Now you are gone I kiss your dented pillow
And wonder if it hungers like my breast
For the dear head we both have held in rest.

I said once: Love alone cannot assuage
My thirst, my hunger, love has no reply
For that wild questioning, for this fierce cry.

I said: there is no kiss can feed me now.
Perhaps love is life’s flower: I seek the root.
Yea, I have loved and love is dead sea fruit.

Yet, I lie here and kiss your dented pillow,
A trembling girl who loves you overmuch––
A harp in anguish for the player’s touch.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

I chewed into the wreck of the world,
into the neckbone of the past that pursued me.
All the while, I moved toward extinction,
bearing the burden of damage, language of the protector.

A great apocalyptic wheeze adorned me with sand. 
I foraged, first to find light dappling the leaves,
then breathed into an infinite power, feminine rust,
a coppery taste of salvage, leading me into a canopy

of the future. My mother was a mother of mothers,
modern before she was ancestral.
She was a woman who morphed into feline, back
to her human self before I woke each morning.

I lived not to sate my appetite but to crush it.
On my haunches, I craved what could not be seen.
I am desire. I am survival.
I sit under the tree waiting for hunger.

Copyright © 2022 by Tina Chang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 30, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

I say hunger and mean your hands bitten to boneseed,
bandaged with bedsheet and the night while two states over,
a mouth—ready soil—says your name. Next June’s lover
speaks the harvest: your rich, vowel-tender song

but for the neighbor. More hello than amen. Not yet
a whole book of psalms. Choose this. Not your bare room.
Your self-vacancies. Unlearn empire’s blackness:
night spun savage, space cast empty when really

a balm slicks the split between stars. Really
hipthick spirits moonwalk across the lake ice.
Maps to every heaven gauze the trees in velvet
between that greenbright spectacle of bud and juice

and dust—I’m saying there’s no such thing
as nothing. Try and try, you’ll never disappear.
I say hunger, mean hands you think empty
though everywhere, even the dark, heaves.

 “The Lonely Sleep Through Winter” copyright © by Kemi Alabi. This poem originally appeared in TriQuarterly Review, May 2021. Used with permission of the author. 

I looked at all the trees and didn’t know what to do.

A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon.

From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.

I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.

Your body told me in a dream it’s never been afraid of anything.

Copyright © 2011 by Richard Siken. Used with permission of the author.

To have a thought, there must be an object—
the field is empty, sloshed with gold, a hayfield thick
with sunshine. There must be an object so land
a man there, solid on his feet, on solid ground, in
a field fully flooded, enough light to see him clearly,

the light on his skin and bouncing off his skin.
He’s easy to desire since there’s not much to him,
vague and smeary in his ochers, in his umbers,
burning in the open field. Forget about his insides,
his plumbing and his furnaces, put a thing in his hand

and be done with it. No one wants to know what’s
in his head. It should be enough. To make something
beautiful should be enough. It isn’t. It should be.
The smear of his head—I paint it out, I paint it in
again. I ask it what it wants. I want to be a cornerstone,

says the head. Let’s kill something. Land a man in a
landscape and he’ll try to conquer it. Make him
handsome and you’re a fascist, make him ugly and
you’re saying nothing new. The conqueror suits up
and takes the field, his horse already painted in

beneath him. What do you do with a man like that?
While you are deciding, more men ride in. The hand
sings weapon. The mind says tool. The body swerves
in the service of the mind, which is evidence of
the mind but not actual proof. More conquerors.

They swarm the field and their painted flags unfurl.
Crown yourself with leaves and stake your claim
before something smears up the paint. I turned away
from darkness to see daylight, to see what would
happen. What happened? What does a man want?

Power. The men spread, the thought extends. I paint
them out, I paint them in again. A blur of forces.
Why take more than we need? Because we can.
Deep footprint, it leaves a hole. You’d break your
heart to make it bigger, so why not crack your skull

when the mind swells. A thought bigger than your
own head. Try it. Seriously. Cover more ground.
I thought of myself as a city and I licked my lips.
I thought of myself as a nation and I wrung my hands,
I put a thing in your hand. Will you defend yourself?

From me, I mean. Let’s kill something. The mind
moves forward, the paint layers up: glop glop and
shellac. I shovel the color into our faces, I shovel our
faces into our faces. They look like me. I move them
around. I prefer to blame others, it’s easier. King me.

Copyright @ 2014 by Richard Siken. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 28, 2014.

