Harder, he pants into the scruff of my neck, our labored breath
condensing as my lover pulls my hips into wolfish grind.
From a distance, we are two curs fogging a parked Chrysler,
though this, only half-accurate. In our nest, we transcend sex
-ed things, white-hot spangles like dead gods, the glow of us
pulsing brighter & brighter in turn. I have never shouted before,
but this is how he wets my nose—open, like a howl, a deafening
unhinging of worship—from the back—this, the way he whines—
throwing his head in praise. It is ancient composition, how we fever
the dark’s bones, convince the night to do our bidding.
We collapse into each other. The moon of him eclipsing
the fullness of me, the rift of us unfolding unto new darkness
& what are we but ravenous? Here, we devour dusk, suckle
sides of cosmic gristle, mouths brimming, tearing the sky, Black.

Copyright © 2023 by Willie Lee Kinard III. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
               Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
               Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
               This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door;—
               Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"—
               Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
               'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
               Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
               With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
               Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
               Of 'Never—nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
               Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
               She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting—
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
               Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
               Shall be lifted—nevermore!

This version appeared in the Richmond Semi-Weekly Examiner, September 25, 1849. For other versions, please visit the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#R.


        Hear the sledges with the bells—
                 Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
        How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!
        While the stars that oversprinkle
        All the heavens, seem to twinkle
           With a crystalline delight;
         Keeping time, time, time,
         In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinabulation that so musically wells
       From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.


        Hear the mellow wedding bells,
                 Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
        Through the balmy air of night
        How they ring out their delight!
           From the molten-golden notes,
               And all in tune,
           What a liquid ditty floats
    To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
               On the moon!
         Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
               How it swells!
               How it dwells
           On the Future! how it tells
           Of the rapture that impels
         To the swinging and the ringing
           Of the bells, bells, bells,
         Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
               Bells, bells, bells—
  To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!


         Hear the loud alarum bells—
                 Brazen bells!
What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
       In the startled ear of night
       How they scream out their affright!
         Too much horrified to speak,
         They can only shriek, shriek,
                  Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
            Leaping higher, higher, higher,
            With a desperate desire,
         And a resolute endeavor
         Now—now to sit or never,
       By the side of the pale-faced moon.
            Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
            What a tale their terror tells
                  Of Despair!
       How they clang, and clash, and roar!
       What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
       Yet the ear it fully knows,
            By the twanging,
            And the clanging,
         How the danger ebbs and flows;
       Yet the ear distinctly tells,
            In the jangling,
            And the wrangling.
       How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells—
             Of the bells—
     Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
            Bells, bells, bells—
 In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!


          Hear the tolling of the bells—
                 Iron bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
        In the silence of the night,
        How we shiver with affright
  At the melancholy menace of their tone!
        For every sound that floats
        From the rust within their throats
                 Is a groan.
        And the people—ah, the people—
       They that dwell up in the steeple,
                 All alone,
        And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
          In that muffled monotone,
         Feel a glory in so rolling
          On the human heart a stone—
     They are neither man nor woman—
     They are neither brute nor human—
              They are Ghouls:
        And their king it is who tolls;
        And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
             A pæan from the bells!
          And his merry bosom swells
             With the pæan of the bells!
          And he dances, and he yells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
             To the pæan of the bells—
               Of the bells:
          Keeping time, time, time,
          In a sort of Runic rhyme,
            To the throbbing of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the sobbing of the bells;
          Keeping time, time, time,
            As he knells, knells, knells,
          In a happy Runic rhyme,
            To the rolling of the bells—
          Of the bells, bells, bells—
            To the tolling of the bells,
      Of the bells, bells, bells, bells—
              Bells, bells, bells—
  To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850. For other versions, please visit The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#B.

Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!--a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?--weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read--the funeral song be sung!--
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young--
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
"And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her--that she died!
"How shall the ritual, then, be read?--the requiem how be sung
"By you--by yours, the evil eye,--by yours, the slanderous tongue
"That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?"

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride--
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes--
The life still there, upon her hair--the death upon her eyes.

