Someone will love you many will love
you many will brother you some of these
loves will bother you some will leave you
one might haunt you hunt you in your
sleep make you weep the tearless kind of
weep the kind of weep that drowns your
organs slowly there are little oars in your body
little boats grab onto them and row and row
someone will tell you no but you won’t know
he is right until you have already wrung your
own heart dry your hands dripping knives until
you have already reached your hands into his
body and put them through his heart love is
the only thing that is not an argument
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 29, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Spawn of fantasies Sitting the appraisable Pig Cupid his rosy snout Rooting erotic garbage “Once upon a time” Pulls a weed white star-topped Among wild oats sown in mucous membrane I would an eye in a Bengal light Eternity in a sky-rocket Constellations in an ocean Whose rivers run no fresher Than a trickle of saliva There are suspect places I must live in my lantern Trimming subliminal flicker Virginal to the bellows Of experience Colored glass.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
after a bottle of chianti Don’t mistake me, I’ve pondered this before. But tonight I’m serious. One bottle and the end is certain. Tomorrow: Lawyer. Boxes. Road map. More wine. while walking the dog Paris won’t even notice. I’ll feed the pup, pack a quick bag, take out the trash, and slip away into the night. Home to Sparta. Or Santa Monica. An island off the southernmost tip of Peru. Disappear. Like fog from a mirror. while paying the bills Guess I’ll have to give up that whole new career plan. Academic dreams. House-and-yard dreams. Stay on like this a few more years. Or forever. Face the bottomless nights in solitude. Wither. Drink. Write poems about dead ends. Drink more. Work. Pay rent. End. when Paris comes home drunk Call Clytemnestra. Make a plan. Move a few things into Clym’s spare room, storage for the rest. Set up arbitration. File what needs to be filed. Head to Athens. Or back to Crown Heights. Maybe find a roommate in Fort Greene. All I know is out out out. Sure, I can blame the past or the scotch or my own smartmouth or my worst rage, but blame is a word. I need a weapon. when Menelaus writes a letter As if. from the ocean floor Bathtub. Ocean. Whichever. All this water. Yes, Paris pulled me from the ruby tub. Menelaus fed me to the river a year before that. Metaphorical, and not at all. O, a girl and her water. Such romance. Gaudy. And gauche. How do I leave what cared enough to keep me? What of those goddamn ships? That ridiculous horse? All those men? Now, wretched little me. All this dizzy sadness. How many kings to tame one woman? Silence her? How many to put her under?
Copyright © 2019 by Jeanann Verlee. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 26, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
is what my sons call the flowers— purple, white, electric blue— pom-pomming bushes all along the beach town streets. I can’t correct them into hydrangeas, or I won’t. Bees ricochet in and out of the clustered petals, and my sons panic and dash and I tell them about good insects, pollination, but the truth is I want their fear-box full of bees. This morning the radio said tender age shelters. This morning the glaciers are retreating. How long now until the space-print backpack becomes district-policy clear? We’re almost to the beach, and High dangerous! my sons yell again, their joy in having spotted something beautiful, and called it what it is.
Copyright © 2019 by Catherine Pierce. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
And on the first day
Then everything came along:
seconds, sex and
beasts and breaths and rabies;
lust and lust’s rejections;
swarming things that swarm
inside the dirt;
girth and grind
and grit and shit and all shit’s functions;
rings inside the treetrunk
and branches broken by the snow;
pigs’ hearts and stars,
mystery, suspense and stingrays;
and interests and death;
with all our viruses, laments and curiosities;
all our songs and made-up stories;
and our songs about the stories we’ve forgotten;
and all that we’ve forgotten we’ve forgotten;
and to hold it all together god made time
and those rhyming seasons
that display decay.
Copyright © 2019 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Upon the mountain’s distant head, With trackless snows for ever white, Where all is still, and cold, and dead, Late shines the day’s departing light. But far below those icy rocks, The vales, in summer bloom arrayed, Woods full of birds, and fields of flocks, Are dim with mist and dark with shade. ’Tis thus, from warm and kindly hearts, And eyes where generous meanings burn, Earliest the light of life departs, But lingers with the cold and stern.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The hurt returns as it always intended—it is tender as the inside of my thighs, it is as blue, too. O windless, wingless sky, show me your empire of loneliness, let me spring from the jaws of what tried to kill me. Let me look at your face and see a heaven worth having, all your sorry angels falling off a piano bench, laughing. Do you burn because you remember darkness? Outside the joy is clamoring. It is almost like the worst day of your life is ordinary for everyone else.
