18 February 2021

We've landed on the planet named after the god of war and the power's
out all over Texas my mother's buried under her grandmother's
quilt while they're looking for signs of life on the surface of the long-dried lake-
bed my cousins huddling around the clay pot heaters they've rigged
from overturned geraniums and the candles they keep lit
for the dead the heatshield reaching extreme temperatures in the final moments
of descent ice-sleeved branches cleaving from their trunks and downing
communication lines and lines and lines down the block for what's left
of clean water in the ancient river delta the rover arriving to drill down
as scientists cheer in control towers oil men feast and fatten
their pockets craters across the desolate expanse early
transmission from the hazard avoidance camera can't help
but capture its own shadow darkening the foreground.

Copyright © 2021 by Deborah Paredez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

two arms in air, 
in dance, after catastrophe. 

  the body                     the universe                       the body

the fabric held at two points:

i am lamb.                                   i am shepherd.

a star waits.
the stars are a map in the noon of it all.

a letter, a relic from a gone civilization.
a ن holds the tail of the snake.
a ن holds a star in its ark.
a ن is a prayer before Time.

hearsay: the whale swallowed the sun.
there, an eclipse, the sun’s wispy corona.


hearsay: the whale spit it out.
returned our sun to us, this time.

a small circle silences.
a set of small teeth doubles.
this, the machine,
my grandmother’s language,
gifted her by holy fish,
forbidden her by man.
in a dream, she and i, 
two pisces fish, whispering friends
in the noon of it all.

a ن today
on my brother’s door.
a ن between my legs.
a ن on my neighbor’s cheek.
you, you hold the broken in me.
you, you hold the setting sun.
you, you escape 
the mouth of death.
in the noon 
of the universe.

single seed. bijou in float.
there, there waits the ark. 


A note on this poem, an invitation:

Oh noon, the letter ن, intoning the -n- sound, pronounced noon. 
A Semitic letter, really, in Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and through some 
starcrossed lineage, it has a cousin in Sanskrit, maybe even the same DNA. 
Some say the letter got its shape from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a snake. 
Some say the snake morphed into a whale, a fish, a dolphin. In the Qur’an, 
the Surah of The Pen begins by saying that the
ن and the pen are in the act of 
writing, as if the ن were capable of script, were it not script itself. Were it not 
a snake, a whale, a palimpsest. What writes us as we write it. In Arabic class, 
Professor Hani drew a
ن on the board and asked us what it looked like. 
He wanted us to say a cup. We saw an ark instead, a boat. And true, 
the ancients believed it might be a cup. And true, the scholars 
believe it to be a boat, holding a seed, the seed of the universe, 
awaiting rebirth after apocalypse. Birth, as in pregnant 
womb, though this isn’t in the scholarly texts. 
Some liken it to a setting sun. 
And Jonah, prophet who found God in the whale. 
The floating diacritical dot, Jonah escaping death. 
A noon as the beginning and end of existence. 
These days, in Iraq, in Syria, elsewhere 
being ravaged by death squads, 
a symbol is painted on people’s doors. 

for Nazarene. 
For anyone who does not submit to tyranny. 
There, there waits the ark.


Copyright © 2021 by Kamelya Omayma Youssef. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Came home and found my typewriter
case a little crushed it’s my fault
probably for leaving it looking like
a stepping stone for someone not tall
enough to climb onto the toy chest
but who very much likes to clamber
up there my father built the toy chest
for me and now the result is my comma
key sticks won’t fly up to make its mark
so no more clauses of that tender
kind or just imagine them there or figure
out how to use a semicolon or type the word
comma when I need one lots of things
are called commas not just punctuation
a certain butterfly a bacillus responsible for cholera
the chest’s nails are slowly withdrawing I notice
pulling themselves out in the invisible
hammerclaw of time or else the wood itself’s
ejecting them feeling maybe hey it’s been long
enough let me just be planks again or it could
be the climbing itself did I also climb
and all that climbing’s worked
against those nails a little each time after
my father held one in his hand one in his
mouth and with his hammer made a box

Copyright © 2021 by Miller Oberman. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 22, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

A dramatic clue lodged in a rockface. Set in a shimmering sound belt slung around the grasses. Collections of numbers signify a large sum, a fatness that cannot be touched. Numbers are heart weight in script. Calculus means a small pebble pushed around maniacally. Binding affection, instead of fear, to largeness.

Ideas are peeled into fours and pinned on the warm corners of earth to flap in a wind. Wind, the product of a swinging axe that splits the sums. This math flowers on the tender back of the knee. An operatic leaf in the tree uses a secret algebra to perforate dense void. The void behaves as a porous slice of rye bread spread thick with salted butter.

Food is braided into the body. On the watchface of the lake, a felled tree trunk keeps protracted time. Circling vaguely like the day does. The circle is dented by the dense tear of a woman without the thing she needs. A loudness about need has a reverse effect. The loud need loses mass. This new thinned need is braided into a story archived in a dark library inaccessible to the public.

