Baudelaire        in this North Florida forest      looking into the eye
of a lizard with green         purple eyeliner zigzagging its way up a burnt log

Florida Yew, Olive, neon orange        day moon mushrooms
over the white bluffs         of the psychiatric Apalachicola River

Valéry says shells, flowers and crystals    are the privileged
objects of nature           harmonic underbelly,
endless, alien recycle      of gorge and interlude 

George Michael died today       For I live in a bubble of joy     
Go out into the sun!         the doctor says               your blood work     
is totally normal   except for a            Vitamin D deficiency 
and left the office behind     and unleashed my sentimentality
 

Copyright © 2017 by Sandra Simonds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

200 cows         more than 600 hilly acres

            property would have been even larger
had  J not sold 66 acres to DuPont for
                      waste from its Washington Works factory
where J was employed        
                                                did not want to sell
            but needed money   poor health         
mysterious ailments

Not long after the sale cattle began to act
deranged     
                          footage shot on a camcorder
grainy               intercut with static         
Images jump repeat      sound accelerates        
      slows down          
                    quality of a horror movie

the rippling shallow water       the white ash
      trees shedding their leaves 
                                                      a large pipe
discharging green water      
                                                  a skinny red cow
hair missing      back humped  
                                               
a dead black calf in snow         its eye
      a brilliant chemical blue    

                                            a calf’s bisected head       
      liver     heart    stomachs    kidneys           
              gall bladder      some dark      some green                  

cows with stringy tails         malformed hooves           
      lesions      red receded eyes        suffering   slobbering       
                  staggering like drunks

It don’t look like
                               anything I’ve been into before

                                   

I began rising through the ceiling of each floor in the hospital as though I were being pulled by some force outside my own volition. I continued rising until I passed through the roof itself and found myself in the sky. I began to move much more quickly past the mountain range near the hospital and over the city. I was swept away by some unknown force, and started to move at an enormous speed. Just moving like a thunderbolt through a darkness.

 

R’s taking on the case I found to be inconceivable

It just felt like the right thing to do
                                                                   a great
opportunity to use my background for people who
                                really needed it          

                                R: filed a federal suit 
                                         pulled permits  
                                             land deeds    
                                                     a letter that mentioned
a substance at the landfill     
                                                 PFOA          
                               perfluorooctanoic acid

a soap-like agent used in
                                              ScotchgardTM
                                                                         TeflonTM

PFOA:                 was to be incinerated or
                              sent to chemical waste facilities     
                                    not to be flushed into water or sewers

DuPont:
                 pumped hundreds of thousands of pounds
                          into the Ohio River    
                 dumped tons of PFOA sludge
                          into open unlined pits 

PFOA:
               increased the size of the liver in rats and rabbits         
                                  (results replicated in dogs)
               caused birth defects in rats      
               caused cancerous testicular pancreatic and
                             liver tumors in lab animals      
               possible DNA damage from exposure 
               bound to plasma proteins in blood     
               was found circulating through each organ       
               high concentrations in the blood of factory workers   
               children of pregnant employees had eye defects          
               dust vented from factory chimneys settled well-beyond
                            the property line
               entered the water table
               concentration in drinking water 3x international safety limit
               study of workers linked exposure with prostate cancer
               worth $1 billion in annual profit
 

(It don’t look like anything I’ve been into before)      

 

Every individual thing glowed with life. Bands of energy were being dispersed from a huge universal heartbeat, faster than a raging river. I found I could move as fast as I could think.

 

DuPont:
               did not make this information public
               declined to disclose this finding       
               considered switching to new compound that appeared less toxic
                        and stayed in the body for a much shorter duration of time
               decided against it
               decided it needed to find a landfill for toxic sludge
               bought 66 acres from a low-level employee
                        at the Washington Works facility
 

(J needed money         
                                         had been in poor health     
a dead black calf              
                                         its eye chemical blue          
cows slobbering               
                                         staggering like drunks)

 

I could perceive the Earth, outer space, and humanity from a spacious and indescribable ‘God’s eye view.’ I saw a planet to my left covered with vegetation of many colors no signs of mankind or any familiar shorelines. The waters were living waters, the grass was living, the trees and the animals were more alive than on earth.