"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
"But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
"Let no bell toll!--lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
"Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
"To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven--
"From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven--
"From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven."

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850. For other versions, please visit The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#L.

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in heaven above,
   Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea,
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850

After The Entombment by Raphael

The night my father died, I sat on a stool 
          at the Buckhorn, gazing
                     out the window’s cool counter seat. 
Like a funhouse mirror, you appeared. 
          I have a familiar-looking face; my father used to say—
                     his wish for me to blend in. 
Late after an argument, I fled 
          and was found bound to a prairie fence 
                     after eighteen hours.
My body is like a sock in the wind 
          in a field just a mile from here. 
                     My face blooms, velvety 
and light like a lamb’s ear, 
          stachys byzantina; my ears 
                     frozen with blood; down 
my neck, it goes. A medley of ants shuffles 
          away. My body is rich with the sour smell 
                     of urine on my head like a crown of daffodils. 

Copyright © 2023 by Ruben Quesada. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 27, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

There is no Life or Death,
Only activity
And in the absolute
Is no declivity.
There is no Love or Lust
Only propensity
Who would possess
Is a nonentity.
There is no First or Last
Only equality
And who would rule
Joins the majority.
There is no Space or Time
Only intensity,
And tame things
Have no immensity.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 2, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Erich and Patricia

List of things to banish
Can include words, people, theoretical apparatuses
Can take the form of a grocery list, a scientific experiment, or a manifesto
Can read like a personal ad of unwanting
Can summon aid to help with banishing
Can be uncertain of what will remain
Can have no positive mission statement
Can be written in a language other than language
Can circulate amongst FRIENDS ONLY
Can evade being imagined, written, embodied, archived
Can go like this
Can make itself irrelevant
Can include buildings, brushstrokes, and other abominations
Can mean my way of life is unlivable
Can mean my life is as yet unlived
Can mean I must become a menace to my enemies
Can undo futurity forever in favor of *******
Can remake futurity into someone who doesn’t recognize herself
Can punctuate the present like a cup of coffee or a Monday
Can be dreamed up and shot down and elongated
Can tell us something
Can include forms and fantasies, even the ones getting us by
Can instigate an interregnum 
Can be unfinished
Can include hope hopefully
Can be blank
But don’t kid yourself
It isn’t
And it can’t include 

Copyright © 2023 by Mia Kang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 8, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I want this job because 
it sounds like something I could do 
and I’m hungry, physically. 
I have extensive experience 
in studying what water says as it plummets.
Yes, I can carry more than 35lbs, but what 
does that have to do with anything? 
I’ve wrestled angelic beings 
and the nine lives of pathological compulsion.
I have sworn an oath against the roman calendar 
and its derivative mutations. 
I can be firm as cold turkey. 
My two letters of recommendation are
f and u. They can be used in surf, which 
is one way to step on what wants me drowned. 
I have heard the hinges of the doors of the sea 
creak, so I read a book beneath a tree. 
I think a lie can be worse than murder but also 
I have never died. I can definitely think of a time 
when I had to multitask while under immense pressure, 
but would prefer not to. My goal is to recall my past lives 
and be free in each. My strength is being scattered 
and rooted at the same time. My weakness is entertaining 
a party of every kind of consequence. 
My kink is a copless land where no one hoards anything.
I can start on any day you are prepared to train.
I can end on any day that ends in why not, 
for real, I don’t need this, 
the people got me you know, 
I’m with the people. 

