As the best actors move on from TV
And leave shows in shambles, viewers bereft,
And characters to death or surgery,
So do I move beyond my yesterdays
Into a new life, an acropolis
So perfect it seems built to be ruined.
Like a swimming pool at noon in summer
The future waits coolly to be entered,
But disturbances of satisfaction
Can overwhelm the impulse of the act.

There are plants that die from too much water,
Some living things are merely suppliant
And others are born to be sycophants.
I reach out for love without knowing if
To love means bliss or merely drunkenness.
There are plans that vanish in their planning
And dreamers that drown in their ambition.
I doubt my senses, I hear smells, I see
Symbols wherever images should be—
A sunbow’s arc above a waterfall.

As yet the beachcomber in me believes
That beneath the proof of dirt is payment
For the labor of creation, or love—
Maybe not the gold doubloon, but a shell
With the ocean where a creature should be.
For the first time, you hear your lover’s voice
Singing a language you don’t understand,
And the words you once knew lose their meanings.
I am so confused by this new feeling.
My greatest fear is I will outlive it.

Everything seems to be going well, but
Who knows well when less is nowhere near?
There is such a thing as a perfect storm,
When all the elements of misfortune
Converge to produce a great disaster
(One of the elements must be belief,
The others should be time and sacrifice),
Which descends upon a decent person
Who stands beside some mean, magnetic soul
To hide their darkness in another’s light.

I am anxious because my life is good
And I love a world I will have destroyed
Just as the rotten persona I’ve made
Transubstantiates in the tendency
Of burning to offer upward its ash.
While my sweetheart works overtime this week
I have spent my hours alone dismantling
The appalling device in my basement,
But as I pull it apart it mocks me,
Knowing as I do it has done its work.

Millions of miles away, death from above
Speeds through the solar system, approaching
The planet where Mahler wrote his music.
It will be a defunct truth that kills me
And the sight of a serpent in the sky
Will be the final sign the condemned see.
If only I had despised the winter
Instead of the cold itself, I could have
Found some relief in fashion and designed
Warm shadows instead of a burning crown.

One must be well acquainted with the charms
Of decorative dishes and warm pies
To know the power that a caterwaul
At midnight may have over someone lost
In chapter nine of Pride and Prejudice,
In which Darcy and Elizabeth speak
Of poetry’s relationship to sex.
Everyone knows what happens in the end,
But the end is just a catastrophe,
The good bits are in the complication.

Aristotle can be hard to follow
But tragedy is simplified in love.
At first, one seems to look at a stranger
In the mirror, and life is love reversed,
Then their reflection proves insubstantial
For conversations and convergences.
I am at this moment in my story
And have no idea how it will feel
To arrive with another at a shrine
With meanings both joyous and saturnine.

The other day I went out for pizza
With the woman who holds my hand in hers,
And the roads of our hunger there diverged.
We ordered a large half-mushroom, half-cheese
So we could our own ways together go,
But by the time the waiter brought our food
We had forgotten who had chosen what
And feasted without discrimination.
The desire to know each other’s desire
Had overwhelmed the knowledge of our own.

Transcendent moments become memories
Like everything else, and maybe that is
An error in the making of the world.
What if evolution’s fundamental
Force were not endurance, but amazement?
Or what if everything already runs
Zigzag toward heaven and I am wrong?
What if a giraffe stretches out its neck
Seeking not fulfillment but pleasing form,
And nature is guided by beauty’s voice?

Copyright © 2016 by Joshua Edwards. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

someone  asked  me  if  my husband  left me,  or if I left him. After
the   reading,  someone   asked   me   if   there   was  a   chance  for
reconciliation  as  I shoved a  pulled  pork sandwich  in my mouth
with  Carolina  Gold BBQ  sauce  oozing  out  the  sides  like  neon
yellow  lava.  After  the reading,  someone  asked  me if I still pray
to  God  as  I  sipped a  fizzy Diet Coke  and the ice cubes huddled
and  softly clinked  around my  upper lip  leaving a wet mustache.
After  the  reading,  someone said they had been divorced too and
then  scurried away  in a way that I completely  understood. After
the  reading,  a  woman told me I was worthy as if I was shattered 
while   I   picked   up   crudités   with  a   copious  dollop  of  ranch
dressing.  After  the  reading,  a  white woman thanked me for my 
“angry poems.”  I  told  her they were about my joy,  and then she
touched  my  forearm  and  said,  “No,  they were about my rage.”
Insisting.   After   the  reading,   someone  said   they   cried,   and
another  gave me a kind word.  Thank you. After the after,  I went   
home and changed into my cheetah print pajamas. I wrapped my
hair and  brushed my teeth.  I got in bed and played a  sci-fi show
on  my  laptop.  The  actors  on the show were trying to find a way
to talk  to aliens by  using  math  and pheromones.  I  googled the
height   of  one  of  the   actors.  He  is  6' 4".   I   fell   asleep  while 
watching   the    show   about    the    people   in   space   trying   to   
communicate  in  first  contact,  intergalactic  noises  beeped  and
swirled around the room like bees.

Copyright © 2023 by Tiana Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 13, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.