                                   
D’s first husband had been a chemist
                                                                          When you
worked at DuPont in this town you could have
everything you wanted
                                       DuPont paid for his education          
secured him a mortgage           paid a generous salary 
even gave him a free supply of PFOA

 

He explained that the planet we call Earth really has a proper name, has its own energy, is a true living being, was very strong but has been weakened considerably.
 

                                                              which she used
as soap in the family’s dishwasher       

 

I could feel Earth’s desperate situation. Her aura appeared to be very strange, made me wonder if it was radioactivity. It was bleak, faded in color, and its sound was heart wrenching.

 

                                                Sometimes
her husband came home sick—fever, nausea, diarrhea,
vomiting—‘Teflon flu’

             an emergency hysterectomy
                                                                   a second surgery          

 

I could tell the Doctor everything he did upon my arrival down to the minute details of accompanying the nurse to the basement of the hospital to get the plasma for me; everything he did while also being instructed and shown around in Heaven.
 

Clients called R to say they had received diagnoses of cancer
         or that a family member had died

                  W who had cancer had died of a heart attack

            Two years later W’s wife died of cancer

They knew this stuff was harmful
            and they put it in the water anyway
 

I suspect that Earth may be a place of education.
 

PFOA detected in:
                                American blood banks    
                                blood or vital organs of:
                                                                            Atlantic salmon
                                                                            swordfish
                                                                            striped mullet
                                                                            gray seals
                                                                            common cormorants
                                                                            Alaskan polar bears
                                                                            brown pelicans
                                                                            sea turtles
                                                                            sea eagles
                                                                            California sea lions      
                                                                            Laysan albatrosses on a wildlife refuge
                                                                                          in the middle of the North Pacific       Ocean;>


Viewing the myriad human faces with an indescribable, intimate, and profound love. This love was all around me, it was everywhere, but at the same time it was also me.

 

                                      We see a situation

        that has gone

                                from Washington Works
 

All that was important in life was the love we felt.
 

                                                                                          to statewide
 

All that was made, said, done, or even thought without love was undone.

 

                                     to everywhere
 

                  it’s global

                                  

In my particular case, God took the form of a luminous warm water. It does not mean that a luminous warm water is God. It is just that, for me, it was experiencing the luminous warm water that I felt the most connection with the eternal.

Copyright © 2017 Tracy K. Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets. “Watershed” appears in Wade in the Water, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in April 2018.

There’s no law that says
life needs to get more complicated.
In fact, it’s difficult to grow big.
Humanity has always been improbable,

but occurred when two single cells
floated—perhaps they wanted
each other?—into one. Even a host
can learn to love a leech. This is molecular:

One thing cares for another, in a way
it could never care for itself. Everything
you know was born from this sacrifice. Red-
woods stretched, shellfish bristled the floor.

Life, in even the simplest form, has always
been a matter of finding the energy.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Lizzie Harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Say not of Beauty she is good,
Or aught but beautiful,
Or sleek to doves’ wings of the wood
Her wild wings of a gull.

Call her not wicked; that word’s touch
Consumes her like a curse;
But love her not too much, too much,
For that is even worse.

O, she is neither good nor bad,
But innocent and wild!
Enshrine her and she dies, who had
The hard heart of a child.

This poem is in the public domain. 

If space and time, as sages say,
    Are things which cannot be,
The fly that lives a single day
    Has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
    While love and life are free,
For time is time, and runs away,
    Though sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
    Was trembling on the vine,
Were withered ere the wild bee flew
    To suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
    Nor mourn to see them pine,
And though the flowers of love be few
    Yet let them be divine.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Here’s the End of the World
mobile with its shiny bullhorn
& platitudes among drawings
tattooed across the beige hood
big as a mammoth broken out
of ice, bellyful of buttercups.
Doomsday has come & gone,
& now the sluggish van rolls
toward the snowy East River
at a quarter past midnight,
& I wonder how it is to quit
a job one week earlier
& return on blue Monday,
begging the foreman
for a chance to stoke
the brimstone furnace.