Copyright © 2024 by Jordan Kapono Nakamura. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I was under the kitchen table, guessing who was at the sink by how they used water when I heard my mother say to my father, what about this job, that one, those people, did they call? And my father said, everyone says no. I see all the doors but none of them will open. My mother said, maybe we just haven’t found the right key, I’ll go look for it. They laughed for a long time. Their toes looked at each other. Maybe they forgot the bag of keys in the crooked-mouth dresser. I lined up the keys on a windowsill, metal on metal on my fingers until they smelled like missing teeth. I looked at the best one: large cursive F, a scarlet ribbon tied to it. It had two teeth, like my baby sister. I tried the little door behind the community center. Then the big-kids door at my school. The shed of a house with a backyard so large the family could never see me. I got grass and sand and an ignorant pebble in my shoe. Dust climbed up my pants so I could spit-spell my name on my leg when resting. I went back to our neighborhood. There was a black cloud over it while the nice neighborhood down the hill shone. A girl said our house was darkest and the first raindrops fell on it because we’re all going to hell. When I told my father he said it was “isolated” or “separated” storms. So it was true we were set apart for a punishment. The next day dozens of dead flying ants covered our patio. I took all the keys and tried all the doors in the abandoned mall. One unlocked. It was a room with white walls, floor, ceiling. White squares of wood flat or leaning in every corner. The door closed behind me and no key would work. Maybe the room would swallow me and I’d get invisible if I didn’t stop screaming but then a surprised guy, white, wearing white, opened the door. I wanted to try one more time but my keys disappeared and everyone said they were never real.

From The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015) by Ladan Osman. Copyright © 2015 by Ladan Osman. Used with permission of the author.

Translated from the French by James Sibley Watson

          “I was witness of all the adornments with which he surrounded himself in spirit; garments, cloths, furniture; I lent him weapons, a different face. I saw all that touched him, just as he would have liked to create it for himself. When his spirit seemed to me apathetic, I followed him far in strange and complicated actions, good or bad; I was certain never to enter his world. Beside his dear, sleeping body, what hours I have watched at night, seeking to learn why he was so anxious to escape from reality. Never was there a man with such a vow as that. I recognized,—without being afraid for him,—that he might be a serious danger to society.—Perhaps he possesses secrets that will change life. No, I replied to myself, he is only looking for them. Finally his kindness is enchanted, and I am its prisoner. No other soul would have the strength,—the strength of despair!—to endure it, to be loved and protected by him. Besides, I would not picture him to myself with another soul: one sees his Angel, never another’s Angel,—I believe. I used to exist in his soul as in a palace, which they have made empty in order not to see so mean a person as yourself: that was all. Alas! I was very dependent on him. But what did he want of my colourless and facile being? He would not improve me, unless he were to make me die. Sadly mortified, I sometimes would say to him:

           “‘I understand you.’ He would shrug his shoulders.

         “Thus, with my vexation renewing itself daily, finding myself more and more altered in my own eyes—as in all eyes which might have cared to look at me, had I not been condemned everlastingly to the oblivion of all men!—I grew hungrier and hungrier for his kindness. With kisses and friendly embraces, it was indeed a heaven, a gloomy heaven, which I entered, and where I should have wished to be left, poor, deaf, dumb, blind. Already I had the habit of it. I used to see us as good children, free to walk in the Paradise of sadness. We were in harmony with one another. Much affected, we would work together. But after a poignant caress, he would say: ‘How funny it will seem to you when I am no longer here, through whom you have passed. When you no longer have my arms under your neck, nor my heart to fall asleep on, nor this mouth upon your eyes. For I shall have to go away, very far, some day. Besides, I must help others; it is my duty. Although this may not be especially appetizing to you . . . dear friend.’ All at once I foresaw myself, with him gone, the prey of dizziness, plunged into the most frightful shadow: death. I used to make him promise that he would not abandon me. He gave it twenty times, that lover’s promise. It was as frivolous as my saying to him:

          “‘I understand you.’



extrait de «Une Saison en Enfer [Délires I]»


