Someone forgot to whisper your death to the bees
And so all the bees have left
And the fruit trees have died.
In the house there are twelve ghosts
And all of them you—
Caught like birds in the stations of girlhood.
One ghost kneels before an empty fireplace;
She sings her sister’s name
Into the cool mouth of the chimney,
Listens as the voice shivers
A barefoot ghost pitches stones
Down the red dirt road.
The melancholy sister at the kitchen window
Waits for a letter, watches for the postman.
Twelve ghosts. Each sister ties
A different color ribbon in her hair.
One sweeps all the rooms of the house.
Two stand before the mirror. But it’s bad luck
For two to look into a mirror at the same time;
The youngest will die.
And what of the one in the basement?
No, we don’t visit her.
Twelve white plates laid on the table for supper.
All twelve drink water from one well.
Each daughter moves in the mood of her own month.
They carry the tides, the seasons, the year of you.
Each daughter, each dancer,
Delivers the message of you.
One dreams she’s a racehorse rider—
She straddles the propane tank in the yard
And rides recklessly into the night.
One ghost plays a nocturne on the piano,
While another skips into the room,
Strikes the discordant keys, and vanishes.
The last ghost leans with her ear against a dead wasp nest.
She closes her eyes and listens
To you, still singing
Beyond the kingdom of the living
Copyright © 2023 by Ansel Elkins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 25, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
It is really something when a kid who has a hard time becomes a kid who’s having a good time in no small part thanks to you throwing that kid in the air again and again on a mile long walk home from the Indian joint as her mom looks sideways at you like you don’t need to keep doing this because you’re pouring with sweat and breathing a little bit now you’re getting a good workout but because the kid laughs like a horse up there laughs like a kangaroo beating her wings against the light because she laughs like a happy little kid and when coming down and grabbing your forearm to brace herself for the time when you will drop her which you don’t and slides her hand into yours as she says for the fortieth time the fiftieth time inexhaustible her delight again again again and again and you say give me til the redbud tree or give me til the persimmon tree because she knows the trees and so quiet you almost can’t hear through her giggles she says ok til the next tree when she explodes howling yanking your arm from the socket again again all the wolves and mourning doves flying from her tiny throat and you throw her so high she lives up there in the tree for a minute she notices the ants organizing on the bark and a bumblebee carousing the little unripe persimmon in its beret she laughs and laughs as she hovers up there like a bumblebee like a hummingbird up there giggling in the light like a giddy little girl up there the world knows how to love.
Copyright © 2023 by Ross Gay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.