Changes stumble into my life
sometimes, like last Sunday
when I sat at the dining table
of an old friend of a thousand
stories, a glare falling into my left
eye, her daughter watching
TV in a side room, & I heard
this Foley guy sawing a maple
cross with a horse-hair bow.
I can’t help but walk over
& lean into the doorway,
& then raise a phantom alto
to my lips. The cat’s young too,
rocking his upright at the foot
of Babel, speaking pain & joy
in the most beautiful way
I’ve heard in a long time,
& say to myself, Rabbas,
you could run the table
with this guy at Small’s,
could teach the shadows
to walk on their hands
& dance with alley cats.

I’ve been here a long time
working this hunk of brass,
& knew Mingus in the days
when he’d strike a righteous
pose up on the bandstand
& bring down the house,
talking jive & rave, jabbing
below the belt, where it hurts.
Can you imagine him up there
today, playing a new version
of “Fables of Faubus,” big
as thunder at dawn rocking
hundred-year-old hanging trees
out of memory, can you dig?

The guy on the corner
jingling coins in a Dixie cup
pulls on his blind-man’s shades
as March runs down Delancey,
woozy as a rush-up of sparrows
over Chinatown. One small thing
seems almost holy, & lightheaded
hues settle over the architecture
& a handkerchief dance unfolds
into some jostle of bumper balls.
This is the hour paradise is not
only for itself, & one doesn’t feel
stupid picking up a dull penny
from a sidewalk. A tremble goes
through cloth, tugging bodies
into a new world, & by ten-thirty
the wind rolls on past the Hudson,
headed upstate. I want to jump
up & down, to shout as March
ambushes the last antiheroes
this scatterbrain side of town.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 26, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

New York Public Library, Edna St. Vincent Millay archives

Because Norma saved even the grocery lists,
              it was no surprise to find a lock of hair

                            coiled and glued loosely into the scrapbook,
crimped and rusty, more weird

and alive than any calling card or photograph,
              letter, erotic or otherwise, sweeter

                            than the candy kisses fixed upon the page.
I shouldn’t have touched it, but in those days

I was always hungry. Despite the rare books
              librarian lurking, I set my thumb against it.

                            Weightless, dusty, it warmed at my touch.
By 1949, all the grocery lists affirmed

the same fixations: Liverwurst, Olives, Cookies, Scotch. 
              Liverwurst, Olives, Cookies, Scotch, penciled

                            on squares of insipid paper. By 1950,
unsteady on her feet; by year’s end, dead at the foot

of the stairs. As I placed the book of relics
              back into its archival box, a single

                            copper wire fell from the page,
bright tendril on the table. I lifted it,

casket of DNA, protein, lipids, and still Titian red.
              Really, was I wrong to swallow it?  
 

Copyright © 2017 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’m thinking of the boiling sea
and the dream in which
all the fish were singing.
I want to wake up with my heart
not aching like death,
but I am always falling
in to terror. I’m a good person.
I grieve to appropriate degrees.
I mourn this season. This moment.
I mourn for the polar bear
drifting out of history
on a wedge of melting ice.
For the doughnut shop
which reached an end
yesterday, after decades and decades.
I’m thinking of the light
at dawn. Of the woman
in Alabama who ordered
six songbirds from a catalog because
she was lonely. Or
heartbroken. I’m thinking
of the four that came
dead in the box, mangled.
Of the two that are
missing. I want to tell you
that they were spotted
in the humid air
winging above a mall.
I want to tell you a story
about the time leaves fell from
the trees all at once. I am
thinking of cataclysm.
More than anything, I want to tell you
this. I want to disappear
in the night. I want
the night to vanish from memory.
I want to tell you
how this happened.