You are standing in the minefield again.
Someone who is dead now

told you it is where you will learn
to dance. Snow on your lips like a salted

cut, you leap between your deaths, black as god’s
periods. Your arms cleaving little wounds

in the wind. You are something made. Then made
to survive, which means you are somebody’s

son. Which means if you open your eyes, you’ll be back
in that house, beneath a blanket printed with yellow sailboats.

Your mother’s boyfriend, his bald head ringed with red
hair, like a planet on fire, kneeling

by your bed again. Air of whiskey & crushed
Oreos. Snow falling through the window: ash returned

from a failed fable. His spilled-ink hand
on your chest. & you keep dancing inside the minefield—

motionless. The curtains fluttering. Honeyed light
beneath the door. His breath. His wet blue face: earth

spinning in no one’s orbit. & you want someone to say Hey…Hey
I think your dancing is gorgeous. A little waltz to die for,

darling. You want someone to say all this
is long ago. That one night, very soon, you’ll pack a bag

with your favorite paperback & your mother’s .45,
that the surest shelter was always the thoughts

above your head. That it’s fair—it has to be—
how our hands hurt us, then give us

the world. How you can love the world
until there’s nothing left to love

but yourself. Then you can stop.
Then you can walk away—back into the fog

-walled minefield, where the vein in your neck adores you
to zero. You can walk away. You can be nothing

& still breathing. Believe me.

Copyright © 2015 by Ocean Vuong. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 2, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

From Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation. Copyright © 1923, 1931, 1935, 1940, 1951, 1959, 1963, 1968, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1976, 1978, 1979 by George James Firmage.

Let us leave off loving, Madonna: 
You have kissed me grey
And still I have no peace. 
We thought we could make the night
A tapestry of passion. 
Dear Love! What a vain caprice. 

Where’s the immortal design
We thought we had splashed on the indigo cloth? 
And where is the cloth? 
Dawn is forever the cynic. 
He shows us love is the flame, 
Our flesh the eternal moth. 

Madonna. . . loose me and rise. 
We are brief as apple-blossom
And I am heart-weary with the thought of the end. 
Creation is all. 
The hours are thieves, Time a beggar, 
And we have little to spend. 

I ache for the brush in my hand. 
The thrall of the compliant pigment
Governs my blood. 
I will paint you, Madonna, 
The afterglow in your face; 

I would deify you if I could
With enchantments of color, 
Bind you with fetters of terrible beauty
Fast to my canvas forever, 
Give you the eternality God has denied you, 
Bind you to life with art’s sacred chains
That death cannot sever. 

Love has betrayed us enough with its treacherous wonder: 
Let us go now while we ache with the magic
Or what is the gain? 
Art is our one immortality, 
All we may win from the gods 
In exchange for our labor and pain. 

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

I shall not harm you at all nor ask you
        for anything,
You need have no fear;
I am only very tired and would like to
        rest awhile
With my head here
And play with the long strands of your
        loosed hair,
Or touch your skin,
Feel your cool breath on my eyes,
        watch it stir
Those rising hills where your breasts begin;
And listen to your voice whispering
        tender words
Until, perhaps, I fall asleep;
Or feel you kiss my forehead to comfort me
        a little
If I should weep.
That is all, just to lie so beside you
Till dawn's lamp is lit.
You need not fear me. I have given
        too much of love
Ever to ask for it.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

My love, you destroy me, you rend, 
          You tear me apart. 
You are a wild swan I have caught
          And housed in my heart. 

My sister, my love, I am shattered, 
           Broken, dismayed. 
The live wings, the wild wings are beating, 
            They make me afraid.

Fold your wings, brood like a dove, 
         Be a dove I can cherish
More calmly, my dear, my tempestuous love, 
          Or I perish. 

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

Go her way, her quiet, quiet way,
Her way is best for one so wistful-tired.
My three-months’ lover, go with your
            world-sick heart,
Your love-bruised flesh. I am no sanctuary.

This hot mouth, these ardent, out-reaching arms,
This hollow between my breasts, these
            hungry limbs,
They are a cradle, a cradle of living flame;
No haven for you, saddening after peace.

I am not certain, no, nor soothing-safe.
Mine is the shifting, perilous way of life.
Pitiless, ever-changing, hazardous,
My love insatiate and mutable.

Go her way, her quiet, well-path’d way,
Sit by her hearth-fire; let her keep you safe.
Mine the unharbored heart, the uncharted
Mine, at the end a more than common peace.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.