The opening (read: aperture)
is open by design (read: default),
so susceptible to departure

with the brain floating, bag of salt,
loud, malleable light, the sky profuse
in its movement from rim to vault,

an orb (read: void) open to obtuse
approach from any outer corridor
(read: vector), as if angle could produce

what sight announces as visitor,
a gravity-infected flash, or fleck,
that, focused, becomes meteor,

the surface less limit than wreck,
the eye a crash site, open to air,
onto a sky that will not reflect.

Copyright © 2012 by Brian Henry. Used with permission of the author.

After you've surrendered to pillows 
and I, that second whiskey, 
on the way to bed I trace my fingers 
over a thermostat we dare not turn up.
You have stolen what we call the green thing—
too thick to be a blanket, too soft to be a rug—
turned away, mid-dream. Yet your legs
still reach for my legs, folding them quick 
to your accumulated heat.
                              These days
only a word can earn overtime. 
Economy: once a net, now a handful of holes. 
Economy: what a man moves with 
when, even in sleep, he is trying to save
all there is left to save.

Copyright © 2012 by Sandra Beasley. Used with permission of the author.

Over the past two weeks, please list the items you have lost.

At the present moment, do you know the location & number of your teeth?

(in grams) Please estimate the weight of each of the following: Left lung, half-liver, three fingers on your right hand.

(in miles) Please estimate the distance from the back of your skull to the skin of your eye.

Over the past two weeks, please estimate the number of times you’ve attempted to start a conversation and failed (including, but not limited to: grocery stores, living rooms, when you are alone.)

(in incandescence) How much light passes through you? Is it enough to write a letter?

Pick a letter. Pick a new name.

Can you hear the woman singing?

What was your death’s taxonomy? Where is its kingdom & domain?

How important do you feel to others?

Are you sitting atop the creaking hinges of something only you can see?

Are you certain there is no part of your body that is missing.

Are you certain there is nothing missing at all.

Copyright © 2024 by James Fujinami Moore. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 16, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

At Shaw’s Market the lobster tank sits
to the right of the fish counter, just left 
of the freezer with the fish sticks and frozen 
perch. Therein lie the lobsters, stacked like 
so many traps, brackish and silent, their pincers 
rendered useless, wrapped shut tight in yellow 
plastic. Scuttled into these briny and light-dulled 
shallows, they hulk like the wrecks of some 
forgotten sea floor. One evening, uneasy, 
I went home to read what I could: phylum, 
arthropoda – cousins to trilobites, crabs, insects, 
spiders. I studied the neurobiology, learned 
lobsters have hundreds of eyes but do not see, 
not exactly, and I thought of one I judged 
somnolent flinching his taped pincers at my 
reflection looming like an eclipse, my domestic-
ated glimpse into the deep, what terror
he must have felt coupled with an absence 
of sediment that must have felt like, well, 
nothing. Six hundred million years, I thought 
of him there, sedated, stunned by the salt light. 
The next day I returned intending to purchase 
several and set them free; failing, I drove by 
myself to the beach where I stared at the sea. 
Lobsters once ruled all I could see, their armored 
carapaces inviolable, feeding on anything that 
might be. Lords of the Cambrian prehistory, 
they crawled out of time and into the late 
Quaternary, which is to say, us, left to rule 
the world as we must. What thief waits for 
me, I can’t help but think, as I leave the store
with my groceries, feel my way through the lot
looking for my lost sedan, crawling with unease
through the summer dark and soft salt-breeze?

Copyright © 2003 by Anthony Walton. This poem was first printed in Bowdoin Magazine, Vol. 74, No. 2 (Winter 2003). Used with the permission of the author.

