My mother went to work each day
in a starched white dress, shoes
clamped to her feet like pale
mushrooms, two blue hearts pressed
into the sponge rubber soles.
When she came back home, her nylons
streaked with runs, a spatter
of blood across her bodice,
she sat at one end of the dinner table
and let us kids serve the spaghetti, sprinkle
the parmesan, cut the buttered loaf.
We poured black wine into the bell
of her glass as she unfastened
her burgundy hair, shook her head, and began.
And over the years we mastered it, how to listen
to stories of blocked intestines
while we twirled the pasta, of saws
teething cranium, drills boring holes in bone
as we crunched the crust of our sourdough,
carved the stems off our cauliflower.
We learned the importance of balance,
how an operation depends on
cooperation and a blend of skills,
the art of passing the salt
before it is asked for.
She taught us well, so that when Mary Ellen
ran the iron over her arm, no one wasted
a moment: My brother headed straight for the ice.
Our little sister uncapped the salve.
And I dialed the number under Ambulance,
my stomach turning to the smell
of singed skin, already planning the evening
meal, the raw fish thawing in its wrapper,
a perfect wedge of flesh.

From Awake. Copyright © 1990 by Dorianne Laux. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Carnegie Mellon University Press,

someone  asked  me  if  my husband  left me,  or if I left him. After
the   reading,  someone   asked   me   if   there   was  a   chance  for
reconciliation  as  I shoved a  pulled  pork sandwich  in my mouth
with  Carolina  Gold BBQ  sauce  oozing  out  the  sides  like  neon
yellow  lava.  After  the reading,  someone  asked  me if I still pray
to  God  as  I  sipped a  fizzy Diet Coke  and the ice cubes huddled
and  softly clinked  around my  upper lip  leaving a wet mustache.
After  the  reading,  someone said they had been divorced too and
then  scurried away  in a way that I completely  understood. After
the  reading,  a  woman told me I was worthy as if I was shattered 
while   I   picked   up   crudités   with  a   copious  dollop  of  ranch
dressing.  After  the  reading,  a  white woman thanked me for my 
“angry poems.”  I  told  her they were about my joy,  and then she
touched  my  forearm  and  said,  “No,  they were about my rage.”
Insisting.   After   the  reading,   someone  said   they   cried,   and
another  gave me a kind word.  Thank you. After the after,  I went   
home and changed into my cheetah print pajamas. I wrapped my
hair and  brushed my teeth.  I got in bed and played a  sci-fi show
on  my  laptop.  The  actors  on the show were trying to find a way
to talk  to aliens by  using  math  and pheromones.  I  googled the
height   of  one  of  the   actors.  He  is  6' 4".   I   fell   asleep  while 
watching   the    show   about    the    people   in   space   trying   to   
communicate  in  first  contact,  intergalactic  noises  beeped  and
swirled around the room like bees.

Copyright © 2023 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sometimes when you start to ramble
or rather when you feel you are starting to ramble
you will say Well, now I’m rambling
though I don’t think you ever are.
And if you ever are I don’t really care.
And not just because I and everyone really 
at times falls into our own unspooling
—which really I think is a beautiful softness
of being human, trying to show someone else
the color of all our threads, wanting another to know 
everything in us we are trying to show them—
but in the specific, 
in the specific of you
here in this car that you are driving
and in which I am sitting beside you
with regards to you 
and your specific mouth
parting to give way
to the specific sweetness that is
the water of your voice 
tumbling forth—like I said 
I don’t ever really mind
how much more 
you might keep speaking
as it simply means 
I get to hear you 
speak for longer. 
What was a stream 
now a river.

Copyright © 2023 by Anis Mojgani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.