I have wanted other things more than lovers … I have desired peace, intimately to know The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment, To learn by heart things beautiful and slow. Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted; And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part; All dim things, layers of river-mist on river— To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart. I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids, Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth. I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion; And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south. These things have I wanted more than lovers … Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass— Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers. Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.
This poem is in the public domain.
Love is a flame that burns with sacred fire,
And fills the being up with sweet desire;
Yet, once the altar feels love’s fiery breath,
The heart must be a crucible till death.
Say love is life; and say it not amiss,
That love is but a synonym for bliss.
Say what you will of love—in what refrain,
But knows the heart, ‘tis but a word for pain.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
In a world of loss
gratitude is what
I demand for keeping
within my reach.
No one despises
the shepherd for
collecting his flock.
No one accuses
the watchman of
making a captive
of his charge.
I’m like a holster,
or sheath, all function
and no fury. Don’t
you worry as I
swallow you whole. Those
ulcers in my gut
are only windows,
the stoma punched
in my throat is just
a keyhole. Don’t be shy.
Hand me the rattle
of your aching heart
and I’ll cradle you,
bird with broken wing.
Let me love you. I
will hold your brittle
bones together. I’ll
unclasp your beak
so you can sing.
It’s a world of always
leaving but here
you can always stay.
Copyright © 2019 by Rigoberto González. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 30, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
After Kabir Carter, Bard College, 26 June 2018
Feeling knives the microphone to cauterize flesh it amplifies
Crackles the abrasive metal fabric
Blowtorches feedback hold and heel
Throttles and pauses the cord-pull
Lulls to lunge in transmission back seat pocket
Alones the sound crowd
Accumulates the solitary intention of hooded jacket front punch
Zippers the match stick ignite
Handcuffs the thick slide probe with plastic tie
Zones between foot and huddle
Shrills the retreat from acted upon or was it repeat
Tools the self animation
Insomuch as the metal scrim
On denim is able to inhale
Skin-howl blister swipe
Caresses and so abrogates as to grip therefore
Larynxes stride and light step
Dry touch enveloping to self anoint
Tag identify anatomy pulse
Whether pleasure or pain it collapses
Second human shell the cosmos
Automaton guest or X
Feeling that ligaments today in predation
It houses it afflicts it encircles
Copyright © 2019 by Roberto Tejada. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
or. The deer, nearly
Color blind, see blue
Better than we do, more
Blue than we know, a blue
I am not consoled
Lives beyond me. Imagine
Their sky, saturated, how
Do they bear it, and
The alpine lake where
They drink in summer, glacier-
Fed, reflecting back it all back
The glacier, blue at heart deep-
Frozen for millennia, blue
Its core and vanishing
In your lifetime. A rush,
A trickle, this is how
It goes? Around the lake,
Boulders harden themselves.
Green firs. And there, a perfect
Center, the lake’s clear,
Copyright © 2019 by Katharine Coles. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
“If you were a star,” you said, “you’d be called Forgive me.”
To which I smiled (you couldn’t see me) and said,
“Or Forgive me not.”
You said “Beware the ides of March on days we’re distant
from bees and flowers.”
“Not if the bees in the mouth don’t sting,” I said,
“and the air we move is a monk’s in a meditative year.”
“Are we the plants or the particles,
the planets or the elements?” you asked,
“and our touchless touching, vector-dependent sex,
and the honey mouth, are they
the silences that waggle the tune
on our foraging routes?”
“When I say honey,” I clarified,
“I’m asking you whose pollen you contain.
We’re no snowflake symmetry
yet to each pollen grain its aperture:
porous, colpate, yet blanketing the earth
as crystals might, and light isn’t refused.”
“And when I say honey,” you said
“I grip my sweetness on your life,
on stigma and anthophile,
and the soporific folded on its synchronous river
that doesn’t intend to dissect my paradise.”
“O captive my captive, we lost and what did love gain,”
I asked, “I haven’t fallen from where I haven’t been,
or exited what I didn’t enter.”
“Seen or unseen,” you said, “I’ll live in your mouth.
We have an extra room. The children like it there,
mead in it their stories and playdough.”
“As if a child is the cosmic dust that made me,
and I’m the suffix, its -ide.”
“And within that child a child.”
“And within that another.”
Copyright © 2020 by Fady Joudah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.
Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.
Hand clasped hand,
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed,
There was no gift nor denial.
I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.
You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.
You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.
You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.
Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.
But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.
And go away without fire or lantern.
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 29, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
—with a line from Louise Glück
Humor functions in the neighborhood as it functioned in the shtetl: the only way into a world insistent on your pain. Something you’d be shot for. If they want you to cry, tears are evasive; if they want you vulnerable, vulnerability’s a cop-out; if they want a confession, your confession is cheap. “When I speak passionately, / that’s when I’m least to be trusted.” A privilege to weep when to laugh is to choke on history. Oh diaspora: seventy-five years ago I’d be gassed beside my sisters, yet here I am, running out for milk in a heated car. Does a funnier joke exist? Yet there’s so many jokes in this neighborhood, that one barely gets a laugh.
