Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

From What the Living Do, copyright © 1998 by Marie Howe. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.

sent regrets by smoke // dull coatings of a time // now ambered // into its search for // a former light // when the world was not dark // just lightless // except for those flashpoints of skin // little currents that mark // the only things // we ever shared // to know we both craved // in the same brilliant age // a desire with gravity // the seedy impact of two bodies // who collide by choice // even at the cost of systems // still breaking // wills and testaments // that keep what remains // of you abroad // in a home you tried to make // but never bedded // until this restless sleep

Copyright © 2023 by Travis Chi Wing Lau. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 30, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I cannot live with You – 
It would be Life – 
And Life is over there – 
Behind the Shelf

The Sexton keeps the Key to – 
Putting up
Our Life – His Porcelain – 
Like a Cup – 

Discarded of the Housewife – 
Quaint – or Broke – 
A newer Sevres pleases – 
Old Ones crack – 

I could not die – with You – 
For One must wait
To shut the Other’s Gaze down – 
You – could not – 

And I – could I stand by
And see You – freeze – 
Without my Right of Frost – 
Death's privilege?

Nor could I rise – with You – 
Because Your Face
Would put out Jesus’ – 
That New Grace

Glow plain – and foreign
On my homesick Eye – 
Except that You than He
Shone closer by – 

They’d judge Us – How – 
For You – served Heaven – You know,
Or sought to – 
I could not – 

Because You saturated Sight – 
And I had no more Eyes
For sordid excellence
As Paradise

And were You lost, I would be – 
Though My Name
Rang loudest
On the Heavenly fame – 

And were You – saved – 
And I – condemned to be
Where You were not – 
That self – were Hell to Me – 

So We must meet apart – 
You there – I – here – 
With just the Door ajar
That Oceans are – and Prayer – 
And that White Sustenance – 
Despair – 

Reprinted by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Answers crowdsourced from the author’s Instagram. Italics denote direct quotes.

Absent parent(s) 
and the man who made me 

mistrust every man after. 

I haven’t earned it yet—
what is love if not a salary? 

The sweet treat we get 

for being demure.
It feels too selfish,

too vulgar, unladylike 

to gorge myself
on the moist cake of it. 

I’ve got bad credit, 

a prettier sibling, a rank 
history of mistakes,

each one more foul 

than the last. The timing
was all wrong. 

The timing was right 

but I was afraid 
of losing it.

I am disorganized.

My brain is broken, 
and it was stuck on something 

I thought was love.

I’ve spit out it before
just to prove that I can.

I believe I am ugly.

and in the end, 
it’s just easier this way,

familiar as a callous, 

tongued over like 
a cracked tooth:

suffering feels cleaner, 

because if I start to believe
I actually deserve love,

I’d have to find 

unacceptable all 
those incapable of 

giving it.

“I Asked Why Have You Denied Yourself Love” by Sierra DeMulder. Copyright 2023. Courtesy of Button Publishing Inc.