I twist myself into a knot
the day pulls taut.

I am what I am
told. Good red meat

gone necrotic. A spot of black
spread out to ruin

a perfect evening. It’s the way
the weather wears me.

A cold, blank day. My blood-
burned fingers. A white noise

swelling in me. It’s nothing
but night now. That’s how

all the days end. An hour
glistens in its glass case, turns

rancid in my memory.
Another day, another

dress the day lays out
before me. I grow older

if I’m lucky.
And I’m lucky.

My sad heart in its excess.
Such petty injury. I am worn

against the weather. Limp and prone
to empty.

What came before this.
I can’t remember.

I dress for all the lives I want
behind me. I have come here

to make seen the day
I see. I fall from focus.

The day goes sour. It asks me
nothing. It asks nothing of me.

Copyright © 2015 by Camille Rankine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 1, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Bamboo shoots on my grandmother's side path
grow denser every year they’re harvested for nuisance.
Breezes peel blush and white petals from her magnolia,
lacing unruly roots in the spring grass. For nine decades
she has seen every season stretch out of shape, this past
Connecticut winter slow to relinquish cold. As a girl
she herded slow turkeys on her Aunt Nettie’s farm, fifty acres
in a Maryland county that didn’t plumb until midcentury,
plucking chickens and pheasants from pre-dawn
into the late night, scratching dough
for neighbors, relatives stopping by for biscuits, and the view
from my window changes. It's Mother's Day
and I’d always disbelieved permanence—newness a habit,
change an addiction—but the difficulty of staying put
lies not in the discipline of upkeep, as when my uncle
hurricane-felled birches blocking the down-sloped driveway,
not in the inconvenience of well water
slowing showers and night flushes, not in yellowjackets
colonizing the basement, nuzzling into a hole
so small only a faint buzz announces their invasion
when violin solos on vinyl end, but in the opulence of acres
surrounding a tough house, twice repaired from fires, a kitchen
drawer that hasn’t opened properly in thirty years marked
nothing more permanent than the cracked flagstone
path to the door, the uneven earth shifting invisibly beneath it.

Copyright © 2015 by Khadijah Queen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 13, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Standing in front of the Canelleto of Venice’s “ghetto vecchio”, “ghetto”  the word for “foundry,”contemplating those arms and harms. I sit down in ghetto, I sit here in ghetto vecchio.

And metal was cast in the dream of the ghetto and metal was forged for cannons 1390 in “ur” in “pre” in the nightmare of ghetto and laboratory of ghetto a metal mentality for it takes a long harm a long arm a long hatching this mentality of force of problem-not-solving your ghetto and in the name of decree and forging a metal mentality with harming arms and where you can live under a low ceiling where you can live and problem-not-solving 5,000 in a crammed room un-dream it now of your nightmare not allowed into the light of other campos and canals your arms held in not able to reach out across a map a city divided and problem-not-solving.  Un-dream, un-dream  problem-not-solving the nightmare of ghetto or problem-not-solving your nightmare of ghetto of “ur” time of this ghetto. You want to stretch your human fleshly arms outside the walls toward campos and canals. You  want to stretch your rare fleshly arms out of here reach out of here reach out of harm’s way  towards campos and canals but you can only live here in this curfew  of “ur” time this “pre” time, before the dawn until Napoleon allows you can you can live elsewhere, o please step outside please step aside you say to  Palestine, you who were in pre-“ur” pre-dreamtime ghetto astride campos and canals. You are my problem I am not your problem grazie. And under Austrian rule come back inside ghetto and this “ur” nightmare 1797.  This “pre” dawn of “state” of arsenal. Of Palestine. Old  way back “ur”-Palestine, what of its rip and tears. Its tears and weeping its ghetto. I mark this for you I say this for you (tears and more weeping), carved in stone in metal of poem-time in scripture of 21st century winds. And then the dream of a full fledged fulltime arsenal  tears and weeping toward metal what do we do what do we have to or why have we to do air-strikes problem-not-solving 13 dead again in  ghetto Palestine when then arsenal  of problem-not-solving is long range rocket revenge toward Ashkelon no one hurt in Ashkelon 10 kilometers north of Gaza. O remember Gaza and then revenge in air strikes 13 dead in Gaza, ripped apart in Gaza and the fine elliptical gallery for women only, sit here, my dear downed dead decimated sister my one next to me in this “ur” dream nightmare of ghetto and arsenal and Palestine. Describe the body parts you sifted from the trees down from the scattered trees of Zion of Palestine. Three wells of Zion, the scattered trees of Zion, the miracles and tribulations of Zion of Palestine. The three ways to un-dream the problem. The dear dead body parts. Enter here the dream the nightmare of ghetto and the end of ghetto.
And say 3 three times:

I will not do to them what has been done to me.
   I will not do to them what has been done to me.

      I will not do to them what has been done to me.

What to do what to do as the merchant stranger Shakespeare  ghetto merchant works the Banco Rosso “real and tangible” or other side hits Sderot  with Grad rockets from Iran.  Hit with metal mentality forged in metal. Hit the word “Sderot” hit  the word “Grad” hit with harm your problem-not-solving scary alliances 4 boys between 8 and 12 dear dead body parts east of Jabaliya un-dream the dead take back the word “dead”. Not a jubilee. And more in Gaza and 2,000 in ghetto Gaza. This is the old “ur” held vision of unsolved Zion and now the guards in the nightmare that is new century inventory of the state of arsenals and the unsolved now divided Palestine building of more arsenals in the arms that harm and reach out and harm human and fleshly. I will sit here I will sit here and sound here and reach out arms human and fleshly, to ghetto to Gaza.

Originally published in The Iovis Trilogy (Coffee House Press, 2011). Copyright © by Anne Waldman. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Their language rolls out,
soft carpet in front of them.
Strolling slowly beneath trees,
men in white shirts,
belts, baggy trousers,
women in scarves,
glinting cigarettes in the dusk.
What they left to be here, in the cold country,
where winter lasts forever,
haunts them in the dark—
golden hue of souk in sunlight,
gentle calling through streets that said, brother,
sit with me a minute, on the small stool
with the steaming glass of tea. Sit with me.
We belong together.

Copyright © by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the permission of the author.

The dots are on order     Cops patrol
the larger subway stations
on segways     Nobody
gets out of the way    Yesterday
I had a colonoscopy    which required fasting
for 40 hours and taking so much laxative
I shat water    Now my body is clean
I'm cleansed    and have the opportunity
to put only good things in    To start again
But I can't shake this shadow    I call it death
Love so strong I can hardly
function    Every fight my wife and I have had
or will    Why we can't
love each other like we used to
What will happen    to our children
To date, I'm responsible for the deaths
of at least 20 mice    My most triumphant moment
was when I got 6 at one time on a glue trap
then drowned them in the toilet    At work
we have a meeting in which there is only one rule:
No gerunds    My boss' boss
thinks I'm doing an amazing job  
My boss isn't so sure
Blood fills the place on my finger
where I just chewed off some skin    My fear has gone         to waste

From You're Gonna Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) by Justin Marks. Copyright © 2014 by Justin Marks. Used with permission of the author.

