No matter the rush of undertow
everything else is still
here. I scrawl your name 
at the bottom of the river
I sing it and it sings me 
back. What I’d give for a name 
so keen     it whittles
the valleys of my neck. I’m forever drenched 
in this night, and you 
no longer exist. The river catches 
the sky’s black, ink 
meant to preserve a memory. I stay
because it’s easy. Here. I relive 
what you did to me, find myself again 
in the water—swollen and sullen 
as a bruise. I trace 
and retrace, graffiti 
every river’s bank, drown 
into ecstasy

instead of moving on with my life. 
I wear what you did to me 
like gills, a new way to breathe. 
I jump into the river
for days. I forget I have lungs at all.

Copyright © 2019 by Noor Ibn Najam. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Our father becomes one. Barrel-Chested
with Longboard seeks Mate. King Father
is dating. Long live the King. He asks out

colleagues, neighbors, strangers he meets
at Spazzio’s Jazz Night, Zuma Beach.
He dates the moonlight, his reflection,

the long-ago that got away. The King says
Why the hell shouldn’t I get what I’ve longed for?
Nip waist, taut tum. Where is she? His exile

from the good stuff. You girls can’t imagine
the pain you’ll cause men. Nope, we don’t
& we can’t yet but we do know the King

cannot consider us worthy. How could he?
As women, we fail him daily. Love, I’m learning,
is peeling your mind from your body, throwing

one or both sad sacks of self out to sea. Love
is blood & our father. I give no inch. I judge
the world from the margins of diaries. Men

are the problem with everything. King Father
slices lemons from our lemon trees. Citrus grows
in the grove beneath my bed. Mom lived

in our guesthouse for three years before leaving.
She peeled herself slowly off his heart like a scab.
What is the point of such maiming? Now the King

isn’t careful when he walks by the branches.
He barges through trees & their thorns.
King Single can’t remember his heart soft

& rindless. The new women are beautiful,
or not, or enough to get by. I watch him
take a lover. She is insane. The king peels

a lemon, lays each slice on her plate.
She requests lime. He hands us
whole fruits when we eat at the table.

He takes his longboard to the ocean,
                                  kicks flat water into waves.

Copyright © 2018 Cait Weiss Orcutt. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Hayden's Ferry Review, Fall-Winter 2017.

Having fallen while no one was looking
Having borne what fell through
Having fallen early
Having barely fallen through myself
My luck, so close to catching,
Having caught the worst of it
Having fallen from the sky, and then
Through it. Having landed to realize
I had been part
Having parted the late sky, partly
Sky where I am delicate, I took
A tumble through the night bloom
I took the night with me as I tumbled,
Delicate with the infinite,
Which swells from the tallest branch
Having grown swollen
As low-hanging fruit, I tell Nadra,
I couldn’t help it—
The fresh heave of new breast
Thick switch of hip: a group
Of unnamed gifts is called a steal
She says, fruit you can reach is still
Precious. Her name means rare: her lean
Thins towards the unusual.
In Lagos, we name our girls
Darling, Sincere, Precious, because
A name is a stake in the grave
Having grieved and taken and taken
On the way to Eros, Thanatos
Having arrived late to my own bloom:
Halve me like a walnut
Pry the part of me that is hollow
From the part that yields fruit.


Copyright © 2019 by Omotara James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.