You’re telling us.
Copyright © 2020 by Allison Pitinii Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Yesterday: me, a stone, the river,
a bottle of Jack, the clouds
with unusual speed crept by.
A man was in the middle of me.
I was humbled.
Not by him. The earth,
with its unusual speed,
went from dawn to dusk to dawn.
Just like that. The light
every shade of gold. Gold. I’m
greedy for it. Light is my currency.
I am big with dawn. So hot & so
pregnant with the fire I stole.
By pregnant I mean everything
you see is of me. Daylight
is my daughter. Dusk, my lover’s
post-pleasure face. And the night?
Well. Look up.
Are you ever really alone?
Copyright © 2020 by Katie Condon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
The windshield’s dirty, the squirter stuff’s all gone, so
we drive on together into a sun-gray pane of grime
and dust. My son
puts the passenger seat back as far as it will go, closes
his eyes. I crack my window open for a bit
of fresher air. It’s so
incredibly fresh out there.
in ditches. Black mirrors with our passing
reflected in them, I suppose, but I’d
have to pull over and kneel down at the side
of the road to know.
The day ahead—
for this, the radio
doesn’t need to be played.
The house we used to live in
in a snapshot, in which
it yellows in another family’s scrapbook.
And a man on a bicycle
rides beside us
for a long time, very swiftly, until finally
he can’t keep up—
but before he slips
behind us, he salutes us
with his left hand—
that every single second—
that every prisoner on death row—
that every name on every tombstone—
that everywhere we go—
that every day, like this one, will
be like every other, having never been, never
thank you. And, oh—
I almost forgot to say it: amen.
Copyright © 2020 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Motivated forgetting is a psychological defense mechanism whereby people cope with threatening and unwanted memories by suppressing them from consciousness.
—Amy N. Dalton and Li Huang
in Badagry there is a hung-
ry well of water and memory
loss. in Badagry there was a well
of people lost across a haven
of water. in Badagry there was
a port overwhelmed in un-return.
to omit within the mind is to ebb
heavenward. memory is a wealth
choking the brain in un-respons-
ibility. violence in the mind and
the mind forgets in order to remember
the self before the violence begot.
in Badagry trauma washes ungod-
ly memory heavenward. in Bad-
agry there is an attenuation well
meant to wish away a passage,
meant to unhaven a people.
violence is underwhelming
in return. what the body eats,
the mind waters. responsible
is the memory for un-remittal.
royal is the body for return. god is
the mind for wafting. forgetting
is a port homeward. in Bad-
agry hungry memory grows angry.
in Badagry the memories un-
choke. trauma un-eats the royal.
in Badagry there is a heaven
of people responsible for the birth-
right of remembering, for the well
of us across a haven of water
overwhelmed in un-return.
Copyright © 2020 by Porsha Olayiwola. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 17, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
for Malcolm Latiff Shabazz
yellow roses in my mother’s room mean
I’m sorry sadness comes in generations
inheritance split flayed displayed
better than all the others
the undue burden of the truly exceptional
most special of your kind, a kind of fire
persisting unafraid saffron bloom
to remind us of fragility or beauty or revolution
to ponder darkly in the bright
the fate of young kings
the crimes for which there are no apologies.
Copyright © 2020 by Kristina Kay Robinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Pained as he was when he gazed
upon his father’s face, he held his gaze.
Toward what he’d never known, he walked,
somehow both arrogant & begging.
The purple of his father’s robes, like a bruise.
As a river, over time, can forge
a way through stone, so
absence bore through him,
leaving a valley where his voice
echoes off the canyon walls.
His mind had narrowed until all it held
was an idea of father, until so fixed on the idea
his mind seemed under siege. Inside him hummed
a longing, one he felt compelled to fix, so named it flaw.
What the boy wanted:
to finally know his father’s face.
Evidence, at last, of his origin.
Felt within, a longing.
Felt and therefore knew
a weakness he wanted to master.
A desire to know, and a belief
he deserved to,
these were the human parts of him.
Fiery, Dawnsteed, Scorcher, Blaze–
the horses the father owned,
the horses the father, knowing he would fail, let his son steer–
is this devotion?
To master, control, rein in;
hoping this might prove him
a man, perhaps, a god.
There are gaps knowing cannot fill.
What boy has not dreamt himself a noble son,
has not prematurely thought himself a man?
He lost control of the reins
& the horses did what one expects
from animals whose lives had always been
tightly squeezed between two fists:
breaking from the path they’d always known,
they galloped nearer to that world from which they’d been kept,
not out of malice but a kind of mercy
for the world the father feared the horses would destroy.
