I want to write poems for construction workers and dreamers
For deadbeats and those on the low
I never want to ask please fix us all
I want for us to want
to patch every heart
and pave every road
and destroy every system
that has ever left us
broken. I want to sing
like frank ocean, like wonder
like sonder, like mereba, like the sea
I want to recite the line
Took the wretched out the earth
Called it baby fanon,
I want to call someone baby.
I want to stop smoking because I want to live,
I can only love my comrades if I live,
and I want to clean my room,
I want to clean my room every week
and make my bed and put peppermint in my hair
to stop needing my inhalers
and to inhale solidarity, and to eat the rich,
I want to eat the rich, to cancel the rents,
to know my neighbors
and to know my neighbors
are safe. I want to move like water, to move
from unity to struggle to unity,
to have no perfect world we haven’t fought for.
Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Jace. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
This poem originally appeared in Waxwing, Issue 10, in June 2016. Used with permission of the author.
After she died, I’d catch her
stuffing my nose with pine needles and oak,
staring off into the shadows of early morning.
Me, too jetlagged for the smells a ghost leaves behind.
The tailor of histories,
my mother sewed our Black Barbies and Kens
Nigerian clothes, her mind so tight against
the stitching, that in precision, she looked mean
as hell, too. My mother’s laugh was a record skipping,
so deep she left nicks in the vinyl.
See? Even in death, she wants to be fable.
I don’t know what fathers teach sons,
but I am moving my mother
to a land where grief is no longer
gruesome. She loved top 40, yacht rock,
driving in daylight with the wind
wa-wa-ing through her cracked window
like Allah blowing breath
over the open bottle neck of our living.
She knew ninety-nine names for God,
and yet how do I remember her—
as what no god could make?
Copyright © 2023 by Hafizah Augustus Geter. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
okra, pickled just the way you like it,
in the jar on the top shelf. oranges
in the ochre clay bowl you made right there
on the counter. clove tea brewing stovetop
& there’s an orison that my mama
taught me, metronoming ’gainst my orbital
bones. orbiting around my occipital.
come through. let’s be each other’s oracles.
we can hold hands, craft a shrine in the gap
of our palms, in the ocean of our breaths
at the shore of our oil-shined flesh. listen:
this is my oath to you. i’m devoted
to you, the people, my folks, my kindred—
not to the state. & i belong with you—
not to the state. our love is ordained
by the Black ordinary & spectacle,
our wayward waymaking. we are the more
gathered together here in our own names
calling on otherwise. serenading
otherwheres. singing we already here—
Copyright © 2023 by Destiny Hemphill. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
Remember, every lover is a corsair seeking glory,
An x-marks-the-spot, a longing for invisible treasure,
Every lover is an end-point and a start-point
In the history of the world, a spark in the bright flare
Of the possible. Our swashbuckling lovers remind us:
Once we were lazing children,
Housebound and shoreless,
With no concept of the sea,
But now there’s the ocean’s blue spool,
Fleet-winged gulls, windblown caravels,
Even spouting whales,
Crow’s nests, and clouds like a white armada—
And so, when we relinquish the body’s treasure map, our lovers
Discover us the way the sailcloth in the rigging
Fills with the trade winds, from the last of the night’s stars
Through the lavish tangerine of dawn, our ships
Gliding over sheets of light-glazed silver.
Copyright © 2023 by Cyrus Cassells and Brian Turner. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.