The tear weighs the same as a loaf of rye bread. The circle is made of birthday wishes glued together with morning sun mucus. Whatever is hidden is pluckable in time, even sound and meaning. Wind deserves a trophy for revealing this elegantly.

Copyright © 2021 by McKenzie Toma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 21, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I didn’t mind ferns enough, I thought, the last time I hiked
up to Lookout Point. They’re so unassuming. I’d be looking up
to the tops of third-generation redwoods, or beyond, toward
Googleplex, in Mountain View, which later Google confirmed
was the complex off in the distance. And I’d be picturing,
those last days, cages and tents. Sorry to make you feel judged,
I almost texted. Stopped myself. Truth is I judge, and if judges
were capable of feeling sorry, they wouldn’t. I welcomed noise
instead of trying to block it out with the folk musician’s songs,
Scottish, coming from my laptop. If you don’t remember a name,
does it mean you don’t care to remember. You’d taken yourself
to places whose specifics you’d chosen to forget. You said you
weren’t there to keep track, but to experience. Which, when
I’m feeling negative, I translate as ditching the thing as soon as
you’re done with it onto the heap of junk you’re not accumulating.
Those who get the backend know what detailed tagging can lead to:
a map so precise it’s the territory’s size. We’re drifting apart
again, spore-like. I’m done completing your sentences.
A version of the signs along the trail anticipating the hikers’ ups
and downs. “It begins with feeling,” was the first, spotted
at the same time I noticed the pet waste bags someone had left
behind. “Here you leave your worries,” seen after I passed a guy
whose grin was such, he did seem to have just dumped them.
This one got me thinking about our tendency to ruin things:
“This is a beautiful moment.” The last wasn’t part of the art:
“Please keep out of area under renovation.” That resonated. 

Copyright © 2021 by Mónica de la Torre. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 23, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I shall never have any fear of love, 
Not of its depth nor its uttermost height,
Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never hesitate to go down
Into the fastness of its abyss
Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss.
I shall never have any fear of love.

Never shall I dread love’s strength
Nor any pain it might give.
Through all the years I may live
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never draw back from love
Through fear of its vast pain
But build joy of it and count it again.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never tremble nor flinch
From love’s moulding touch:
I have loved too terribly and too much
Ever to have any fear of love.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I try a new way of imagining people 
as dogs
as dogs it makes sense 
why anyone would be drawn to do anything 
just as dogs rub themselves 
in patches of grass
or suddenly lick a face

as dogs you can surely forgive
your mother
because she makes a funny dog
with frilly fur and worried eyes
and as a dog, is it so bad 
you spend so much time
recalling a certain smell
or staring too long and too intently
at a torn leaf in a hot tub 

a dog falls ill and says nothing
over time, they destroy the things they love

picture whoever is giving you trouble 
or whatever part of you desires more than it has
then see a dog 
pulling against the chain gripping his neck
or barely moving under a bench
watch the dog run away from everything it knows
do you blame them?

Copyright © 2021 by Rachel B. Glaser. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Here shall my heart find its haven of calm,
By rush-fringed rivers and rain-fed streams
That glimmer thro’ meadows of lily and palm.
Here shall my soul find its true repose
Under a sunset sky of dreams
Diaphanous, amber and rose.
The air is aglow with the glint and whirl
Of swift wild wings in their homeward flight,
Sapphire, emerald, topaz, and pearl.
Afloat in the evening light.

A brown quail cries from the tamarisk bushes,
A bulbul calls from the cassia-plume,
And thro’ the wet earth the gentian pushes
Her spikes of silvery bloom.
Where’er the foot of the bright shower passes
Fragrant and fresh delights unfold;
The wild fawns feed on the scented grasses,
Wild bees on the cactus-gold.

An ox-cart stumbles upon the rocks,
And a wistful music pursues the breeze
From a shepherd’s pipe as he gathers his flocks
Under the pipal-trees.
And a young Banjara driving her cattle
Lifts up her voice as she glitters by
In an ancient ballad of love and battle
Set to the beat of a mystic tune,
And the faint stars gleam in the eastern sky
To herald a rising moon.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

When my mom discovers heaven’s just a noise festival

the godchoir of all her loves breathing
unsnagged by asthma or Newport-dragged lung

the true song life makes untethered from a body
tugged at last from the men who hold its reins

will she blame her pastors (like I did)
for Sunday portraits of pooled white gold?

Will she miss the wooden flute of her body
mourn the days corner-propped, cloaked in dust

too pious to disturb a room’s skin cells
and stray hair with her sound

snapped awake at the nightmare of a slip fringe
the private note sung aloud?

Or, unburdened by hell

will she exhale
and hear the bells?