Copyright © 2017 by Paul Guest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,
perhaps, that with his very large hands,
perhaps, in all likelihood,
he put gently into the earth
some plants which, most likely,
some of them, in all likelihood,
continue to grow, continue
to do what such plants do, like house
and feed small and necessary creatures,
like being pleasant to touch and smell,
like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

Copyright © 2015 by Ross Gay. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

If you remember cosmology

there is nothing to stop time

running all the way to zero

 

Lying up or even lying down

I will just wiggle my hand to

remind you I was timorous
 

Copyright © 2017 by Wayne Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade

I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning

the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment

that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming

at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city

when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating

on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine

expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons

carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced

the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names

Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank

for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what

the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor

or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked

at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face

to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night

in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30

in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer

Copyright © 2017 by Rick Barot. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 12, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Tonight the wind is in your voice.
And the gods are nervous
about the drinking water.
Someone hijacks the background
with three simple dance moves.
Or maybe the clouds
paused on the television
set during a ball game.
The silence inside
the photograph
of you eating alone
in an old yearbook.
This is going to be over
before you know it.
But not before your hands
become small birds
in celebration
of the present snow.
An expressed panic
attack of harmonics.
It’s like listening to your heartbeat
in a club, all the lights off,
all by yourself. 

Copyright © 2017 by Noah Falck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The heat rises in distorted gold
              waves around fire
                            but without fire,
              shimmering, twisting

anything seen through it.
              The heat rises, rasping
                            the air it rises through,
              scuffing the surface,

if the air has a surface.
              The tall summer
                            field is the keeper
              of secrets. Lie down

and forget your body, forgive
              your body its bad cradle,
                            its brokenness.
              Lie down and listen

to the rasp, to heat sweep
              the pale, dry grass as if
                            it were your own
              breathing, as if the field

you’ve pressed your shape into
              is a broom in reverse,
                            a broom being
              swept by the wind.

Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Good-night, my love, for I have dreamed of thee
In waking dreams, until my soul is lost—
Is lost in passion’s wide and shoreless sea,
Where, like a ship, unruddered, it is tost
Hither and thither at the wild waves’ will.
There is no potent Master’s voice to still
This newer, more tempestuous Galilee!

The stormy petrels of my fancy fly
In warning course across the darkening green,
And, like a frightened bird, my heart doth cry
And seek to find some rock of rest between
The threatening sky and the relentless wave.
It is not length of life that grief doth crave,
But only calm and peace in which to die.

Here let me rest upon this single hope,
For oh, my wings are weary of the wind,
And with its stress no more may strive or cope.
One cry has dulled mine ears, mine eyes are blind,—
Would that o’er all the intervening space,
I might fly forth and see thee face to face.
I fly; I search, but, love, in gloom I grope.

Fly home, far bird, unto thy waiting nest;
Spread thy strong wings above the wind-swept sea.
Beat the grim breeze with thy unruffled breast
Until thou sittest wing to wing with me.
Then, let the past bring up its tales of wrong;
We shall chant low our sweet connubial song,
Till storm and doubt and past no more shall be!
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

In the tallgrass
where all gold starts

wind became
my additional lover.

His hand the inflorescence
one finger partially gone—

Lovegrass/
Panicgrass/
Witchgrass./

**

I carefully researched
how to bait my trap.

Took the small blonde charmer
out of town.

Stealer of cholla,
eater of sun murdered plants.

I knew it would die coming back.

**


Ajo lilies
now up to my waist.

What blackened
the opal knowledge—

What his ghost finger traced.

Copyright © 2017 by Louise Mathias. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

              In the thick brush
they spend the hottest part of the day,
              soaking their hooves
in the trickle of mountain water
              the ravine hoards
on behalf of the oleander.
              You slung your gun
across your back in order to heave
              a huge grey stone
over the edge, so it rolled, then leaped
              and crashed below.
This is what it took to break the shade,
              to drive the beast,
not to mention a thrumming of wings
              into the sky,
a wild confetti of frantic grouse,
              but we had slugs,
not shot, and weren’t after their small meat,
              but the huge ram’s,
whose rack you’d seen last spring, and whose stench
              now parted air,
that scat-caked, rut-ripe perfume of beast.
              Watch now, he runs,
you said, launching another boulder,
              then out it sprang
through a gap in some pine, brown and black
              with spiraled horns
impossibly agile for its size.
              But, yes, he fell
with one shot, already an idea
              of meat for fire
by the time we’d scrambled through the scree.
              And that was all.
No, you were careful, even tender,
              with the knife-work,
slitting the body wide with one stroke
              then with your hands
lifting entire the miraculous
              liver and heart,
emptying the beast on the mountain.
              Later, it rained,
knocking dust off the patio stones.
              Small frogs returned
from abroad to sing in the stream beds.
              We sat and drank.
The beast talked to its rope in the tree.
              And then you spoke:
no more, you said, enough with mourning,
              then rose to turn
our guts, already searing on the fire.

