We prefer to do it with the lights on, 
the Victrola scratching How long can it last?
against the tremble of curtains. Patient,
we learn the walls, their glossary of knocks,
translating harlequin and dust. What we
know lives here—lonely bone star blossom
of the spider plant, lost bee on the sill,
the recorder’s static alive and puckering.
I tell you our future is the guttering candle
in the basement birdcage. Prove it, you say,
and I set both its shadows swaying. Our history—
the attic window, how the unseen surprises
the photograph. You ask what is there
to be afraid of. I ask the past to make itself
known to me. We only have to make it through
the night, so we close the dolls’ eyes. Danger
midwifes the heart’s spring. We are cabbage roses 
grooming the parlor air with unsexed pistils. 
I have this kiss and its sleepless itinerary. 
Your lip, pink logic and cushion. The door 
tests its lock, and I let you ruin each light
orb and whisper with physics. If we’re sure
something is here, then we have to find out 
what it wants. A voice on the recorder, sweet
as gravecake—don’t go. We can admit it wasn’t
proof we came for, it was the question.

Copyright © 2021 by Traci Brimhall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

“Pain blesses the body back to its sinner”
            —Ocean Vuong

Handcuffs around my wrists 
lined with synthetic fur, my arms bound 

& hoisted, heavenward, as if in praise.
Once, bodies like mine were seen as a symptom

of sin, something to be prayed away;
how once, priests beat themselves to sanctify

the flesh. To put their sins to death. Now,
my clothes scatter across the floor like petals

lanced by hail. Motion stretches objects 
in the eye. A drop of rain remade, 

a needle, a blade. Mark how muscle fiber 
& piano strings both, when struck, ring. 

No music without violence or wind. 

I’ve been searching the backs of lover’s hands
for a kinder score, a pain that makes 

my pain a stranger tune. Still, my body aches 
an ugly psalm. All my bones refuse to harm

-onize. Percussion is our oldest form of song, 
wind bruised into melody. Let me say this plainly:

I want you to beat me 

into a pain that’s unfamiliar. How convenient 
this word, beat, that lives in both the kingdoms 

of brutality & song. The singer’s voice: a cry, 
a moan, god’s name broken across a blade 

of teeth. The riding crop & flog & scourge—
a wicked faith. A blood-loud devotion.  

There is no prayer to save me from my flesh. 
You can’t have the bible without the belt.

Copyright © 2021 by torrin a. greathouse. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

I’ve been visiting again
the cemetery
with a sunken southern corner.

Fish smaller than first teeth, birthed from the soil,
maneuver in the glaze
where rain pools, covering the lowest stones.

            Behind him, in a cracked white tub,
my knees to his sides,
left ear pressed to
the stack of bones in his neck,

I was once so terrified of my own contentment
I bit my shoulder
and drew blood there

                        to the surface—past it—

What I have wanted most
is many lives. One for each longing,
round and separate.

Sometimes I bring figs here, asphyxiating
in plastic, for their distant echo
of your humid, ghost-flesh air
shouldering the leaves—that almost-a-human

            I was born in autumn
as it fled underground
to be fed to a body
of water that only swallows.

Copyright © 2021 by Gabrielle Bates. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

curry nipple / shrapnel bindi / lassi whiplash / lengha language / rumproof canefield / erotic indenture / henna pregnancy / golden roti / chocolate kajal / pagan burial / choke me / kindly in / these archives / camphor mothbites / grandmother’s saris / drowning dowry / wield the / mace and / master me


this is not a burning / these are not white spells


witch hindu walks everywhere on blue throated feet
scattering febrile cockheads, emptying all bad seed
witch hindu knows your atmosphere, can taste it in
the charnel house your kind raped my kind adjacent
to without a single prayer for the irradiated skin, o
witch hindu promises you will not be able to think of
sorries in the land where reparations are drawn first
from the battlements of your thighs, o descendants
of sailors and minstrels of thanes and thieves and kin
who walk upright and never permit their girlfriends


to come


witch hindu has a ceremony for you under the cutlass
of her tongue, gathering all the hymens of indenture
in her four arms as ribboning hurricanes, glowering
pregnant, growing darjeeling and lanate and rum


mortuary deya / guillotine kohl / grandfather’s cutlass / hidden beef / halogenic boneshards / India, disgorged / these archives / kindly / choke in me / consummation dagger / turban deathmask / holy pornshop / hunted bride / translucent elephant / trampling down


these are not white burnings / this is not your spell

Copyright © 2021 by Shivanee Ramlochan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 26, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.