Finding himself at the mercy of what he’d sought–
gone too far to turn back, gone far beyond his father now
with further still to go, ignorant of the names
of the horses behind whom he was now dragged like the tail
of a comet hurtling toward earth, as in all directions
he sees the destruction he’d caused:
the flames licking trees at their roots, licking
dry the ocean’s mouth, licking the faces
of each living thing until they’d turned to ash,
until the world without grew hotter than the world within,
until a dizzying heat rose from the soil, until in his feet
the boy could feel the world ablaze–
free me from these reins
he cried perhaps to god,
perhaps to father,
the difference indecipherable, more or less insignificant
for even though he’d met him, the boy still knew himself
fatherless, godless, no less abandoned than he’d been.
The world to which, for better or worse, he once belonged, now gone,
he belonged nowhere…
To save what could be saved, to salvage what had not been lost,
to punish his failure to master what no other ever had: the boy
was struck dead & buried
beside a river, which began again to flow toward the distant mouth
out of which, it would finally empty.
Copyright © 2020 by Jeremy Michael Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 26, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
They call. They message.
Then the occasional tag on social media.
I am wanting to check in on you… We
are thinking of you… I am so so sorry…
Then there I go
again pounding my head
sifting through thick
scattering names on a dusty floor
It is morning. It is the afternoon, maybe
the middle of some God-awful hour. I was
calm. I was hunkered low, shades drawn
maybe sipping a tea
should see me pacing kitchen
grabbing at lint or shaking my wrist
in the mirror
don’t remind me there are soldiers
tramping on my lawn with gas
and pepper spray.
I’ve just laid the sheets tight in my bed.
I’ve just trimmed the plants.
And you are so white
and fragile with your checking. You are so late
so late so late.
Copyright © 2020 by Nandi Comer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 4, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.
Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Ask me about the time
my brother ran towards the sun
arms outstretched. His shadow chased him
from corner store to church
where he offered himself in pieces.
Ask me about the time
my brother disappeared. At 16,
tossed his heartstrings over telephone wire,
dangling for all the rez dogs to feed on.
Bit by bit. The world took chunks of
my brother’s flesh.
Ask me about the first time
we drowned in history. 8 years old
during communion we ate the body of Christ
with palms wide open, not expecting wine to be
poured into our mouths. The bitterness
buried itself in my tongue and my brother
never quite lost his thirst for blood or vanishing
for more days than a shadow could hold.
Ask me if I’ve ever had to use
bottle caps as breadcrumbs to help
my brother find his way back home.
He never could tell the taste between
a scar and its wounding, an angel or demon.
Ask me if I can still hear his
exhaled prayers: I am still waiting to be found.
To be found, tell me why there is nothing
more holy than becoming a ghost.
Copyright © 2020 by Tanaya Winder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
The night air is filled
with the scent of apples,
and the moon is nearly full.
In the next room, Jim
is reading; a small cat sleeps
in the crook of his arm.
The night singers are loud,
every evening until they run
out of nights and die in
the cold, or burrow down into
the mud to dream away the winter.
My office is awash in books
and photographs, and the sepia/pink
sunset stains all its light touches.
I’ve never been a good traveler,
but there are days, like this one,
when I’d pay anything to be in
another country, or standing on
the cold, grey moon, staring back
at the disaster we call our world.
We crave change, but
turn away from it.
We drown in contradictions.
Tonight, I’ll sleep
blanketed in moonlight.
In my dreams, I’ll have
nothing to say about anything
important. I’ll simply live my life,
and let the night singers live theirs,
until all of us are gone.
I won’t say a word, and let
silence speak in my stead.
Copyright © 2020 by William Reichard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 19, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
We might have coupled
In the bed-ridden monopoly of a moment
Or broken flesh with one another
At the profane communion table
Where wine is spilled on promiscuous lips
We might have given birth to a butterfly
With the daily news
Printed in blood on its wings.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on December 5, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
We meet at a coffee shop. So much time has passed and who is time? Who is waiting by the windowsill? We make plans to go to a museum but we go to a bookshop instead. We’re leaning in, learning how to talk to each other again. I say, I’m obsessed with my grief and she says, I’m always in mourning. She laughs and it’s an extension of her body. She laughs and it moves the whole room. I say, My home is an extension of my body and she says, Most days are better with a long walk. The world moves without us—so we tend to a garden, a graveyard, a pot on the windowsill. Death is a comfort because it says, Transform but don’t hurry. There is a tenderness to growing older and we are listening for it. Steadier ways to move through the world and we are learning them. A way to touch your own body. A touch that says, Dig deeper. There, in the ground, there is our memory. I am near enough my roots. Time is my friend. Tomorrow is a place we are together.
Copyright © 2021 by Sanna Wani. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
the falling paper flower
the plastic tree branch
the plight of reminiscing
the bureaucracy of kismet
the factories empty of logic
the bins to hold what’s done
the spaceship of butterflies
the video game of intimacy
the series premiere of strife
the discretion of the cosmos
the sharp wisdom of the young
O friend who reads in a cave w/o light
the comb detangling the scars
forward is not so far away
Copyright © 2021 by Tarfia Faizullah. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.