Copyright © 2017 by Christopher Bakken. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 19, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Forty years—aye, and several more—ago,
      When I paced the headlands loosed from dull employ,
The waves huzza’d like a multitude below, 
      In the sway of an all-including joy
              Without cloy.

Blankly I walked there a double decade after,
      When thwarts had flung their toils in front of me,
And I heard the waters wagging in a long ironic laughter
      At the lot of men, and all the vapoury
              Things that be.

Wheeling change has set me again standing where
      Once I heard the waves huzza at Lammas-tide;
But they supplicate now—like a congregation there
      Who murmur the Confession—I outside,
              Prayer denied.

This poem is in the public domain. 

Where the slow river
meets the tide,
a red swan lifts red wings
and darker beak,
and underneath the purple down
of his soft breast
uncurls his coral feet.

Through the deep purple
of the dying heat
of sun and mist,
the level ray of sun-beam
has caressed
the lily with dark breast,
and flecked with richer gold
its golden crest.

Where the slow lifting
of the tide,
floats into the river
and slowly drifts
among the reeds,
and lifts the yellow flags,
he floats
where tide and river meet.

Ah kingly kiss—
no more regret
nor old deep memories
to mar the bliss;
where the low sedge is thick,
the gold day-lily
outspreads and rests
beneath soft fluttering
of red swan wings
and the warm quivering
of the red swan’s breast.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons.  Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.

Copyright © 2017 by Nickole Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The war ships bobbing off the coast.
                         The outdated oil drills painted
so to blend into the clouds. The gold thin
                         stitched to the water’s edge. Errant dolphin.
Balled up piece of trash on PCH with the list: Eggs, whole milk, butterflies.
                         You cry like a peacock, she says,
every time you get close to being the thing you want to be. 
                         What if God is the people around us:
watching, listening? What a relief that would be. 
                         But it’s so easy to forget we’re not
only being watched by the people in front of us, but
                         also by the people in places we cannot see. What is it
to be allowed back again? On the bike path, my father
                         ahead of me, saying, look at the wind,
meaning: look at the thing doing the moving,
                         moving orange-coned flags holding on for dear life.
The salt rolling off the ocean rots everything in its jowls
                         & my skin so close to turning, I can feel
becoming the metal shard you will learn to protect yourself from,
                        capable of catching the light drawing you in.
Everything rusted is a story beginning
                        once upon a time, I was young, standing in front of the ocean,
beneath the sun without consequence or query
                        for time, just standing, looking out into the thing
unaware of its indifference. There’s something Greek in that. Did Odysseus need the monsters more
                        than they needed him? Does it matter? A kind of antiquity
in that line of thinking but also something very American. Akin to sparklers.
                        They only dance if you light them & wave. Birds do not
abandon their young merely because of human touch.
                        This & so many other myths my mother breaks
in her search for palatable colors, for mixing,
                        for making what was lost whole again. 

Copyright © 2017 by Keegan Lester. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

This poem is in the public domain. 

the sap that I am springtime
               makes me want to reread Virgil’s

Georgics while eating cacio
              e pepe with fresh-shelled

peas this morning over coffee I
              watched a video of spinach

leaves washed of their cellular
              information and bathed in stem

cells until they became miniature
              hearts vascular hopes capable

of want to roll down a hill
              of clover to cold-spoon chrysanthemum

gelato or to stop whenever
              their phones autocorrect gps

to god the sublime is a suspension
              of disbelief the earth has gotten

sentimental this late in the game
              with its smells of gasoline

rosemary and woodsmoke the Rorschach
              of vitiligo on my eyes mouth

and throat the ongoing
              argument between self

and selfhood the recognition
              of the storm the howling

wind I wish I could scream
              into someone else’s rain

 

Copyright © 2017 by Emilia Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects’ aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!

