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.

I have long wanted to be starlight in spring
and the late snow that lingers there, coming down
at Harpers Ferry over the river or gathered 
on a windowsill on third street in Brooklyn 
when I was twenty-two—the potpourri 
of sky the wind carries after a storm. 
The gray darkening on a far ridge. If you are reading this
there is still a way. I can take your smooth palm in mine
and lead you toward a distant city and a night
when you were on the mountain and dreaming of the other world
and we can walk together past the pre-war homes 
converted now to low-rent apartments for college students
or workers come in from long days on a road crew,
coveralls draped over the backs of kitchen chairs
and the light swaying just so. We can go on—
along the cracked sidewalks above the train tracks
that can’t exist again even as the grasses come up between them
and look through a fog and a single pair of headlights
making definite beams in the material cold. 
No moonlight to get netted up in on the surface of the water
no traffic at this hour just the scraps of paper blown
into gutters and the electric hum of streetlights,
a few voices, which almost walk like footfall down alleys
overgrown with briars and creeping vines, their crude
latticework against the brick and the exhale
of a bartender on a smoke break and the smoke
which still drifts. Now it must be all worn through
but then it was barely remarkable though I stop
to look back at the homes and at snow melt on roads
the flat glitter on the black road, the moiré pattern 
yet to be captured by language—and for a minute believe
in something as my stepfather believed in the smell of fire
whenever he left in the middle of the night
and returned before dawn and spoke to no one, didn’t
wake anyone up. Sometimes I feel that alone, 
that pure, as if looking back at myself
through the scrim of time and you are there 
standing in our kitchen at this hour and I can almost 
hear you and the first singing caught-up there in the back 
of your throat. Lately I’ve stopped worrying about the end. 
Each day my hand is smaller on your shoulders. New birds
still return and the hillsides green all around, the stars 
have traveled over the horizon and in the blink 
of an eye you are here—grape-vine charcoal in your hand;
little hyphen I have become.

Copyright © 2022 by Matthew Wimberley. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 10, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

People going through 
hard times don’t listen 
to songs about people

going through hard times,
says my son. Debt, addiction, 
chronic bad luck, unemployment—

I’m with you, I say. The only 
exception is heartbreak;
when you’re deep in it 

you just want a late-night
DJ to spin your pain. The car 
radio is playing Jason Isbell 

through Wyoming, part of it
in Yellowstone National Park,
home to 500 of the world’s

900 geysers. Mesmerizing
eruptions! Geothermal wonders!
Hot holes and fumaroles! 

Last week a Bison
gored a Phoenix woman,
but who knows how close

she got before it charged.
Bison run three times faster
than humans and injure

more people than any animal 
in the park—even grizzlies. 
In thermal areas the ground 

is just a thin crust above 
acidic pools, some resembling 
milky marbles, others the insides 

of celestine geodes reflecting 
the sky. Boardwalk signs 
all over Yellowstone shout 

Dangerous Ground! Potentially 
fatal! and despite that—
despite the print of a boy 

off-balance, falling through 
the surface into a boiling 
hot spring, his mouth an O 

of fear—despite the warnings
in writing that more than
a dozen people have been

scalded to death here and
hundreds badly burned 
or scarred, there are still

the tourons taunting bears,
dipping their fingers
off the side of the Boardwalk

into a gurgling mudpot.
Got a loan out on the truck 
but I’m runnin’ out of luck, 

sings Isbell, and the parking lots 
are packed with license plates 
from every state—so many 

borrowed RVs taking the curves 
too hard, so much rented 
bear spray dangling from 

carabiners clipped to cargo 
short waistbands, and ample
Christianity too: the Jesus

& Therapy t-shirt, the Enjoy 
Jesus baseball hat, the all I need
today is a little bit of coffee

and a whole lot of Jesus tote,
Mennonite families with 
women in bonnets

hauling toddlers. I want 
to tell my son it’s not
shameful to need

something or someone
to help us out of the darkness
when it gets very dark.

Jeff Buckley. Joy Division.
Jesus. Dolly Parton. Even
Delilah and her long 

distance dedications 
cracking the silence of 
every solo backroad

I’ve been driving since
before he was born.
He is sixteen. Does he know 

the black hole of loving 
and not being loved in return,
the night and its volume?

And the moon—nearly full,
rising over Old Faithful
which erupts on cue

to an appreciative crowd
every ninety-ish minutes.
And the moon, keeping me 

insomniac with its light 
shining like an interrogation 
trick into this cabin

through the crack
between the window 
and the blind.

Copyright © 2024 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.