Copyright © 2021 by Kemi Alabi. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

in your thirties everything needs fixing. i bought a toolbox
for this. filled it with equipment my father once owned
to keep our home from crumbling. i purchased tools with
names & functions unknown to me. how they sat there
on their shelf in plastic packaging with price tags screaming:
hey lady, you need this!  like one day i could give my home
& everything living inside it the gift of immortality, to be
a historical monument the neighbors would line up
to visit even after i’m gone & shout: damn that’s a nice house!
i own a drill now, with hundreds & hundreds of metal pieces
i probably won’t use or use in the wrong ways but what
i’m certain of, is still, the uncertainty of which tools repair
the aging dog, the wilting snake plant, the crow’s feet
under my eyes, the stiff knee or bad back.
& maybe this is how it is—how parts of our small universe
dissolve like sugar cubes in water—a calling to ask us
to slow our busy breathing so we can marvel
at its magic. because even the best box of nails are capable
of rust. because when i was a child i dropped
a cookie jar in the shape of noah’s ark,
a family heirloom that shattered to pieces.
the animals broke free, zebras ran under
the kitchen table, the fractured lion roared by
the front door & out of the tool cabinet
i snagged duck tape & ceramic glue. pieced each beast
back to their intended journey.  because that afternoon
when my father returned from work i confessed
& he sat the jar on the counter only to fill it with
pastries. how the cracks of imperfection mended by
my hands laid jagged. chipped paint sliced across a rhino’s neck.
every wild animal lined up against the boat—
& a flood of sweet confections waiting inside.

Copyright © 2021 by Karla Cordero. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 6, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for my favorite auntie, Jeanette

Sometimes I think I’m never going to write a poem again
and then there’s a full moon.

I miss being in love but I miss
myself most when I’m gone.

In the salty wet air of my ancestry
my auntie peels a mango with her teeth

and I’m no longer
writing political poems; because there are

mangoes and my favorite memory is still alive.
I’m digging for meaning but haunted by purpose

and it’s an insufficient approach.
What’s the margin of loss on words not spent today?

I’m getting older. I’m buying smaller images to travel light.
I wake up, I light up, I tidy, and it’s all over now.

Copyright © 2021 by Camonghne Felix. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

for Willem

My love,
you are water upon water
upon water until it turns
azure, mountainous.

The horizon fills like sand
between glass marbles. So much
has passed between us—

last night you told me
to press your hand
harder and harder as I pained.

The sunset was at its last
embers. The dark was stealing
the blue light from our room.

I was falling into you.

~ ~

Compress water and it turns to ice— compress beauty
and it loses breath. Gaze at it too long, and even the wide
mirror of the ocean will shatter.

~ ~

My Willem,
between us, God has descended in all His atoms.
We have not yet learned to hold Him.

Copyright © 2021 by Adeeba Shahid Talukder. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Just a dash of lambent carmine
  Shading into sky of gold;
Just a twitter of a song-bird
  Ere the wings its head enfold;
Just a rustling sigh of parting
  From the moon-kissed hill to breeze;
And a cheerful gentle, nodding
  Adieu waving from the trees;
Just a friendly sunbeam’s flutter
  Wishing all a night’s repose,
Ere the stars swing back the curtain
  Bringing twilight’s dewy close.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 10, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

what can I know of this life but what it cost me? pretending to
love these patterns of negotiation, pretending the Doubleworld
was acceptable—the Skin beneath the Skin made Hell of our Hell,
the Source from which the Source draws rectifies its embellishment,
reifies its abandon. Another way: in a room filled w/ overturned
bottles, the ceiling fan turns, knowing not the relief it provides,
but damns w/ its clicking; we lie awake at night wondering would
it be better to sweat out our sheets, turn the thing off. we remember
stillness as we enact it, hoping to quiet our body as to cool it.
& briefly
I recall how slowly Granny eat, I see her in her dining room chair.

Copyright © 2021 by S*an D. Henry Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

What he thought belly down, face down on the beige speckled tile floor, new wax, drill holes where desks had been anchored. Of the shield-thick hovering air. He could be a ribbon of wax, a thin trail of caulk. Something left over above his breath and heart sounds he could hear waiting like a hymn and pipe organs’ stop just before release.

What he thought belly down, face down on the ice sliding between cars toward the gutter. Of the rifle smug and steady at his forehead and jittery sawed-off rushing his wife for her wedding rings. Of the streetlight shadow. The hydrant hunched in the snow-crusted grass. The salted walk. His little girl mid-step on the porch and the wrought iron storm door and front door ajar.

When I was 8 years old I thought my father was a monster.
When I was 8 years old I thought my father could fly.
When I was 8 years old I thought my father was a dark room
In a dark house with walls of eyes and teeth and banisters of thick rough skin.
The rooms around him were also monsters and they were tall
As telephone poles with flesh of kerosene and black fire.
Their arms were always open and they surrounded my father,
Keeping him warm for as long as he chose to stand on the earth
Watching me.

Copyright © 2021 by Duriel E. Harris. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 8, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.