This poem is in the public domain. 

To everything, there is a season of parrots. Instead of feathers, we searched the sky for meteors on our last night.  Salamanders use the stars to find their way home. Who knew they could see that far, fix the tiny beads of their eyes on distant arrangements of lights so as to return to wet and wild nests? Our heads tilt up and up and we are careful to never look at each other. You were born on a day of peaches splitting from so much rain and the slick smell of fresh tar and asphalt pushed over a cracked parking lot. You were strong enough—even as a baby—to clutch a fistful of thistle and the sun himself was proud to light up your teeth when they first swelled and pushed up from your gums. And this is how I will always remember you when we are covered up again: by the pale mica flecks on your shoulders. Some thrown there from your own smile. Some from my own teeth. There are not enough jam jars to can this summer sky at night. I want to spread those little meteors on a hunk of still-warm bread this winter. Any trace left on the knife will make a kitchen sink like that evening air

the cool night before
star showers: so sticky so
warm so full of light
 

Copyright © 2017 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I will eat the apple
read Stephen’s note this morning.
He is volunteering to play Eve.

He wrote, I will eat the apple
—but there are no apples in the house.
We have no lascivious Honeycrisp,

no bonny Braeburn, no upright Baldwin.
We’re out of spry Granny Smiths,
the skulking Northern Spy,

or the mysterious Pink Lady.
Stephen does have an Adam’s apple
and I have an Apple computer,

but you can’t compare apples and oranges.
The note said, I will eat the apple.
Perhaps Stephen’s chasing out the doctors.

Perhaps he’s not falling far from the tree.
Or he’s already eaten from the tree of knowledge:
in Latin, malum means both apple

and evil. I think Stephen is sending a warning.
He means, I will protect you.
He writes, I will eat the apple.

 

Copyright © 2017 by Kim Roberts. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 10, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Here you go
light low and long
in the fields
at sunset and sunrise
Everything twice
a doubled existence
two nows
two thens
two names
yours and the other one
also yours
folded into a paper boat
the points of which
constellate stars

Copyright © 2017 by Carl Adamshick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

I

Weed, moss-weed,
root tangled in sand,
sea-iris, brittle flower,
one petal like a shell
is broken,
and you print a shadow
like a thin twig.
Fortunate one,
scented and stinging,
rigid myrrh-bud,
camphor-flower,
sweet and salt—you are wind
in our nostrils.

II

Do the murex-fishers
drench you as they pass?
Do your roots drag up colour
from the sand?
Have they slipped gold under you—
rivets of gold?
Band of iris-flowers
above the waves,
you are painted blue,
painted like a fresh prow
stained among the salt weeds.

This poem is in the public domain. 

I love the whir of the creature come
to visit the pink
flowers in the hanging basket as she does

most August mornings, hours away
from starvation to store
enough energy to survive overnight.

The Aztecs saw the refraction
of incident light on wings
as resurrection of fallen warriors.

In autumn, when daylight decreases
they double their body weight to survive
the flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

On next-to-nothing my mother
flew for 85 years; after her death
she hovered, a bird of bones and air.

Copyright © 2017 by Robin Becker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 21, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

You’re used to it, the way,
in the first wide-eyed
minutes, climbing from parking lot
to fire trail, or rifling through
cupboards in a rented kitchen,
I can’t help but tell you
we should visit here again,
my reverie inserting
a variation in the season,
or giving friends the room
next door, in stubborn panic
to fix this happiness in place
by escaping from it.
“We’re here now,” you say,
holding out the book I bought
with its dog-eared maps and lists
and, on the cover, a waterfall,
white flecks frozen, very close.

Copyright © 2017 by Nate Klug. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 23, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

This is what life is really like.
This is what life is really like.
This is what life is really like every day.

  
—Gray Parrot, Vienna, 1943.


