somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.
No easy thing to bear, the weight of sweetness.
Song, wisdom, sadness, joy: sweetness
equals three of any of these gravities.
See a peach bend
the branch and strain the stem until
Hold the peach, try the weight, sweetness
and death so round and snug
in your palm.
And, so, there is
the weight of memory:
Windblown, a rain-soaked
bough shakes, showering
the man and the boy.
They shiver in delight,
and the father lifts from his son’s cheek
one green leaf
fallen like a kiss.
The good boy hugs a bag of peaches
his father has entrusted
Now he follows
his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.
See the look on the boy’s face
as his father moves
faster and farther ahead, while his own steps
flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors
under the weight
From Rose (BOA Editions, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of BOA Editions.
Someone will love you many will love
you many will brother you some of these
loves will bother you some will leave you
one might haunt you hunt you in your
sleep make you weep the tearless kind of
weep the kind of weep that drowns your
organs slowly there are little oars in your body
little boats grab onto them and row and row
someone will tell you no but you won’t know
he is right until you have already wrung your
own heart dry your hands dripping knives until
you have already reached your hands into his
body and put them through his heart love is
the only thing that is not an argument
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.
You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.
Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.
This poem is in the public domain.
On another night
in a hotel
in a room
in a city
flanked by all
that is unfamiliar
I am able to move
my finger along
a glass screen
& in seconds
see your mother
smiling in a room
that is our own
that is now so
far away but
also not so far
away at all
& she can place
the small screen
near her belly
& when I speak
I can see you
her skin as if you
knew that this
& what a small
joy it is to be some-
where that is not
with you but to
still be with you
& see your feet
her rib cage like
you knew we’d
both be dancing
Copyright © 2017 by Clint Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman, Some type of supernatural creature. My mother would tell you, if she could, About her life with my father, A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman. She would tell you about the choices A young black woman faces. Is falling in with some man A deal with the devil In blue terms, the tongue we use When we don't want nuance To get in the way, When we need to talk straight. My mother chooses my father After choosing a man Who was, as we sing it, Of no account. This man made my father look good, That's how bad it was. He made my father seem like an island In the middle of a stormy sea, He made my father look like a rock. And is the blues the moment you realize You exist in a stacked deck, You look in a mirror at your young face, The face my sister carries, And you know it's the only leverage You've got. Does this create a hurt that whispers How you going to do? Is the blues the moment You shrug your shoulders And agree, a girl without money Is nothing, dust To be pushed around by any old breeze. Compared to this, My father seems, briefly, To be a fire escape. This is the way the blues works Its sorry wonders, Makes trouble look like A feather bed, Makes the wrong man's kisses A healing.
From Autobiography of a Jukebox by Cornelius Eady. Used with permission.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell. From Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (Mariner Books, 1980). Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Copyright © 2017 by Sarah Browning. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 22, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
I look for words in the dark,
silently describing to myself
the particular conditions of the weather
on the morning I saw you most recently—
the wind, its patterned disarray—
my mind elsewhere, distracted, lyrical,
while the pianist plays an encore.
Mozart was born on this day
257 years ago. All day
I have been ungenerous, resentful,
impatient. In between
movements, no applause
but the old ladies cough loudly, violently.
We cannot last forever.
I loved music before I loved books.
I loved Mozart before I loved you.
Copyright © 2015 by Richie Hofmann. Used with permission of the author.
The truth is that I fall in love
so easily because
a dozen times some days.
I've lived whole lives,
grown old, and died
in the arms of other women
in no more time
than it takes the 2-train
to get from City Hall to Brooklyn,
which brings me back
to you: the only one
I fall in love with
at least once every day—
there are no other
lovely women in the world,
but because each time,
dying in their arms,
I call your name.
From Boy (University of Georgia Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Patrick Phillips. Used with permission of University Georgia Press.
Full moon rising on the waters of my heart,
Lakes and moon and fires,
Holding her lips apart.
Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon,
Miracle made vesper-keeps,
And I’ll be sleeping soon.
Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters where the
Radiant, resplendently she gleams,
Lips pressed against my heart.
This poem is in the public domain.
& anyway, what good is the metronomic one-note canon two house sparrows cant aloft, between, the pine privacy fence, if not to simulate estrangement? Watching them watching me, I think, First impressions are so medieval. O, to be the provincial drawbridge damming a ramshackle interior, or the alligator- green moat babbling sparsely beneath it— all the unknowable utterances one cheeps forth to be peripherally endeared. A chorus which, at the moment, I take to mean Friend, you look well from this distance, from my vantage, perched over here.
Copyright © 2018 by Marcus Wicker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 20, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
This poem is in the public domain.
We were stepping out of a reading
in October, the first cold night,
and we were following this couple,
were they at the reading? and because
we were lost, I called out to them,
“Are you going to the after party?”
The woman laughed and said no
and the man kept walking, and she
was holding his hand like I hold yours,
though not exactly, she did not
need him for balance. Then what
got into me? I said, “How long
have you been married?” and she said
“Almost 30 years” and because
we were walking in public, no secret,
tell everyone now it’s official,
I said, “How’s marriage?” The man
kept walking. The woman said,
“It gets better but then it gets different.”
The man kept walking.
Copyright © 2015 by Jillian Weise. Used with permission of the author.
Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
Originally published in Come, Thief (Knopf, 2011); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of the author, all rights reserved.