I live in New York City and a horse
goes clopping by my window.
Then I don’t
hear the horse anymore.
All promises
have been broken.
I lie in bed and pretend
to sleep. On occasion
I see babies sleeping,
little ones lying
on their backs
with baby bones
and skeletons
and organs that function.
They see and hear
and taste and smell.
They learn to speak and feel
awkwardness and shame.
It’s good that we don’t
remember being babies.
It’s good to feel good.
Sometimes I fall
for things I shouldn’t.
I think of my parents
with a kind
of regret and sympathy
for us all. A process,
like anything else.
A series of questions
raised in silence.
It’s an adventure
inside my body right now,
not knowing what will happen.
Something gets forced in,
returns out.
Whatever it is,
I say it alone,
aloud. I decide
on a course of thought
or action, and inevitably
wind up pursuing the other.
I’m happy
to be indignant,
but also just happy.
I share a pizza
and movie with my wife.
She is like a carrot
and I’m a little rabbit.
Our babies will be orange.
A bug is pressed
into a book’s pages
on the shelf.
Tourists get their pictures taken
in front of great works of art.
A young couple French
-kisses outside
the Museum of Sex.
The moon is full and shining
magnificently over
the rivers, Hudson and East.
I’m 6 feet tall and tone deaf,
a truly terrible singer.
I’ve always been swayed
by the belief that the maker
should not be able to see
himself in his art. I see
nothing but myself.
Plastic flowers in a lush,
green garden on
the Lower East Side, Avenue C.
Pinocchio standing before
a table of wood-working tools.
I know you know
I’m spying on you
spying on me
spying on you. That’s
what makes this fun,
right? Penetrate to
the most high god
and you’ll go insane,
I hear. Even
the speed of light
isn’t fast enough
to save you.
But don’t be afraid.
It’s only the pressure
that’s difficult to bear.
Amusement park rides,
even children’s corkscrew
playground slides
make me nauseous.
Mothers yell at their children
and their children cry.
The limits of my linear mind.
I sometimes believe everything
I’ll ever do or say
is already inside
someone else.
What was I thinking
when I marked that passage
in the book that read,
This is older than towns?
As a child, my favorite
part of the day was coming home
and getting the mail,
wondering what,
if anything, was addressed
to me. I wish sleep
was a switch I could simply throw.
Sobriety and intoxication as well.
The immense joy I receive
when reading my sent emails.
Also in finally getting straight
the spellings of decent
and descent.
All day at the beach,
children stomp
out of the surf and onto
the shore. New organisms,
in the grand scheme of things.
My back is terribly sun-burnt.
Peeling. I get chills and forget
everything I’ve learned.
I’m a Mayflower
descendent.  My great
-great grandfather
was a Russian-Jewish immigrant.
Riding in a cab
up the West Side Highway,
a little tipsy,
the salt-water air
and boat fumes…
I get incredibly inspired,
but not for long.
A bowl of fresh
blueberries and glass
after glass of water
await my arrival
A hard-boiled
egg for breakfast.
The cat. My wife.
The future generation
we have yet to have.
Where did this weight
I’ve gained come from?
Why can’t I lose it?
I’m in my early-thirties,
my grandparents are dead
and my parents are old.
Frequent déjà vu
renders everything inevitable.
When my wife comes home
she will kiss me and remove
her clothes, stretch out
across the bed and we will
discuss the day. Most
of my good fortune
is a fluke.
The bad as well.
That’s as far
as it ever seems to go.
Another flabby body
at the gym
trying to look good,
a relation relating itself
to itself.
There are no answers,
only variations
in understanding.
Which is the purpose
of speech. Words.
Again and again.
It’s to myself I mostly talk.
A man walking past
me on the subway platform chants,
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.
On a large envelope I drop
in the mail I write repeatedly,
Do Not Bend.
Discovery of one thing
by way of another.
The material of the cosmos crumpling
until all possible paths
narrow to one.
I’m completely addicted
to my email. Can’t go without
checking it every few minutes.
Connection to the outside
world via the virtual.
Things either occur
or they don’t.
The lavender my mother helped
my wife transplant is dying.
One of the more satisfactory
experiences of my life
was moshing so hard
I broke my retainer.
Twenty-three years ago.
There are no
discreet events. History
is in everything.
And memory. Dim
notions coming into focus,
then fading.
In a different life
I’d like to have been
a B-movie star.
Napping on the couch I tell
myself I’m not sleeping at all, just
relaxing, absorbing
the sound of traffic,
the sun and air
through the open window.
Putting a little spring
back in my step.
All this love
and hatred in my heart.
But if I could just stay awake,
if I could just stay awake long enough
it might all work out. This day
barely begun.

From You're Gonna Miss Me When You're Bored (Barrelhouse Books, 2014) by Justin Marks. Copyright © 2014 by Justin Marks. Used with permission of the author.

A map on tissue. A mass of wire. Electricity of the highest order.
Somewhere in this live tangle, scientists discovered—

like shipmates on the suddenly-round earth—
a new catalog of synaptic proteins

presenting how memory is laid down:
At the side of the transmitting neuron

an electrical signal arrives and releases chemical packets.