Copyright © 2019 by Ruth Awad. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Moons on the upper visual field. I replay many springs for their ripening heat. Five limb in me: Ornate, Greased, Codling, Luna, Death’s-head. Two supernatural, three balance need. I feed on fat apples, pears: Tunnel toward center, a heaven in the core. Instinct attempts to correct with a turn toward light. My dress a brief darkness. Flits there. Another set of wings to tear. Spiral me in the silk of my tongue. Farm what is economical in me: Blood for blood, heart for snare. Scent, sweet air: My cedar, hung juniper, lavender cross: What holds the body keeps the body blesses the body’s lack. Is that not a blessing? What blooms in me: Trouble. Trouble. Trouble. So I consume. So I feed what festers. When navigating artificial light, the angle changes noticeably. Angle strict, beloved: My head a mess of moon.
Copyright © 2019 by Carly Joy Miller. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
The Junior Minister waved a hand
toward the courtyard where, he said,
Goering’s private lion used to live.
With him we climbed Parliament’s steps,
walls pockmarked still with bullet holes.
In the conference room the Social Democrats
passed trays of petit fours and coffee.
We were perhaps insufficient, he said.
His voice, uninflected: they shipped
my father to Stalingrad. Forty days
and dead. In the room,
the transcriptionist, the translator,
and security stationed against
the wall. Some time passed.
In East Germany, he said, at least
it was always terrible. Bad luck, he said,
to be on that side of the wall. Even
the apples were poison. We were
to understand this was a little joke.
He brought the teacup to his mouth,
but did not drink. His fingernails
were tapered and very clean.
When you are the victim, he said,
it doesn’t matter who is killing you.
Copyright © 2019 by Ann Townsend. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My neighbor to the left had a stroke a couple years ago. It didn’t look like he was going to make it, and then he made it. I’m watching him now from my window as he makes his slow way across his yard with some tree branches that fell in last night’s storm. Three steps. Wait. Three steps. It’s a hard slog. Watching, I want to pitch in. And we do, at such times, wanting to help. But on the other hand, it’s good to be as physical as possible in recovery. Maybe this is part of his rehab. Maybe this is doctor’s orders: DO YARDWORK. And here comes his wife across the yard anyway, to give a hand with a large branch. She’s able to quickly overtake him, and she folds into the process smoothly, no words between them that I can make out. It’s another part of what makes us human, weighing the theory of mind, watching each other struggle or perform, anticipating each other’s thoughts, as the abject hovers uncannily in the background, threatening to break through the fragile borders of the self. “What’s it like to be a bat?” we ask. The bats don’t respond. How usually, our lives unfold at the periphery of catastrophes happening to others. I’m reading, while my neighbor struggles, that the squirrel population in New England is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. A recent abundance of acorns is the reason for this surge in squirrel populations, most particularly in New Hampshire. They’re everywhere, being squirrely, squirreling acorns away. We call it “Squirrelnado” because it’s all around us, circling, and dangerous, and kind of funny. Language springs from the land, and through our imagination we become human. They’re back in the house now. We name the things we see, or they name themselves into our experience, whichever, and then we use those names for things we don’t understand, what we can’t express. Wind becomes spirit becomes ghost. Mountain becomes god. The land springs up before us. It shakes us and pushes us over.