I want this job because 
it sounds like something I could do 
and I’m hungry, physically. 
I have extensive experience 
in studying what water says as it plummets.
Yes, I can carry more than 35lbs, but what 
does that have to do with anything? 
I’ve wrestled angelic beings 
and the nine lives of pathological compulsion.
I have sworn an oath against the roman calendar 
and its derivative mutations. 
I can be firm as cold turkey. 
My two letters of recommendation are
f and u. They can be used in surf, which 
is one way to step on what wants me drowned. 
I have heard the hinges of the doors of the sea 
creak, so I read a book beneath a tree. 
I think a lie can be worse than murder but also 
I have never died. I can definitely think of a time 
when I had to multitask while under immense pressure, 
but would prefer not to. My goal is to recall my past lives 
and be free in each. My strength is being scattered 
and rooted at the same time. My weakness is entertaining 
a party of every kind of consequence. 
My kink is a copless land where no one hoards anything.
I can start on any day you are prepared to train.
I can end on any day that ends in why not, 
for real, I don’t need this, 
the people got me you know, 
I’m with the people. 

Copyright © 2024 by Jordan Kapono Nakamura. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert

I was born on a day
when God was sick.

They all know I exist,
that I’m evil, but they do not know
about December of that January.
For I was born on a day
when God was sick.

There is a void
in my metaphysical state
that no one is likely to feel:
a cloister of silence
that spoke like a flowering fire.

I was born on a day
when God was sick.

Brother, listen, listen. . . 
That’s fine. Do not let me leave
without taking the Decembers,
without discarding the Januaries.
For I was born on a day
when God was sick.

They all know I exist,
that I chew . . . but they do not know
why, in my verses, the scouring
winds unravel from the Sphinx,
busybody of the Desert,
to screech, off-key,
a casket’s dark displeasure.

They all know. . . but they do not know
that the Light is consumptive
while the Shadow is corpulent.
They do not know how Mystery can synthesize. . . 
It is the sad and musical hunchback
denouncing, from a distance,
the passing of noon from the limits to the Limits.

I was born on a day
when God was sick, and
gravely so.

 


 

Espergesia

 

Yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo.

Todos saben que vivo,
que soy malo; y no saben
del diciembre de ese enero.
Pues yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo.

Hay un vacío
en mi aire metafísico
que nadie ha de palpar:
el claustro de un silencio
que habló a flor de fuego.

Yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo.

Hermano, escucha, escucha. . . 
Bueno. Y que no me vaya
sin llevar diciembres,
sin dejar eneros.
Pues yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo.

Todos saben que vivo,
que mastico. . . Y no saben
por qué en mi verso chirrian,
oscuro sinsabor de féretro,
luyidos vientos
desenroscados de la Esfinge
preguntona del Desierto.

Todos saben . . . Y no saben
que la Luz es tísica,
y la Sombra gorda. . . 
Y no saben que el Misterio sintetiza. . . 
que él es la joroba
musical y triste que a distancia denuncia
el paso meridian de las lindes a las Lindes.

Yo nací un día
que Dios estuvo enfermo,
grave.

From Los heraldos negros (Editorial Losada, S. A., 1918) by César Vallejo. Translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert. This poem is in the public domain.

What better way to spend my time now than to play
the sous-chef as my dear wife prepares this very day
yet another of her heavenly meals? Cinnamon yellow
squash soup with hints of fresh mint, a melting mellow
eggplant Parmigian’, chicken a la Francaise,
crumb apple pie. Ah, lucky me, to have been chosen
to dice the scallions and onions, peel the potatoes,
gather from our little garden parsley, basil and some thyme,
then back inside to uncork a bottle of three-star wine.

Oh, to put aside the books that keep staring up at me
clamoring to be read: a fresh translation of the Odyssey,
Dante’s Convivio, Flannery, Chesterton, and Joyce,
as well as a dozen poets, each with his or her distinctive voice
but who too often now remain unsung. And that piles of books,
each clamoring to be blurbed and praised, as by the looks
of it they no doubt deserve. But oh, that freedom just…to be.
But be what? And now it’s half past five and she’s calling up to me.
Time, dear, she sings, to be the sous chef you were called to be.

From All That Will Be New (Slant Books, 2022) by Paul Mariani. Copyright © 2022 by Paul Mariani. Used with the permission of the author.

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

“So Much Happiness” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995. Reprinted with the permission of Far Corner Books.