What I had imagined as “nothing” are a bunch of conversing
remaking flat into intimate.

Copyright © 2015 by Kimiko Hahn. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 24, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

At least once a week
I walk into the city of bricks
where the rubies grow

and the killers await
the coming of doves and cats.

I pass by the homes of butchers
and their knives sharpened by insomnia

to the river of black sails
and the torn-up sea and the teeth of dogs.

She waits for me in a narrow bed,
watching the rain
that gathers on the broken street

and the weak light of dusk
and the singing trees.

Copyright © 2015 by Pablo Medina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 17, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

You might think you are not thinking, but you are.

A thought moves from dirt up through me and if I do not
    disabuse it, it grows.

To suffer, to bear from below.

Coming down the mountain I could see a reservoir through the
    trees, fat and glowing.

You are alone in your one life and no one will enter your

Teenagers sit on the sign outside the nunnery.

We are so afraid of failing we can't live.

So we leave apartments, not breathing, breathe on the way

The potential is not the actual.

I was not a good skateboarder.

As we allow for suffering, we live.

You took a picture of me at sunset, thighs drying roses against
    an orange sky.

“This alone is deathless and everlasting”

In the dark we know one another finally.

I can be as you as I am.

“The mind-body problem”

You did things to block out the light.

Yes, another reference to morning.

When I am feeding myself I hate myself.

I was younger and not planning on dying.

In the forest between trees we dismantle thought.

Bed of summer branches, us gently.

“Much learning does not teach the mind”

And, walking across the road to the post office, able to see the

You: I googled “If you postpone love will it not end?”

To feel you have to exit the body.

To use a higher mind is to be part of the cosmos.

Then she lowered her voice to a rasp and told those assembled
    a secret.

There are no edges.

Waiting on the patio with whiskey, girl, they said, he’s not

The ethical implications of thinking.

In order to understand nature do we have to die?

Affixed to us driving the road to a mountain lake.

One must stay diligent to avoid becoming a symbol.

Let us bow down and never leave the island.

Me: “Did you think my angry phase would end?”

A day, a peeling scrim.

The moon looks into our lion mouths.

The mind’s hedge in an empty neighborhood.

If god is reason the mind is dead.

Ornate Senate of Loss, Call Me Forth to Announce Myself as
    Infinite Mystery.

You’ll use what I taught you to manipulate others.

This gives me sad pleasure.

Orange rose.

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Kendal Frey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

after Lorde

Your body is not my pommel horse
nor my Olympic pool or diving board.
Your body is not my personal Internet
channel nor my timeline,
nor my warm Apollo spotlight.
Your body is not my award
gala. Your body is not my game—
preseason or playoffs.
Your body is not my political party
convention. Your body is not
my frontline or my war’s theatre.
Your body is not my time
trial. Your body is not my entrance
exam or naturalization interview.
I am a citizen of this skin—that
alone—and yours is not to be
passed nor won. What is done—
when we let our bodies sharpen
the graphite of each other’s bodies
—is not my test, not my solo
show. One day I’ll learn. I’ll prove
I know how to lie with you without
anticipating the scorecards of your eyes,
how I might merely abide—we two
unseated, equidistant from the wings
in a beating black box, all stage.

Copyright © 2015 by Kyle Dargan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 3, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Fragos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Aster. Nasturtium. Delphinium. We thought
Fingers in dirt meant it was our dirt, learning
Names in heat, in elements classical
Philosophers said could change us. Star Gazer. 
Foxglove. Summer seemed to bloom against the will
Of the sun, which news reports claimed flamed hotter
On this planet than when our dead fathers
Wiped sweat from their necks. Cosmos. Baby’s Breath. 
Men like me and my brothers filmed what we
Planted for proof we existed before
Too late, sped the video to see blossoms
Brought in seconds, colors you expect in poems
Where the world ends, everything cut down.
John Crawford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