Copyright © 2019 by John Gallaher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 14, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
i. I’ve pulled from my throat birdsong like tin- sheeted lullaby [its vicious cold its hoax of wings] the rest of us forest folk dark angels chafing rabbits- foot for luck thrum-necked wear the face of nothing we’ve changed the Zodiac & I have refused a little planet little sum for struggle & sailed ourselves summerlong & arbitrary as a moon grave across a vastness [we’ve left the child- ren] Named the place penni- less motherhood Named the place country of mothers Named the place anywhere but death by self- ii. infliction is a god of many faces many nothings I’m afraid I’ll never be whole I’m afraid the rope from the hardware store [screws for nails] will teach itself to knot I’ve looked up noose I’ve learned to twine but these babies now halfway pruned through the clean bathwater of childhood I promised a god I would take to the ledge & show the pinstripes the pinkening strobe- lights maybe angels chiseled at creation into the rock [around my neck] the rock in the river I would never let them see I would never let them iii. break & spend a whole life backing away from that slip— Let us fly & believe [in the wreck] their perfect hope- sealed bodies the only parachutes we need
Copyright © 2019 by Jenn Givhan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
A young man learns to shoot & dies in the mud an ocean away from home, a rifle in his fingers & the sky dripping from his heart. Next to him a friend watches his final breath slip ragged into the ditch, a thing the friend will carry back to America— wound, souvenir, backstory. He’ll teach literature to young people for 40 years. He’ll coach his daughters’ softball teams. Root for Red Wings & Lions & Tigers. Dance well. Love generously. He’ll be quick with a joke & firm with handshakes. He’ll rarely talk about the war. If asked he’ll tell you instead his favorite story: Odysseus escaping from the Cyclops with a bad pun & good wine & a sharp stick. It’s about buying time & making do, he’ll say. It’s about doing what it takes to get home, & you see he has been talking about the war all along. We all want the same thing from this world: Call me nobody. Let me live.
Copyright © 2019 by Amorak Huey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
We walk through clouds wrapped in ancient symbols We descend the hill wearing water Maybe we are dead and don’t know it Maybe we are violet flowers and those we long for love only our unmade hearts On attend, on attend Wait for Duras and Eminescu to tell us in French then Romanian light has wounds slow down— memory is misgivings Wait until the nails get rusty in the houses of our past.
Copyright © 2019 by Nathalie Handal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Isn't it funny
when suddenly after all these decades
you notice a new part of your body.
Maybe the hamstrings—
entirely unused when lifting weights,
back used instead
which then pains for years.
Maybe the slight shoulder raise
that tightens those muscles
maybe for good.
I notice my body
slide through time.
It is odd and peculiar,
genius of no one,
a perfect clock
Newness comes naturally.
Resisting it causes the past
to present memories on yellow
My age is a number.
Bones getting ready to play poker.
I will remain a small book
hidden away deep
in the library.
I love my body and this world!
Such a declaration
five years ago
would've driven me insane.
But now an appreciation arrives
with a fine taste of sulfur
and anywhere I look is born
Copyright © 2019 by Zubair Ahmed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
. As in what if
the shadow is gold
en? Breathe. As in
that. As in first
person singular. Homonym
:. As in subject. As
in centeroftheworld as in
mundane. The opposite of spectacle
spectacular. This is just us
gold in shadows
. You have the
right to breathe and remain
Copyright © 2019 by Rosamond S. King. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
What if I tell you they didn't evacuate
the high school after he brought in the
clock? What if he and clock waited in the
until the police came? You look at me
as though I pulled the fire alarm,
yelled into a crowded theatre. You
think I can erase the weapon out
of the hands of that young man in
Kevlar pointing his assault rifle at me?
Would your pain lessen? Would you
sleep tomorrow? What if I expunge the
hoodie? Outlaw convenience
stores? Institute curfew for all adult males
after 8 p.m.? Did you know that kid
loved horses, ate Skittles, went to
aviation camp? What if
I rub out midnight of the blue, blue
world? Take the jaywalk from the boy
trying to catch a city
bus? Which blue should it be? First or
second? The last thing you hear on the radio
another button? What if there were no loosies
to smoke, steal, hawk? What if Sandy used her signal?
I say her name, I canonize the thought all
black lives matter. What if I raise my
voice? What if I don't stop speaking?
What if I stop talking back?
Then will you miss me?
Copyright © 2019 by Devi S. Laskar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
like some 14 year old girl waiting for her crush to glance back i
keep waiting for capitalism to end
but it won’t end
my adult life lover states
on what will end:
Sprinting during recess
Starfish shaped like stars
Leopards, all kinds
(-------) Violence Prevention Programs
Might a few jellyfish survive—
counting till revelations becomes part of—
Copyright © 2019 by Eunsong Kim. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
strung above our heads. When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.
