Now my hands buried 
in my hair, resting on piano keys       
in the back of my head.
This is the music I am playing
through my mind: a dark room singing    
a song that will not have children. 


Lying on the floor tonight, snowflakes 
cut from paper laid over my eyes, a hand
carved from wood laid over my mouth. 
If the truth is the thing you must not say,
I will speak for the vase now
as it falls: it is better never
to be at all.                                                              

A hand on the back of my head
made of glass, my love, my eyes,
filled with wire, life. Once
I watched a bird’s shadow cross a field 
in the wind: a black hat that could not stop 
tumbling. My eyes are sore
from seeing, my lips from speaking.


How a ribbon curls when pulled 
across a scissor’s blade, I am practicing 
transformation, pain. How the dark hair
of imagination, uncut, grows down
to the floor. What is left 
but to make a world, a war?                                

Or a landscape in which to stay alive
(ghost flower/house of breath). Another wish: language
drilled through ice, through my life. 
If grief is love with nowhere to go, this is
my mouth turning into snow.
This is somewhere.

Copyright © 2023 by Allison Benis White. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you 
             —W. S. Merwin

A blanket of fresh snow
makes any neighborhood idyllic.
Dearborn Heights indistinguishable from Baldwin Hills,
South Central even—
until a thawing happens and residents emerge
into the light.  But it almost never snows in L.A.,
and snows often in this part of Michigan—
a declining wonderland, a place not to stand out
or be stranded like Renisha was.

Imagine a blonde daughter with a busted car
in a suburb where a brown homeowner
(not taking any chances)  
blasts through a locked door first, 
checks things out after—
around the clock coverage and the country beside itself
instead of the way it is now, 
so quiet like a snowy night 
and only the grief of a brown family (again)
around the Christmas tree, recalling 
memories of Renisha playing
on the front porch, or catching flakes
as they fall and disappear 
on her tongue.

They are left to imagine 
what her life might have been.
We are left to imagine the day
it won't require imagination 
to care about all of the others.

Copyright © 2014 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on February 3, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.