Copyright © 2015 by Jericho Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’d smoke cigars all day and into the night
while I wrote and wrote without
any hope or slightest assurance
that anything I’d written actually mattered
or rose to a standard of literary merit.
I’d languish in the smoke that did me in
and call it the cloud of my unknowing,
so sweet in its taste, such as it was,
of Cuban soil. That would be paradise
in heaven that’s so overrated as endless
bliss it kills to imagine as a place for living
forever, no less, with nothing to do
or lips to kiss. I’d curse, therefore,
with the best of them—the legion
of Saved—as I sharpened my pencils
and smoked my Punches in the simple room
that I’d be given with a desk for writing
and bed for remembering the things
I’d forgotten. And reading too, I almost
forgot. I’d read and read since I’d be done
with sleeping, but dreaming, no, still dreaming
a lot. I’d live to live again with moments
of dying to see how “lucky” I was. I’d use
my body as an eidolon with invisible wings
that fluttered in the void as if it were air
and hummed in the dark in which I could see.

Copyright © 2015 by Chard deNiord. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 27, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

And I carried to that emptiness
between us the birds
that had been calling out

            all night. I carried an old
            bicycle, a warm meal,
            some time to talk.

I would have brought
them to you sooner
but was afraid your own

            hopelessness would keep you
            crouched there. If you spring up,
            let it not be against me

but like a weed or a
fountain.  I grant you
the hard spine of your

            childhood.  I grant you
            the frowning arc of this morning.
            If I could I would grant you

a bright throat and even
brighter eyes, this whole hill
of olive trees, its

            calmness of purpose.
            Let me not forget
            ever what I owe you.

I have loved the love
you felt for those gardens
and I would grant you

            the always steadying
            presence of seeds. 
            I bring to that trouble

between us a bell that might
blur into air.  I bring the woods
and a sense of what lives there.

            Like you, I turn to sunlight for
            answers.  Like you, I am
            not sure where it has gone.

Copyright © 2013 by Joanna Klink. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on September 10, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Trees need not walk the earth  
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
Where they stand.  
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry:  
A birch may wear no less the morning  
Than an oak.  
Here are no heirlooms  
Save those of loveliness, 
In which each tree  
Is kingly in its heritage of grace.  
Here is but beauty’s wisdom  
In which all trees are wise.  
Trees need not walk the earth 
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
In the rainbow—  
The sunlight—  
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them  
As beauty came:  
In the rainbow—  
In the sunlight—  
In the rain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Our subjects were nice. We kept

our distance. We brewed detachment
in bottles. “We kept our distance”

is an anecdote. Her name

is Anecdote. She was born in the study.
Cages, bottles. Books all around.

She was our favorite / forbid us

to see her. She was the muse
for the bottles marked “Distance”

from which we drank. Could not

get by without. We buried the results;
they were dead. It was painless

for us. Thanks

to detachment. Our hypothesis held up
a snapshot. Braces, barrettes.

Copyright © 2015 by Melissa Ginsburg. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Amy, I was almost run down by a car
after buying my lunch today.
It was the postal police.
I was almost hit by the postal police.
This is not a joke.
There is a police force dedicated to the postal service
(the US Postal Service, mind you).
They race around in cars,
they chase down postal villains,
investigate postal crimes
unearth hidden postal agendas.
Conspiracies that they bring to their postal lieutenants
who summarily tell them to let it go, to stop obsessing,
take a vacation, some time off, you're too close to it,
it happens to the best postal policeman, that's what the
     lieutenants say.
(Potato soup and a chicken sandwich, if you're curious).
I think you should apply, Amy.
I think you would do well.
I think they would give you a hat.
Something jaunty that can handle your hair expertly.
You'd cover the hat with stamps from every country in the world
They would give you a pea coat, I think.
Like the one that you've already got, but more policey.
You would look fucking great in that coat.
Not every country, mind you.
Just the ones that sound like they have decent views
of the country side
and a healthy attitude towards outgoing, independent women.

Copyright © 2015 by B.C. Edwards. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 24, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer.  Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential. 
The actual is prior to substance. 
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood. 

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge. 
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.   
Now what.  No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

Copyright © 2015 by Alison Hawthorne Deming. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.