The river is high. I'd love to smoke pot 
with the river. I'd love it if rain 
sat at my table and told me what it's like 
to lick Edith Piaf's grave. I go along thinking 
I'm separate from trash day 
and the weird hairdo my cat wakes up with 
but I am of the avalanche 
as much as I am its tambourine. 
The river is crashing against my sleep 
like it took applause apart and put it back together 
as a riot of wet mouths 
adoring my ears, is over my head
when it explains string theory 
and affection to me, 
when it tells me to be the code breaker, 
not the code. What does that mean? 
Why does lyric poetry exist?
When will water open its mouth 
and tell us how to be clouds, how to rise
and morph and die and flourish and be reborn
all at the same time, all without caring
if we have food in our teeth or teeth in our eyes
or hair in our soup or a piano in our pockets,
just play the damned tune. The river is bipolar 
but has flushed its meds, I'm dead 
but someone has to finish all the cheese 
in the fridge, we're a failed species
if suction cups are important, if intelligence
isn't graded on a curve, 
but if desperation counts, if thunderstorms 
are the noise in our heads given a hall pass 
and rivers swell because orchestras 
aren't always there when we need them, well then, 
I still don't know a thing.

Copyright © 2019 by Bob Hicok. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace —
Radiant palace — reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion —
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This — all this — was in the olden
Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well-befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn! — for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh — but smile no more.

This poem is in the public domain.

The Invisible Woman is the windshield.
Mr. Fantastic is the wiper fluid.
The Thing is the tire.
The Human Torch is the spark plug.
Spiderman is the antenna.
Storm is the ignition coil.
Rogue is the crank shaft.
The Punisher is the exhaust pipe.
Captain America is the hub cap.
Quicksilver is the oil.
Rogue is the gasoline.
Psylocke is the catalytic converter.
The Hulk is the cylinder block.
She Hulk is the mount.

Mantis is the manifold.
Ms. Marvel is the muffler.
The Scarlet Witch is the instrument panel.
Iceman is the cooling system.
Wolverine is the hood.
Colossus is the camshaft.
Banshee is the horn.
Polaris is the voltage regulator. 
Silver Surfer is the rearview mirror.
Powerman is the bearing.
Phoenix is the powertrain.
Emma Frost is the hinge pillar.
The Vision is the fuse box.
Black Widow is the brake.

Copyright © 2012 by Bruce Covey. Used with permission of the author.

Marine helicopters on maneuver kept dipping
toward swells at Black’s Beach, my board’s poise
giving way to freefall of my wave tubing

over me, nubs of wax under my feet as I crouched
under the lip, sped across the face and kicked out—
all over Southern Cal a haze settled: as if light breathed

that technicolor smog at sunset over
San Diego Harbor where battleships at anchor,
just back from patrolling the South China Sea, were

having rust scraped off and painted gray.
This was my inheritance that lay stretched before me:
which is when I felt the underbrush give way

and the fox that thrives in my brain,
not looking sly but just at home in his pelt
and subtle paws, broke from cover and ran

across the yard into the future to sniff my gravestone,
piss, and move on. And so I was reborn into
my long nose and ears, my coat’s red, white, and brown

giving off my fox smell lying heavy on the winds
in the years when I’d outsmart guns, poison,
dogs, and wire, when the rooster and his hens

clucked and ran, crazy with terror
at how everything goes still in that way a fox adores,
gliding through slow-motion drifts of feathers.

Originally published in House of Fact, House of Ruin (Graywolf Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Sleigh. Used with the permission of the poet.

Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley's restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless —
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye —
Over three lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: — from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: — from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.

This poem is in the public domain.

And did young Stephen sicken,
    And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
    And did the mourners cry?

No; such was not the fate of
    Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
    ’Twas not from sickness’ shots.

No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
    Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
    Of Stephen Dowling Bots.

Despised love struck not with woe
    That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
    Young Stephen Dowling Bots.

O no. Then list with tearful eye,
    Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
    By falling down a well.

They got him out and emptied him;
    Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
    In the realms of the good and great.

This poem is in the public domain.

On the Erie Canal, it was,
     All on a summer’s day,
I sailed forth with my parents
     Far away to Albany.

From out the clouds at noon that day
     There came a dreadful storm,
That piled the billows high about,
     And filled us with alarm.