In the circus animals’ diary: “And all this was destroyed in ninety minutes.”
Makeshift forests flaming to high heavens, metal bent bars.
Siberian tigers, black panthers, jaguars, pumas,
bears, hyenas and wolves, and all the lion pit saved from burning
by the keepers’ own hands. By bullets. Only so much can be said.
Herbage will be scarce. Nature will gather like sleeping poppies
over the craters and lost species.
The African wart-hog will be cooked over an open fire in the garden.
One thinks of one’s restlessness, Faustian—
in the minutes-before-dawn dark
with the devil cry of black crows, the miry skull
of the half-eaten rabbit, then gold grimy hills
and light-making jewels and hand mirrors among the trees.
Why are you here? It dawns. All this will never be again.
The circus can’t be locked. 
 

Copyright © 2017 by Carol Frost. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

They kept showing up, for days,
dead on the windowsill,
and for days I did nothing about the ladybugs
except to ask if their entering the house
unnoticed and dying before I saw them
was symbolic.
Thinking so was easy.
They symbolized birth and death,
change and rebirth.
It was also possible the tiny beetles
embodied an inborn need
to show themselves,
to turn up in every and any place,
even as the dried-out remains of the once lively.
Or they stood for the burden of being one thing
relieved by becoming another,
which all the world’s children suffer.

This went on and on, and could’ve gone on
forever, so finally I opened the window
and blew them into the wide open
because everything and everyone should get a chance
to be mourned, and they got theirs,
but first they had to die, which is life,
not symbolism.

Copyright © 2017 by Hayan Charara. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

The shadows of the ships
Rock on the crest
In the low blue lustre
Of the tardy and the soft inrolling tide.

A long brown bar at the dip of the sky
Puts an arm of sand in the span of salt.

The lucid and endless wrinkles
Draw in, lapse and withdraw.
Wavelets crumble and white spent bubbles
Wash on the floor of the beach.

              Rocking on the crest
              In the low blue lustre
              Are the shadows of the ships.
 

This poem is in the public domain. 

Ok, I no longer want them,
the many selves I had to manage

that once exhausted friends. I believed

in angels then, thought I might be
an angel—that was me, flying off

on a tangent, just so we could land
on one of my many balconies

so we could look down on everyone.

Copyright © 2017 by Ira Sadoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Brightness appears showing us everything
it reveals the splendors it calls everything
but shows it to each of us alone
and only once and only to look at
not to touch or hold in our shadows
what we see is never what we touch
what we take turns out to be something else
what we see that one time departs untouched
while other shadows gather around us
the world’s shadows mingle with our own
we had forgotten them but they know us
they remember us as we always were
they were at home here before the first came
everything will leave us except the shadows
but the shadows carry the whole story
at first daybreak they open their long wings

W. S. Merwin, “The Wings of Daylight” from Garden Time. Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Secrets
infesting my half-sleep…
did you enter my wound from another wound
brushing mine in a crowd…
or did I snare you on my sharper edges
as a bird flying through cobwebbed trees at sun-up
carries off spiders on its wings?
 
Secrets,
running over my soul without sound,
only when dawn comes tip-toeing
ushered by a suave wind,
and dreams disintegrate
like breath shapes in frosty air,
I shall overhear you, bare-foot,
scatting off into the darkness….
I shall know you, secrets
by the litter you have left
and by your bloody foot-prints.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

When the pantheon crumbles, does gravity still work? 
What happens to the arcing satellites? What do you do 
when the high priests have hung up their mitres, when
the shepherd crooks have all gone straight, when the 
curtain is torn, the covenant broke, the tithes spilled all 
across the tiles? Which parishes do you frequent, whose 
statutes do you study, whose name is on your lips when 
you self-flagellate? To whom do you whisper your death
bed confession, alone in the dark, lying atop a certain hill, 
bleeding on a certain throne of thorns? What do you do 
when the sky opens? There are books about this, but 
none written from experience. Like how a baby’s first word
isn’t really its first word, just the first one that’s understood.
The process of rapprochement happens slowly, then all 
at once. Just like the apocalypse, which is unevenly 
distributed, but speeding up. Here we go. Into the breach.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Alex Manley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Dreams—and an old, old waking,
An unspent vision gone;
Night, clean with silence, breaking
Into loud dawn.
 
A wonder that is blurring
The new day’s strange demands,
The indomitable stirring
Of folded hands.
 
