Oh, solitude, where is the sting,
    That men ascribe to thee?
Where is the terror in thy mien?
    I look, but cannot see.

Where hidest thou, that loneliness
    The world pretends to fear?
While lying on thy loving breast
    I find my sweetest cheer.

They do not understand thee, no,
    They are but knaves or fools,
Or else they must discern in thee
    Dame Nature’s queen of schools.

For in thy care, with naught but books,
    The bards and saints of old,
Become my friends and to mine ear
    Their mystic truths unfold.

When problems and perplexities
    Of life becloud my mind,
I know in thee, oh, solitude,
    The answer I can find.

When grief and sorrow crowd my heart
    To breaking, with their fears
Within thy arms, oh, solitude,
    I find relief in tears.

And when I weary of the world’s
    Deceits and cares and strife,
I find in thee sweet rest and peace
    And vigorous new life.

My garden never is complete
    Without a blooming rose,
Nor is my life, oh, solitude,
    Without thy sweet repose.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

Once I freed myself of my duties to tasks and people and went down to the cleansing sea...
The air was like wine to my spirit,
The sky bathed my eyes with infinity,
The sun followed me, casting golden snares on the tide,
And the ocean—masses of molten surfaces, faintly gray-blue—sang to my heart...

Then I found myself, all here in the body and brain, and all there on the shore:
Content to be myself: free, and strong, and enlarged:
Then I knew the depths of myself were the depths of space.
And all living beings were of those depths (my brothers and sisters)
And that by going inward and away from duties, cities, street-cars and greetings,
I was dipping behind all surfaces, piercing cities and people,
And entering in and possessing them, more than a brother,
The surge of all life in them and in me...

So I swore I would be myself (there by the ocean)
And I swore I would cease to neglect myself, but would take myself as my mate,
Solemn marriage and deep: midnights of thought to be:
Long mornings of sacred communion, and twilights of talk,
Myself and I, long parted, clasping and married till death.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

On summer afternoons I sit
Quiescent by you in the park
And idly watch the sunbeams gild
And tint the ash-trees’ bark.

Or else I watch the squirrels frisk
And chaffer in the grassy lane;
And all the while I mark your voice
Breaking with love and pain.

I know a woman who would give
Her chance of heaven to take my place;
To see the love-light in your eyes,
The love-glow on your face!

And there’s a man whose lightest word
Can set my chilly blood afire;
Fulfillment of his least behest
Defines my life’s desire.

But he will none of me, nor I
Of you. Nor you of her. ’Tis said
The world is full of jests like these.—
I wish that I were dead.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson.This poem is in the public domain.

I have this disease. It involves perching at parties like some dark owl and slowly shifting into a circling vulture. But I’ve cracked a couple things like bones against a cliff. For one, every body is a capsule—a collection of lighters, lucky pennies, and pocket lint. And two, there’s no way for me to, reach into you and stretch into your fingertips like gloves. It's all in the synapsing—the way the fluid of your inner ear reflects the swishing of vodka in your stomach. Your evening is an arch, brought to you by the white round pill that carves you out in parabola. Still, there is no hearing. There is the outside world and then the way your ear canals whisper into your mind. All but your voice—which is softest when you have the most to say.

Copyright © 2018 by Emily Hunerwadel. This poem originally appeared in Professional Crybaby (Poetry Society of America, 2018). Used with permission of the author.

My friend and I snickered the first time
we heard the meditation teacher, a grown man,
call himself honey, with a hand placed
over his heart to illustrate how we too 
might become more gentle with ourselves
and our runaway minds. It’s been years
since we sat with legs twisted on cushions,
holding back our laughter, but today
I found myself crouched on the floor again,
not meditating exactly, just agreeing
to be still, saying honey to myself each time
I thought about my husband splayed
on the couch with aching joints and fever
from a tick bite—what if he never gets better?—
or considered the threat of more wildfires,
the possible collapse of the Gulf Stream,
then remembered that in a few more minutes, 
I’d have to climb down to the cellar and empty
the bucket I placed beneath a leaky pipe
that can’t be fixed until next week. How long
do any of us really have before the body
begins to break down and empty its mysteries
into the air? Oh honey, I said—for once
without a trace of irony or blush of shame—
the touch of my own hand on my chest
like that of a stranger, oddly comforting
in spite of the facts.

Copyright © 2021 by James Crews. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.