A man came rushing from a house,
     Saying, “Snub up* your boat I pray,
Snub up your boat, snub up, alas,
     Snub up while yet you may.”

Our captain cast one glance astern,
     Then forward glanced he,
And said, “My wife and little ones
     I never more shall see.”

Said Dollinger the pilot man,
     In noble words, but few,—
“Fear not, but lean on Dollinger,
     And he will fetch you through.”

The boat drove on, the frightened mules
     Tore through the rain and wind,
And bravely still, in danger’s post,
     The whip-boy strode behind.

“Come ’board, come ’board,” the captain cried,
     “Nor tempt so wild a storm;"
But still the raging mules advanced,
     And still the boy strode on.

Then said the captain to us all,
     “Alas, ’tis plain to me,
The greater danger is not there,
     But here upon the sea.

“So let us strive, while life remains,
     To save all souls on board,
And then if die at last we must,
     Let .  .  .  .  I cannot speak the word!”

Said Dollinger the pilot man,
     Tow’ring above the crew,
“Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
     And he will fetch you through.”

“Low bridge!  low bridge!” all heads went down,
     The laboring bark sped on;
A mill we passed, we passed church,
     Hamlets, and fields of corn;
And all the world came out to see,
     And chased along the shore
Crying, “Alas, alas, the sheeted rain,
     The wind, the tempest’s roar!
Alas, the gallant ship and crew,
     Can nothing help them more?”

And from our deck sad eyes looked out
     Across the stormy scene:
The tossing wake of billows aft,
     The bending forests green,
The chickens sheltered under carts
     In lee of barn the cows,
The skurrying swine with straw in mouth,
     The wild spray from our bows!

               “She balances!
               She wavers!
Now let her go about!
     If she misses stays and broaches to,
We’re all"—then with a shout,
               “Huray!  huray!
               Avast!  belay!
               Take in more sail!
               Lord, what a gale!
Ho, boy, haul taut on the hind mule’s tail!”

“Ho!  lighten ship!  ho!  man the pump!
     Ho, hostler, heave the lead!”
“And count ye all, both great and small,
     As numbered with the dead:
For mariner for forty year,
     On Erie, boy and man,
I never yet saw such a storm,
     Or one’t with it began!”

So overboard a keg of nails
     And anvils three we threw,
Likewise four bales of gunny-sacks,
     Two hundred pounds of glue,
Two sacks of corn, four ditto wheat,
     A box of books, a cow,
A violin, Lord Byron’s works,
     A rip-saw and a sow.

A curve!  a curve!  the dangers grow!
Hard-a-port, Dol!—hellum-a-lee!
     Haw the head mule!—the aft one gee!
Luff!—bring her to the wind!”

“A quarter-three!—’tis shoaling fast!
     Three feet large!—t-h-r-e-e feet!—
Three feet scant!” I cried in fright
     “Oh, is there no retreat?”

Said Dollinger, the pilot man,
     As on the vessel flew,
“Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
     And he will fetch you through.”

A panic struck the bravest hearts,
     The boldest cheek turned pale;
For plain to all, this shoaling said
A leak had burst the ditch’s bed!
And, straight as bolt from crossbow sped,
Our ship swept on, with shoaling lead,
     Before the fearful gale!

“Sever the tow-line!  Cripple the mules!”
     Too late!  There comes a shock!
Another length, and the fated craft
     Would have swum in the saving lock!

Then gathered together the shipwrecked crew
     And took one last embrace,
While sorrowful tears from despairing eyes
     Ran down each hopeless face;
And some did think of their little ones
     Whom they never more might see,
And others of waiting wives at home,
     And mothers that grieved would be.

But of all the children of misery there
     On that poor sinking frame,
But one spake words of hope and faith,
     And I worshipped as they came:
Said Dollinger the pilot man,—
     (O brave heart, strong and true!)—
“Fear not, but trust in Dollinger,
     For he will fetch you through.”

Lo!  scarce the words have passed his lips
     The dauntless prophet say’th,
When every soul about him seeth
     A wonder crown his faith!

For straight a farmer brought a plank,—
     (Mysteriously inspired)—
And laying it unto the ship,
     In silent awe retired.

Then every sufferer stood amazed
     That pilot man before;
A moment stood.  Then wondering turned,
     And speechless walked ashore.


*The customary canal technicality for ‘tie up.’

This poem is in the public domain. Taken from Mark Twain's Roughing It.