Copyright © 2019 by Dorianne Laux. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
1. I ate eggs from a chafing dish while the baker reminded us: the only thing that will hurt you out here are your own bad decisions
2. I felt fettered then un-
3. I listened to the rain
4. I listened to the rain hitting the Carrier compressor, the gravel walk
5. I listened to the rain flattening the clover, I listened to the rain letting up and then it was ozone and drip
6. On the bench under the overhang in the rain I let myself pretend I was younger and childless, like the first time I arrived here
7. The first time I arrived here, I never thought I am small and luminous
8. The body, burdened and miraculous
9. The body as thin-nest boundary
10. I climbed into your body like a cave
11. I was frightened to walk in the dark
12. Late at night even my own movements became unknowable, magnified and rustling
13. The night cut by the moon, punctured by the whistle of the cargo train
14. There was only a hole, there was only forward and more forward
15. The inevitability of a scarred life, your pulse, stitches, this palace of breath
16. go on, go on / again, again / return, return
Copyright © 2019 by Erika Meitner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My old lover was Catholic and lied to me about the smallest things. Now he's dying and I'm trying to forgive everyone standing in line ahead of me at the grocery store. I keep painting objects intuitively. I keep saying I've never been in love. It's not quite true but I keep describing the same things differently, as sailboats through the locks of reversed rivers or as streaks of red across the sky, visible only in one eye. The sensation of decision-making won't stay put. I forget who I am and wake up exhausted. I had a teacher once who died, it was as if she removed herself into the forest. I scatter leaves to read them like pages as if she's speaking. She was in love. I don't know if I'm worried I will or won't ever give up my fictional autonomy. I'm choosing between two trees with two hollows. One begins breaking as I step inside, as I try to sleep. The other is already inhabited by a rooster. I pluck a feather and run to the pawn shop. How much is this worth? Can I buy it back for my Sunday best, for the suit I never wear? Maybe if I go to the church I don't believe in I'll meet a man I can. I'll wear my Jewish star and pray for his belief to convince me that I too want someone to hold my stare.
Copyright © 2019 by S. Brook Corfman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Then came Oscar, the time of the guns,
And there was no land for a man, no land for a country,
Unless guns sprang up
And spoke their language.
The how of running the world was all in guns.
The law of a God keeping sea and land apart,
The law of a child sucking milk,
The law of stars held together,
They slept and worked in the heads of men
Making twenty-mile guns, sixty-mile guns,
Speaking their language
Of no land for a man, no land for a country
Unless… guns… unless… guns.
There was a child wanted the moon shot off the sky,
asking a long gun to get the moon,
to conquer the insults of the moon,
to conquer something, anything,
to put it over and run up the flag,
To show them the running of the world was all in guns.
There was a child wanted the moon shot off the day.
They dreamed… in the time of the guns… of guns.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
for Jim McKean
Before we struggled to hold light
along this line of the Jacob Fork,
we tied on the nearly invisible
tippet to nymph pools, glimpse
broken halos. Rainbows held low
in their lanes. Sometimes they rose
to brighten the surface, our breath
tightening on the take. The rest
of the morning, we worked a section
below the bridge, wanting only
to return shadows into the river.
Copyright © 2019 by Jon Pineda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Probably you’ll solve gravity, flesh
out our microbiomics, split our God
particles into their constituent bits
of christs and antichrists probably,
probably you’ll find life as we know it
knitted into nooks of the chattering
cosmos, quaint and bountiful as kismet
and gunfights in the movies probably,
probably, probably you have no patience
for the movies there in your eventual
arrondissement where you have more
credible holography, more inspiring
actual events, your ghazals composed
of crow racket, retrorockets, glaciers
breaking, your discotheques wailing
probably, probably, probably, probably
too late a sentient taxi airlifts you
home over a refurbished riverbank,
above the rebuilt cathedral, your head
dozing easy in the crook of your arm,
emptied of any memory of these weeks
we haven’t slept you’ve been erupting
into that hereafter like a hydrant on fire,
like your mother is an air raid, and I am
an air raid, and you’re a born siren
chasing us out of your airspace probably
we’ve caught 46 daybreaks in 39 days,
little emissary arrived to instruct us,
we wake now you shriek us awake,
we sleep now you leave us to sleep.
Copyright © 2019 by Jaswinder Bolina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.