We cannot help but be students 
of our fathers’ disciplines, 

                       mine an avid disciple 
                       of scripture and royalty. 

What else can I confess? 
That I was a child? I carved myself 

                       into the civil shape of a knife. 
                       Pared until only the edge remained. 

I killed things because I could. 
Magnifying glass and the sun 

                       and the silent crawling things that 
                       could not fight back. 

That had no choice but to only 
hope for mercy. Unable themselves 

                       to beg. I confess. I was desperate 
                       to know that I was not alone. Every day 

we are made once more in the image of God. 
Every day God asks, Cruelty again? 

                       And every day we say, Oh Lord of Heaven, 
                       please, yes, yes. Cruelty again. 

Copyright © 2024 by Nora Hikari. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

the unholy trinity of suburban late-night salvation
barring seemingly endless options of worship

bean burrito breadsticks and mashed potatoes
or a soft taco pan pizza and a buttered biscuit

an unimaginable combination of food flavors
for people not ready to go home to their parents

and yet none of the options feel quite right
so maybe I should call it Self-Portrait as idling

in a drive-thru with your friends crammed
across the sunken bench seats avoiding

the glow of the check engine light with black tape
pressed with a precision unseen anywhere else

in their lives as a fractured voice says don’t worry
take your time and order whenever you’re ready

from behind a menu backlit like the window
inside of a confessional booth as the hands

of the driver open up like a collection basket
for the wadded-up bills and loose change

that slowly stack up as the years go by
and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be

in this analogy but I know about masking
warning signs and hearing out of tune

voices scream WE’RE THE KIDS WHO FEEL
LIKE DEAD ENDS so instead I’ll call it Self-

Portrait as From Under the Cork Tree
or maybe even Self-Portrait as whatever

album people listen to when they love
their friends and still want to feel connected

to the grass walls of a teenage wasteland
that they can’t help but run away from

Copyright © 2024 by Aaron Tyler Hand. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 22, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

           “death cannot harm me
            more than you have harmed me,
            my beloved life.”
Louise Glück 

I tell my daughter first, because her knowing  
forces it to become true. I have to leave dad.  

Nothing is going to change. She nods  
like a priest in a booth, the last fifteen years

staring down at us. Explains, softly, 
how she’s spoken of me to her therapist.

Her worry of becoming my mirror. Tells me, 
I remember you, mom, before him. You were happy.

Oh. Oh. To surrender to your death by someone else’s
hand is still a kind of suicide. Slower. I stand naked

on the porch as she recounts in perfect detail,
(in a poet’s detail) the very things I’d hoped

to disguise. My careful little spectator. Diligent neighbor 
to my unnamed agonies. It is not ungrateful to resist

the tyrannies of obsession. It is no selfish act 
to want, suddenly, to stay alive. My dear girl.

She is teaching and I am learning. I not only  
want to be seen, I want to be seen through.

I return to my house, haunted and waiting. 
I look into the mirror and notice the door.

Copyright © 2023 by Rachel McKibbens. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

No use telling 
         the dead what 
you’ve learned since 

they’ve learnt it too— 

how to go on 
         without you, the mercy 
of morning, or moving, 

         the light that persists 
even if. 


Beauty is as beauty 
         does, my mother says, 
who is beautiful & speaks 

loud so she can be understood 
         unlike poets who can’t 
talk to save their lives 

so they write. 


It’s like a language, 
can be  

         learned only 
by living—there— 


What anchors us 
         to this thirst 
& earth, its threats 

& thinnesses— 
         its ways of waning 
& making the most of—

of worse & much 
         worse—if not 
this light lifting 

up over the ridge

Copyright © 2023 by Kevin Young. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.