          «Je voyais tout le décor dont, en esprit, il s’entourait; vêtements, draps, meubles: je lui prêtais des armes, une autre figure. Je voyais tout ce qui le touchait, comme il aurait voulu le créer pour lui. Quand il me semblait avoir l’esprit inerte, je le suivais, moi, dans des actions étranges et compliquées, loin, bonnes ou mauvaises: j’étais sûre de ne jamais entrer dans son monde. À côté de son cher corps endormi, que d’heures des nuits j’ai veillé, cherchant pourquoi il voulait tant s’évader de la réalité. Jamais homme n’eût pareil vœu. Je reconnaissais,—sans craindre pour lui,—qu’il pouvait être un sérieux danger dans la société.—Il a peut-être des secrets pour changer la vie? Non, il ne fait qu’en chercher, me répliquais-je. Enfin sa charité est ensorcelée, et j’en suis la prisonnière. Aucune autre âme n’aurait assez de force,—force de désespoir!—pour la supporter,—pour être protégée et aimée par lui. D’ailleurs, je ne me le figurais pas avec une autre âme: on voit son Ange, jamais l’Ange d’un autre,—je crois. J’étais dans son âme comme dans un palais qu’on a vidé pour ne pas voir une personne si peu noble que vous: voilà tout. Hélas! je dépendais bien de lui. Mais que voulait-il avec mon existence terne et lâche? Il ne me rendait pas meilleure, s’il ne me faisait pas mourir! Tristement dépitée, je lui dis quelquefois: «Je te comprends.» Il haussait les épaules.

          «Ainsi, mon chagrin se renouvelant sans cesse, et me trouvant plus égarée à mes yeux,—comme à tous les yeux qui auraient voulu me fixer, si je n’eusse été condamnée pour jamais à l’oubli de tous!—j’avais de plus en plus faim de sa bonté. Avec ses baisers et ses étreintes amies, c’était bien un ciel, un sombre ciel, où j’entrais, et où j’aurais voulu être laissée, pauvre, sourde, muette, aveugle. Déjà j’en prenais l’habitude. Je nous voyais comme deux bons enfants, libres de se promener dans le Paradis de tristesse. Nous nous accordions. Bien émus, nous travaillions ensemble. Mais, après une pénétrante caresse, il disait: «Comme ça te paraîtra drôle, quand je n’y serai plus, ce par quoi tu as passé. Quand tu n’auras plus mes bras sous ton cou, ni mon cœur pour t’y reposer, ni cette bouche sur tes yeux. Parce qu’il faudra que je m’en aille, très-loin, un jour. Puis il faut que j’en aide d’autres: c’est mon devoir. Quoique ce ne soit guère ragoûtant . . . , chère âme . . .» Tout de suite je me pressentais, lui parti, en proie au vertige, précipitée dans l’ombre la plus affreuse: la mort. Je lui faisais promettre qu’il ne me lâcherait pas. Il l’a faite vingt fois, cette promesse d’amant. C’était aussi frivole que moi lui disant: «Je te comprends.»

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sigh of the Santa Ana through the chaparral clinging to the mountain. Through the sunflowers at night, searching for the sun, along the river no longer a river. The wind kissing the river, its stone face, and making each stone a matchbook. A match. A book on fire. The river a library on fire. The wind a woman running through the valley on fire. Searching. The sunflowers turning toward her. Her nightgown a book turning its own bright pages in the wind. Smoke the color of chaparral. Smoke clinging to her, making her a mountain of smoke. A valley of light. A sigh.


You’re too afraid of who you are to know who you can be. You’re too afraid of being happy. You’re too happy being afraid. You’re afraid you’re happy. You’re afraid, the way a broken bowl gilded and glued back together with gold is still broken, that knowing makes no difference. You’re broken, still, but you’re happy. You’re afraid, too, but still, you’re happy. You’re who you can be, already, whether or not you know. You’re different, already. You don’t need to know to know. You’re ready.


Yesterday, when the cake with thirty candles came out, I thought, closing my eyes, that my wish would be to go back to the moment my mother brought me home to East Mountain View, furnished with only her vanity, the mirror with us waving at us, at once Hello and Goodbye, and that I would wish to hold her bright and broken face, to look at her as she was and not as either of us wanted her to be, telling her as if telling myself that we were doing our best, and yet, today, opening my eyes and looking into my own vanity, smoking a cigarette, the tip like a sunflower scorched from searching and searching still by the light that scorched it, I think, instead, that my wish will be to keep going forward, to see what else will happen with this life, and I think I will.