Then only the hours’ pageant
And the drowsing sound of their creep,
Bringing at last the vagrant
Dreams of new sleep.
 

This poem is in the public domain.

To heat a sister           	          House a burn

           adjust the replica body
                      in the yesterday travel rain

no sister locks the door 	at the highest temperature
three hours still parked 	still comfortable to eat  	sugar by force

only because each house keeps a burn together
       	   drinks the page            	An unseasoned tree
chosen to go to the sea

Copyright © 2017 by Ching-In Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

If my love for you were a teacup,
I would praise it for its blue. I’d consider
Its delicate handle, the pictures painted there
Of ladies, of their parasols.
But my love is not a teacup,
 
It is not even the tar pit from which we draw
Fodder for the desolate streets, oh lightless at night,
Oh pathways asking for feet and their memory,
It is not even a tugboat going
Bravely into morning, carrying cordage and salt,
 
Nor that saddest, sickest animal
In the zoo, carious, mangy, whose hair molts,
Who with its wounds sits in the bare
Hay-padded corner of a cell and licks
At the question of what it means to be here.
 
Yet in winter my love is covered with the brightness
Of snow, in winter my love is filled with eyes.
It waits for me at the block’s edge,
Habitual dog, who walks me back into that gaseous
Entity we call life. Others’ loves may wink and smile
 
Like the moon through a resurrection of vapors,
Like the coy and barbarous moon, who knows no allegiance.
But my love is more like an ice sculpture
In a country of perpetual coldness, which the heat
Of your anger cannot damage, nor the pick
 
Of your words impugn. Now
Lay your worry aside from you, stranger,
Put your hands near these curves: do you feel
That hallowed temperature? Among my people
We call this absolute love.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Monica Ferrell. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 2, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Still dark, my baby girl leaps out
the window to greet the rising sun.
I stand below ready to catch her,
but every time she takes off
without fail, her laughter calling
to the orioles, calling
to my shame that had I the choice,
I would have never taught her to fly.

Somewhere there is a man with a gun
who will take pleasure in seeing her
skin against the pure blue sky—
and shooting her down.
My own mother did not flinch
when I first raised my arms
and lifted my feet off the ground,
above her head.
She only said you better hope
bulletproof skin comes with that
gift
. Years later I found out it did.

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

    Some day this quest
       Shall cease;
          Some day,
          For aye,
    This heart shall rest
      In peace.
Sometimes—ofttimes—I almost feel
The calm upon my senses steal,
So soft, and all but hear
The dead leaves rustle near
And sign to be
At rest with me.
Though I behold
  The ashen branches tossing to and fro,
  Somehow I only vaguely know
The wind is rude and cold.

This poem is in the public domain.

It’s a thrill to say No.
 
The way it smothers
everything that beckons―
 
Any baby in a crib
will meet No’s palm
on its mouth.
 
And nothing sweet
can ever happen
 
 
             
 
 
to No―
 
who holds your tongue captive
behind your teeth, whose breath
whets the edge
 
 
             
 
 
of the guillotine―
 
N, head of Team Nothing,
and anti-ovum O.
 
And so the pit can never
engender
 
 
             
 
 
the cherry―
 
in No, who has drilled a hole
inside your body―
 
No.
Say it out loud.
Why do you love the hole
 
No makes.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Dana Levin. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord 
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle, 
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate, 
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing. 
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love. 
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect 
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.
 

Copyright © 2017 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Huffy Henry hid    the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point,—a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry's side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don't see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.

What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

From The Dream Songs by John Berryman, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 by John Berryman. Used with permission.

white-throat sparrows/full of note/netted in the eventide/voices
sawing the trees/fragile little bodies/tracing frantic circles
             not understanding/what we must all come to accept/not one day
                         will last/we must end ourselves/as gently as we can
             take our swords/our facts/oddments of feather
                         turn them into the dark/she takes us as we are
             windswept/awake with shattering & nothing
             is as loud as her arms pulling us
             close/not even these wings
             landing/forever
             in the nests of
             my ears

Copyright © 2017 by Mariama J. Lockington. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 13, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.