Ezzard Charles Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1980

Snuffed out candlewick shadow 
disappears in the shimmer
of her snuff cans. The silver
cylinders cradle the powder
she’s prone to pucker, her lower lip
smooth with the stuff. She takes
her time. This is her time. Her mind
                                    space.
Her words pinch in slow motion.  
Tho nobody’s home. & she ain’t
studin you. She knows when to 
leave her imaginings. No tobacco-
cancer concerns this eve.
It’s all banana pudding feet
in slippers, vanilla wafer-colored
                                   waves
and wigs. She’ll leave this realm
at sixty-five, much to her children
& husband’s surprise.

Copyright © 2024 by Yona Harvey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

I

Living is no laughing matter:
	you must live with great seriousness
		like a squirrel, for example—
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
		I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
	you must take it seriously,
	so much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
   or else in a laboratory
	in your white coat and safety glasses,
	you can die for people—
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living
	is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

II

Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—
which is to say we might not get up
			from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
			about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
		for the latest newscast. . . 
Let’s say we’re at the front—
	for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
	we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
        but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
        about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
                        before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind—
                                I  mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
        we must live as if we will never die.

III

This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
               and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet—
	  I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even 
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
	  in pitch-black space . . . 
You must grieve for this right now
—you have to feel this sorrow now—
for the world must be loved this much
                               if you’re going to say “I lived”. . .

From Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, published by Persea Books. Copyright © 1994 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Used with the permission of Persea Books. All rights reserved.

 

From   her   perch   on  the  docent’s  gloved  wrist,  she
watches   us with the eyes  of any creature handled  too
much:  featherless head a closed door,  body a mask of
silence.   In   the  steep   twilight  descending  like   the
backwards  count of a  nurse’s  voice leading  a patient
into  unconsciousness,   the   handler  explains  to  our
circle   the  generalities    of   the   species—the    turkey
vulture’s    primary    form     of     self-defense   is     the
regurgitation   of   semi-digested    meat    that  is   then
vomited      onto     a       predator’s        face—and     the
particularities of this one, who had come   to them with
a broken wing.  I, too,  have places on my body  knitted
back together by unseen hands,  scars laid while I slept
the   sleep  of  the  unknowing:    one  above  the    belly
button,  and  another  below where   two  fingers   must
have parted the dark hair before shaving a path.   Does
she remember  the first faces to peer toward her  as she
surfaced?  Every time  I try to write  what those   hands
did,  I end   up  plunging  my own   fingers deep   inside
until  I  pull  up the voice  of the surgeon  in post-op:   I
usually have to pay women to take their clothes off for
me.  Oh, the shudder of her black-feathered shoulders.
Oh, the bile rising in her throat

Copyright © 2024 by Keetje Kuipers. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 8, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright © 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.