It is really something when a kid who has a hard time becomes a kid who’s having a good time in no small part thanks to you throwing that kid in the air again and again on a mile long walk home from the Indian joint as her mom looks sideways at you like you don’t need to keep doing this because you’re pouring with sweat and breathing a little bit now you’re getting a good workout but because the kid laughs like a horse up there laughs like a kangaroo beating her wings against the light because she laughs like a happy little kid and when coming down and grabbing your forearm to brace herself for the time when you will drop her which you don’t and slides her hand into yours as she says for the fortieth time the fiftieth time inexhaustible her delight again again again and again and you say give me til the redbud tree or give me til the persimmon tree because she knows the trees and so quiet you almost can’t hear through her giggles she says ok til the next tree when she explodes howling yanking your arm from the socket again again all the wolves and mourning doves flying from her tiny throat and you throw her so high she lives up there in the tree for a minute she notices the ants organizing on the bark and a bumblebee carousing the little unripe persimmon in its beret she laughs and laughs as she hovers up there like a bumblebee like a hummingbird up there giggling in the light like a giddy little girl up there the world knows how to love.

Copyright © 2023 by Ross Gay. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 26, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

                   “Blessed are you, God our God, Sovereign of the World, who has
                   given us the Torah of truth, planting within us life everlasting.”
                                           —the prayer recited after an עֲלִיָּה aliyah
                                           (a going up) to read from the Torah

Let me speak to you as the tree I climbed as a child,
the one in the far corner of my grandmother’s yard,
whose bark was a tapestry of rough diamonds.
Your first branch was low enough to leap to,
textured enough to hold me. And each branch after
placed as though to keep me climbing.
I paused only to press my ear to your trunk
and hear it: the heartbeat of water
moving toward the leaves, the conversation
between roots and sky. Climbing until my hair
twined your needles’ spines; until, anointed
by your green, you took root within me; so I speak
from the part of me who grows you, grows
with you, who will always live in your branches.
And in the boughs, so many there with me.
A vantage we could not have reached
on our own, a vision otherwise beyond us.
All of us, in that overstory, unalone.

From Unalone (Four Way Books, 2024) by Jessica Jacobs. First appeared in Moment Magazine (November, 2022). Used with permission of the author.

Circular breather, our dog can whine
without ceasing, his tail thumping the wall
beside the bed to call me up and out to the yard
instead. In moonlight, the hydrangeas’

white blossoms are a zodiac of branch-bound
constellations. Once, God called Abraham
out from his tent to the open field to count
the uncountable lights in the sky, promising

offspring bountiful as dust, numerous
as the stars. Like Abraham, I too left
my land, my birthplace, my father’s house.
But the closest I have to offspring

is lifting his leg at the azalea, nose busy
with the news the night air brings.
Mazel tov! we say at births and other
joyous occasions, the Jewish go-to

for Congratulations! Yet טוֹב tov means “good”
and מַזָּל mazel, “constellation” or “destiny,”
and sometimes, like Abraham, you must
leave the place that grew you to grow

toward better stars. In the house, my wife
is sleeping. Along the fence-top, a procession
of possums reminds that even in darkness
there are those who can see. Above,

trees, thick with summer, frame a porthole
of sky. Maybe, though, it’s not always the stars
that matter but the space between them,
the lines we draw to shape the absence,

the lives we forge around what goes missing.
From the deck, the cool breeze makes a festival
of the silver-lit leaves. Under my palm,
there’s the warmth of his fur, the rise

of his ribs. He doesn’t suspect his kidneys
are failing, that his muzzle is white
as the winter our vet has said he will
not live to see. Like all of us, he is

dying; like most of us, he doesn’t
know it. His chin on my leg, he trusts me
with the weight of his head. So, if I wish
you, mazel tov, know what I mean is,

May you find a reason to open
your door to the dark. I’ll mean,
May you live beneath good stars,
and take the time to notice.

From Unalone (Four Way Books, 2024) by Jessica Jacobs. First appeared in Southern Cultures (2021). Used with permission of the author.