Copyright © 2023 by Paul Tran. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

The Crisis Magazine, June 1967

On the cover, Negro men playing checkers
in the park. Some wear hats, while others wear
waves in their hair. Either way, they’re all clean
and their strategy brims as sharp as their 
suits. Within these pages, they’re playing chess,

protecting future children, as they wear
ties, dress shirts, shined shoes—looking clean
and ready for business or for battle. And their
plan? No longer will textbooks be used as chess
pieces to keep Negro children in check.

Sound familiar? Schools will be pushed to clean
bookshelves of the white-washed lessons of their
past. The NAACP opens minds like games of chess,
and all excuses for hiding a country’s checkered
past will be dismissed. Despite segregation’s wear

and tear from school boards, and the fear of their
white parents, henchmen, bullies—all just chess
pieces, really, but jumping laws like checkers
when life is more complex—books remain where
the mind cannot hide. Either you come clean

and admit your ignorance, or be a pawn on the chess
board of intellect, banning books. They think check-
mate! But when I see Crisis in a library archive where
we still argue to be seen, I lose patience. Kleenex,
please, for Karens clutching their pearls! I pray their

white kids are reading Langston Hughes in a public library: .
But one state over, bookshelves have no Black authors, cleaned
out. Our books remain under attack, Kings in a game of chess.

Copyright © 2024 by A. Van Jordan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

The worst part of it is that I’ve forgotten your face. Or the idea that each tide was a slender finger pulling at these knots, loose end then left to work on another day. Lost at sea, love is a logogram: less than, fewer still, a word made nothing more than cauter-mark on starboard hard, port I left all those years ago. Sometimes, I dream of my own (sorry, our own) great-rooted bed, shaped from something still alive. Eurycleia means “broad fame” and that’s a sandy-pit, if you ask me. It’s an island beautiful as a scarred oxen’s back, sowed with lash and eyes. I saw something of you the other day in this glass of magic, vase filled with smoke’s children. There’s that dress you wore, I said to no one in particular. There’s that blue that never bled to red wine, dark in its never-nocked-arrow waves. And suddenly you’re the moon, again, lost in reflection’s sea. I follow the light to nowhere as I wander through the sipped sleeve. Because. Because you walked the stairs that night before I left, after we heard the rain spill like grain from a split sack. You walked in front of me, just above the cochineal stars, bright bald ember, fashioned still spear. I think of nothing else but you. It’s true. It’s the worst part of forgetting, all this remembering.

Copyright © 2023 by Matthew Minicucci. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 28, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I grew up in South Korea during the US-backed military dictatorship. I was born a year after General Park Chung Hee led a military coup and came into power. My father filmed the day of martial-law declaration in front of Seoul City Hall. Back then, he worked as a freelance photojournalist for UPI. The saluting lieutenant general is one of Park’s collaborators. The man in the background below the window, holding a small camera in front of his face, is most likely a police or intelligence officer. My father is at the bottom left, holding his film camera. After the parade, my father was briefly taken into the building where he stood face-to-face with Park. My father said that he was not afraid. He said he wasn’t afraid of Syngman Rhee, the previous dictatorial president, either. He wasn’t afraid of anything then, he said; instead, he complained to Park about the censorship of the news. That day his film made it out of Kimpo Airport to Tokyo, and his news footage appeared worldwide. Because I was an infant, I have no memory of this infamous day except through my father’s memory. Memory’s memory. Memory’s child. My memory lives inside my father’s camera, the site where my memory was born, where my retina and my father’s overlap. When I was old enough, I always accompanied my mother to the airport to greet my father, who returned home every three to five months from Vietnam. Overlapping memory always longs for return, the return of memory.

