for Jericho, with thanks to Carl Phillips
I like men who are cruel to me;
men who know how I will end;
men who, when they touch me,
fasten their shadows to my neck
then get out my face when certain
they haven’t much use for being seen.
I like men to be cruel to me.
Any men who build their bodies into
widths of doors I only walk through
once will do. There’s a difference
between entrances and exits I don’t
have much use for now. I’ve seen
what’s left behind after a hawk
has seized a smaller bird midair.
The feathers lay circled in prattle
with rotting crab apples, grasses passing
between the entrances and exits
of clover. The raptor, somewhere
over it, over it. Cruelty where?
The hell would grief go in a goshawk?
It’s enough to risk the open field,
its rotten crab apples, grasses passing
out like lock-kneed mourners in sun.
There I was, scoping, scavenging
the damage to drag mystery out of
a simple read: two animals wanted
life enough to risk the open field
and one of them took what it hunted.
Each one tells me he wants me
vulnerable. I already wrote that book.
The body text cleaved to the spine,
simple to read as two animals wanting
to see inside each other and one
pulling back a wing to offer—See?
Here—the fastest way in or out
and you knew how it would end.
You cleaved the body text to the spine
cause you read closely. You clock damage.
It was a door you walked through once
before pivoting toward a newer image of risk.
Copyright © 2020 by Justin Phillip Reed. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 10, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
For years had anyone needed me
to spell the word commiserate
I’d have disappointed them. I envy
people who are more excited
by etymology than I am, but not
the ones who can explain how
music works—I wonder whether
the critic who wrote
that the Cocteau Twins were the voice
of god still believes it. Why not,
what else would god sound like.
Even though I know better, when I see
the word misericordia I still think
suffering, not forgiveness;
when we commiserate we are united
not in mercy but in misery,
so let’s go ahead and call this abscess
of history the Great Commiseration.
between affliction and affection
is a flick, a lick—but check
again, what lurks in the letters
is “lie,” and what kind of luck
is that. As the years pile up
our friends become more vocal
about their various damages:
Won’t you let me monetize
your affliction, says my friend
the corporation. When I try to enter
the name of any city
it autocorrects to Forever:
I’m spending a week in Forever,
Forever was hotter than ever
this year, Forever’s expensive
but oh the museums,
and all of its misery’s ours.
Copyright © 2020 by Mark Bibbins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
To forgive one’s life love for dying, pick the long, feather-like, crimson flowers in early spring, when the desert is in bloom. Boil in river water only. Let cool. Drink at once. Drink when waking, at noon, and at bedtime each day for three full weeks thereafter. If resentment persists, go to your beloved’s grave daily and pray for forgiveness until sound sleep and appetite return.
My last days
May they pass
slow as black smoke
No I’m certain
that he stole it
from Adam I’m sure
the first night he
Copyright © 2020 by Tommy Archuleta. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 2, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
The way that the sea fails
to drown itself everyday. And entendre alludes all those not listening.
The way unfertilized chicken eggs fail to have imagination,
dozened out in their cardboard trays,
by which I mean they will never break
from the inside. The way my imagination (née anxiety) has
bad brakes and a need
to stop sometimes. The way I didn’t believe
it when he told me we were going to crash into the car idling
at a red light
ahead of us. To know our future like that seemed unlikely.
But to have time to tell me?
—Nearly impossible. I may have broken
several ribs that day
but I will never know for sure. I’m okay,
I guessed aloud to the paramedic. It doesn’t matter
if you’re broken if you’re broke,
I moaned in bed that night, after several glasses
of cheap red. I thought it would make a good blues
refrain. I made myself
laugh and so I made myself hurt—
MEMOIRS BY EMILIA PHILLIPS, goes the joke.
A friend of mine competes in beard and mustache tournaments,
even though she can’t grow one herself—
Once, she donned a Santa Claus made entirely out of hot-glued tampons.
It was as white as the spots in memories I doubt.
The first woman
I kissed who had never kissed a woman before
couldn’t get over how soft my face is,
even the scar. Once,
a famous poet said what’s this and touched my face
his thumb like a cat’s tongue on the old wound.
He must have thought he was giving
me a blessing.
Copyright © 2020 by Emilia Phillips. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 11, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
The sun rises in shades of tuna
I can only hear
See the trucks moving
Like ribbon around me
It's me and this machine
Somewhere are the bodies
I’ve put my mouth on
When I am old
And held in
I hope words
Will be lusterless
I want to be
Buffed so hard that even
When I get to school
One kid reads a piece
About how he wants to give
For a living
He says that a cheater
Will always cheat, and of course,
He wants to find a way
To make us learn this
The other day when locking
My house I had
A vision of a field
Behind it were three
I can leave many times
And still not be
Copyright © 2020 by Emily Kendal Frey. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 18, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.