Ours is a partial language part pantomime,
part grimy guesswork: adulterated speculation
as to meaning & motivation.
Translated, heart suggests a familiar, universal
device but internal chemistries vary—
though components be the same & not uncommon.
The world owes us nothing. It promises less.
Call it: freedom. Free will. Or Wednesday.
Copyright © 2016 Rangi McNeil. Used with permission of the author.
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times. But this time,
you will ask him things other than can you pass the
whatever. You will ask him
about him. You will enjoy dinner. You will be
enjoyable. Please RSVP.
They RSVP. They come.
They sit at the table & ask my boyfriend
the first of the conversation starters I slip them
upon arrival: How is work going?
I’m like the kid in Home Alone, orchestrating
every movement of a proper family, as if a pair
of scary yet deeply incompetent burglars
is watching from the outside.
My boyfriend responds in his chipper way.
I pass my father a bowl of fish ball soup—So comforting,
isn’t it? My mother smiles her best
Sitting with Her Son’s Boyfriend
Who Is a Boy Smile. I smile my Hurray for Doing
a Little Better Smile.
Everyone eats soup.
Then, my mother turns
to me, whispers in Mandarin, Is he coming with you
for Thanksgiving? My good friend is & she wouldn’t like
this. I’m like the kid in Home Alone, pulling
on the string that makes my cardboard mother
more motherly, except she is
not cardboard, she is
already, exceedingly my mother. Waiting
for my answer.
While my father opens up
a Boston Globe, when the invitation
clearly stated: No security
blankets. I’m like the kid
in Home Alone, except the home
is my apartment, & I’m much older, & not alone,
& not the one who needs
to learn, has to—Remind me
what’s in that recipe again, my boyfriend says
to my mother, as though they have always, easily
talked. As though no one has told him
many times, what a nonlinear slapstick meets
slasher flick meets psychological
pit he is now co-starring in.
Remind me, he says
to our family.
Copyright © 2018 by Chen Chen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
When I woke for school the next day the sky was uniform & less than infinite
with the confusion of autumn & my father
as he became distant with disease the way a boy falls beneath the ice,
before the men that cannot save him—
the cold like a forever on his lips.
Soon, he was never up before us & we’d jump on the bed,
wake up, wake up,
& my sister’s hair was still in curls then, & my favorite photograph still hung:
my father’s back to us, leading a bicycle uphill.
At the top, the roads vanish & turn—
the leaves leant yellow in a frozen sprint of light, & there, the forward motion.
The nights I laid in the crutch of my parents’ doorway & dreamt awake,
listened like a field of snow,
I heard no answer. Then sleepless slept in my own arms beneath the window
to the teacher’s blank & lull—
Mrs. Belmont’s lesson on Eden that year. Autumn: dusk:
my bicycle beside me in the withered & yet-to-be leaves,
& my eyes closed fast beneath the mystery of migration, the flock’s rippled wake:
Copyright © 2018 by Andrés Cerpa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 7, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
It should be a letter
To the man inside
I could not become
Dressed in yellow
And green, the colors of spring
So I could leave death
In its chamber veined
With deep ore
I’ve no more to tell you
Last winter I climbed
The mountains of Musoorie
To hear frozen peals of bell and wire
A silver thread of sound
Sky to navel
like the black strip
in a flower’s throat
meant to guide you in
I lie now in the winter
open-petaled beneath Sirius
I cereus bloom
the eyes fine tuned perhaps
consciously a first time offense
to focus on cliché heaven
a great white trope: the white light
the first time I nearly died
I reached too towards imaginary white
lands of white hands draped in white robes white rings glowing
above white heads
instead I forced my niece to enter my mind her first
word light an opened fist of light mouthed
see the light see the light see the light
some midnight season of new moons an annihilation
of the obscenity of the bright white flesh
of a glistening cold moon poking through the night
my father says show me the
who knows absolute darkness is the light
my niece sings this little light of mine & points in the darkness
this little light see the light of mine I’m gonna let see the light
friends there is no light at the end
only hunger muted & sharp blinding rage
of the mind’s kaleidoscopic emptiness oh it is blindingly white
Copyright © 2015 by Metta Sáma. Used with permission of the author.
garbage-gut humans should not continue ourselves
it can only come a frightful cropper
hairbulbs what I mistook to be a form in nature
albatross w/ plastics crowding thir gut
what julie patton is callin superfraja-lilly-of-the-valley
veronica heterophilia snapdragon nature preserve
pulp them shropshire constabulary
quing of haven sailing for caracas sissy jesus-hag
point to the exact place where the fly shd go in the ballo underpants
just where the shapes come to a point triangularly
15 thousand fish dead at the mouth of tha mississipp
planes go sipsip saying to the poor people
walk fa-ast! walk like yr on hot co-als!
matisse had to get up real close to see that was a burd
turned that viol de gamba right fwds & added a noose
even more clîché than peaches inna bowl
curvy long pear stem and butterdish suspended
in air perhaps the stem is penetrating a clear butter dish
conrad suggested & I knew I was being drawn
into a funhouse of mirrors but I cdnt stop
odilon redon roger & angelica
why I am against breeding
From Of Mongrelitude. Copyright © 2017 by Julian Talamentez Brolaski. Used with permission of the author and Wave Books.
Like light but
in reverse we billow.
We turn a corner
and make the hills
my parts until no
No more skin-sunk
No more blameless death.
My hair loses its atoms.
My body glows
in the dark.
Planets are smashed
stripped of their power
to name things.
Our love fills the air.
Our love eats
the deadly sounds men
make when they see
how much magic
we have away
Copyright © 2017 by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
Your provocative laughter,
The gloom of your hair;
Lure of you, eye and lip;
And madness, madness,
Tremulous, breathless, flaming,
The space of a sigh;
Pain, regret—your sobbing;
And again, quiet—the stars,
This poem is in the public domain.
I. No one's serious at seventeen. —On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need —You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade. Lindens smell fine on fine June nights! Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes; The wind brings sounds—the town is near— And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . . II. —Over there, framed by a branch You can see a little patch of dark blue Stung by a sinister star that fades With faint quiverings, so small and white. . . June nights! Seventeen!—Drink it in. Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . . The mind wanders, you feel a kiss On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . . III. The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels —And when a young girl walks alluringly Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow Of her father's starched collar. . . Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping, She turns on a dime, eyes wide, Finding you too sweet to resist. . . —And cavatinas die on your lips. IV. You're in love. Off the market till August. You're in love.—Your sonnets make Her laugh. Your friends are gone, you're bad news. —Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .! That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés; You order beer or lemonade. . . —No one's serious at seventeen When lindens line the promenade.
29 September 1870
From Rimbaud Complete by Arthur Rimbaud; translated, edited, and introduced by Wyatt Mason. Copyright © 2002 by Wyatt Mason. Reprinted by permission of the Modern Library. All rights reserved.