What I remember about my childhood are the children, no older than I, who used to come around late afternoons begging for leftovers, even food that had gone sour. The drills at school in preparation for attacks by North Korea kept me anxious at night. I feared separation from my family due to the ever-pending war. I feared what my mother feared—my brother being swept up in protests and getting arrested and tortured. Our radio was turned off at night in case we were suspected of being North Korean sympathizers. At school, former North Korean spies came to give talks on the evil leader of North Korea. I stood at bus stops to see if I could spot any North Korean spies, but all I could spot were American GIs. My friends and I waved to them and called them Hellos. In our little courtyard, I skipped rope and played house with my paper dolls among big, glazed jars of fermented veggies and spicy, pungent pastes. I feared the shadows they cast along the path to the outhouse. Stories of abandoned infant girls always piqued my interest, so I imagined that the abandoned babies might be inside the jars. Whenever I obeyed the shadows, I saw tiny, floating arms covered in mold. And whenever it snowed, I made tiny snowmen on the covers of the jars. Like rats, children can be happy in darkness. But the biggest darkness of all was the midnight curfew. I didn’t know the curfew was a curfew till my family escaped from it in 1972 and landed in Hong Kong. That’s how big the darkness was.

In 1980, my father filmed the rising waves of student protests against the dictatorship in Seoul. He also witnessed the beginning of the brutal military crackdown on the pro-democratic movement in Gwangju. He believed then that the dictatorship would never end and that it would be too dangerous for us to return home. He sold one of his cameras to pay for surgery when my older brother was injured during his mandatory military service. He gave the South Korean government news footage of a student protest in downtown Seoul he had filmed—from far away, from a rooftop—in exchange for the release of my injured brother from the military and a permit to leave South Korea. He believed that he was saving us from a life of perpetual darkness. In 1983, my family scattered all over, as my mother said. My parents and my younger brother headed to West Germany. My sister remained in Hong Kong, my older brother left for Australia, and I went to the US as a foreign student to complete my degrees in art. In light, we all were ailing from separation and homesickness. In light, we had to find a way to settle down, as my mother said. In light, we lived like birds.

In December 2016, I returned to South Korea. I returned in the guise of a translator, which is to say, I returned as a foreigner. And as a foreigner, I was invisible to most. I flittered about in downtown Seoul searching for my child self that had been left behind long ago. As a foreigner, I understood only the language of wings—the wings on totem animals on old palaces where I used to run around and play. The traditional tiled roofs I grew up beneath had grown wings, as had the mountain peaks behind Gwanghwamun Square. They no longer recognized me in a crowd of other foreigners—tourists, rather. Nevertheless, I went on searching for more wings, my language of return.

From DMZ Colony (Wave Books, 2020) by Don Mee Choi. Copyright © 2020 by Don Mee Choi. Used with permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Wave Books, wavepoetry.com.

And then (at some point) as you step more vigilantly into the middle of your life, you begin to realize that they are all dead. Or more honestly (it takes even more years), you begin to realize that—perhaps—they are not all supposed to be dead. Or. You still remember. You can still feel yourself there. Standing. Knee-deep. In cement. A particular square on the sidewalk. There were dandelions. That odd, eternal sun. When a dear friend, your sister’s best-best friend—drives by—stops her car in the middle of the street. And then tells you. Screams out of her car window. And says it: your first beloved—that boy for whom you were slowly unfolding yourself from inside outward—that boy, whom you had yet to kiss, but would one day soon kiss certainly—that monumental boy, who smiled at you differently—that boy—had just been shot and killed. By strangers. Just for fun.

You are fourteen. And it is the beginning—it is the very first day—when the World confirms that new gleam of suspicion layered on the surface of the dark violet lake inside, that, Yes, slaughter is normal.

Slowly, over the years, you train yourself not to want this—you—a body in your bed with whom you can have a real conversation—a body with whom you can walk anywhere, talk anywhere, hear anywhere. At some point, you gave up expecting to be understood. English was too many red languages at once. And History was just a very small one—a ledger, and always in the black. You took out your sheerest sword. Your tongue: a sheath of arrows.

Perhaps, not by coincidence—once you began to trip around fifty’s maypole—you and your sister find together the courage to do the math: of all the boys whom you had known as children, at least eighty-percent were all either missing, in jail, or dead. Blood on the streets, bullets in the walls, the police always flying overhead. In your head. You thought it normal. When boys disappeared, were shot, killed, cuffed or thrown onto a black and white hood for simply walking down the sidewalk. Or asking merely: What have I done? Normal. As expected as the orange poppies, your quiet state flower, blossoming on the side of the streets year-round.

And then. Finally. You and I. Our bodies. Together. For a few hours: Time loves me. Every minute a gift so tender, each second announces itself. And then, just as quickly, equally: every second is stolen—erased—washed away—you. I understand, somehow, it will be another four years until I see you again. We walk through the night, arm and arm, across the wet sidewalk, and—besides my son—I am the happiest I have ever been with another person. But it is a silence. A happiness that rare. Unexpected. Quiet. And I wait. And wait. And no one shoots you afterward. Or. Maybe this night was God’s way of saying to me—finally: Yes, I do realize you exist. And this one night—just this one night—is all the complete happiness you can ever expect from Me.

Copyright © 2019 by Robin Coste Lewis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Pauline Opango Onosamba Lumumba 1937–2014


When it is finally ours...this beautiful
and terrible thing...

—“Frederick Douglass” by Robert Hayden


we like to imagine that liberation comes in the natural order of things
carried on such fabled winds of change that
even in the heat of assassination
slaughter and awesome dying for right of millions, or
else some solitary
beautifully ordinary brother
cannot be missed or misconstrued

but there are so many added costs and taxes
as to trip us up quite easily
in all the clamor and bravura of this liberation business.
and then, of course,
the grief-stricken bared breasts of pauline lumumba—

no half-century long enough to bury
the blank and heavy forward-propelled pace
widow flanked on two sides by men
aching to protect her and she
already worlds beyond—

who among us looks on those breasts
and is not bowed?


beloved companion the letter begins
beloved companion

we are not alone
and history will one day have its say

how does one look into the frank, unstoried eyes of one’s child and say
we are not alone?

how does one address the letter that reads
whether i am free or in prison alive or already in death’s maw?
to what khakied and accursed postal worker falls the task of bearing
so hard and heavy final and unbearably dear a letter?

in what corner of
one’s dank and filthy cell is it written?
where do the flower petals of one’s springtime dress fall away to on receiving it?
and what is the weight of those hands, slim-fingered and otherwise empty
full now of driest air
coming slowly slowly
from neighboring forest and savanna?
when does the gnawing of marrow begin to tell
the ages-old story
of the death even of hope
when after everything
after all
we are not alone?

month of the wolf
month of solemnities and annunciations
as good a beginning as any
january then surely was seasonable enough for death by torture by beating by
shooting by three adept and clearly necessary firing squads for three men already half-dead
fully bloodied from head to heels
orifices swollen to proud flesh ripe-red for the plucking
one at a time in a row from that tree
buried unburied dismembered doused with acid how
how many ways to kill
men whose ideals
clearly were that much more costly than

seasonable for mourning-time—
assassinating martyr-making widowmaking time of year

they liked in those brief months
they liked to report on your loveliness, didn’t they?
european press couldn’t get enough of you—
your slight waist and native grace
the pretty way you held the pretty child
how you held to the arm of the young hero-husband
so clearly perfectly patently marked both for victory and for early death
eyes wide with all the world could then imagine of vicious and
reverberating grief
pretty young wife and mother become symbol become widow
to generation and to continents history and biographers—
nothing said of the shambled life from center to border
flight into egypt beyond and back again
death-startled children in tow.

what will they write in a single decade’s time of how
you yourself chose the warm tenth-month of
sacrifices and of minor feasts, lesser saints
fewer and requisite number of martyred virgins
told no one of your journey—
december and death in your own bed —
asleep alone as ever you were
leaving now fully alone continents grieving
worlds humbled
contemplating now and forever, again
bared grief-flattened breasts
as earth
as at the inevitable and deliberate coming
of end times
of hope.

Copyright © 2018 by Brenda Marie Osbey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.