O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light
In the daily toil of my dear home;
And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—
There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.
It is radiant in the sunshine, and so cheerful after rain;
And it wafts upon the air its sweet perfume.
It is very, very lovely! May its beauties never wane—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.
Nature has so clothed it in such glorious array,
And it does so cheer our home, and hearts illume;
Its dear mem’ry I will cherish though the flower fade away—
This dear flower at my window in full bloom.
Oft I gaze upon this flower with its blossoms pure and white.
And I think as I behold its gay costume,
While through life we all are passing may our lives be always bright
Like this flower at my window in full bloom.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 22, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Oh, the coming-out-of-nowhere moment when, nothing happens no what-have-I-to-do-today-list maybe half a moment the rush of traffic stops. The whir of I should be, I should be, I should be slows to silence, the white cotton curtains hanging still.
Copyright © 2011 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the author.
From a coffee cup’s sweet bitterness into cold wind swept knowing that the place you search and yearn for is nowhere, no street names, no city gate. No degrees nor longitudinal measures to speak of. A compass can be useless when you are lost. Nowhere multiplies in your chest ravenous, like yeast. It hurts. The exact second, your shadow on the pavement. Sometimes your life is a minute ahead and a few days behind the place you want to be. Sometimes things align and you want to tear a piece of the shadow as you would a piece from a loaf of bread. But this place you search has no replicable terrain, no map. It moves as you move. A shapeshifter with a tropic of memory, a tropic of fear, a meridian to decide you can and an equator to know you choose.
From This City (Floating Bridge Press, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Claudia Castro Luna. Used with the permission of the poet.
—For Mammoth Cave National Park
Humongous cavern, tell me, wet limestone, sandstone caprock,
bat-wing, sightless translucent cave shrimp,
this endless plummet into more of the unknown,
how one keeps secrets for so long.
All my life, I’ve lived above the ground,
car wheels over paved roads, roots breaking through concrete,
and still I’ve not understood the reel of this life’s purpose.
Not so much living, but a hovering without sense.
What’s it like to be always night? No moon, but a few lit up
circles at your many openings. Endless dark, still time
must enter you. Like a train, like a green river?
Tell me what it is to be the thing rooted in shadow.
To be the thing not touched by light (no that’s not it)
to not even need the light? I envy; I envy that.
Desire is a tricky thing, the boiling of the body’s wants,
more praise, more hands holding the knives away.
I’ve been the one who has craved and craved until I could not see
beyond my own greed. There’s a whole nation of us.
To forgive myself, I point to the earth as witness.
To you, your Frozen Niagara, your Fat Man’s Misery,
you with your 400 miles of interlocking caves that lead
only to more of you, tell me,
what it is to be quiet, and yet still breathing.
Ruler of the Underlying, let me
speak to both the dead and the living as you do. Speak
to the ruined earth, the stalactites, the eastern small-footed bat,
to honor this: the length of days. To speak to the core
that creates and swallows, to speak not always to what’s
shouting, but to what’s underneath asking for nothing.
I am at the mouth of the cave. I am willing to crawl.
Copyright © 2016 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 29, 2016, this poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005). Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Because it turns out the world really is a hospital,
Because we had to have had before us a giant pair of scissors
Before four bold wings can have newly ascended,
Before new doors can revolve, before new elevators
Rise and fall empty and full, new numbers light,
New floors with new doors both open and closed
Because there are nurses to sail in and out of need,
Because need walks the doctors somewhere or another,
Because of elaborately adaptable need the bed . . .
The bed could be wheeled right into traffic and snow
Because so far there is only inside and outside
And more of both than even creation could have concocted,
Because the bed that bore us all and our desires
And our exhaustions has become a contraption,
Because the bed that keeps us coming back to it,
The bed that once sailed to the ends of the earth—
Now tied to trees dripping blood and sugar and sleep,
Anchored where overhead a TV persists, such news
As snows poor reception—because the reliable bed
Is something even a family understands, the family
Is how the world goes—a fool's dream of awareness—
Grouped around this steel altar at its least and lowered
Because the bed is a helpless, blameless invention,
All the same to it if it is made or not, empty or not,
Same fatiguing last probabilities, because there are
As many ways to die as people to find these ways
Because there surely are, because the tried is ever new,
Who can't lose their way anew among so many alive?
Because who hasn't made their own bed, because
Who hasn't slept who hasn't been led by night there,
My mother's hands playing the fabric of the spread
As if it were a piano, tongue-tied, isolate fingers,
She's ghost-smoking, working on an invisible crochet
"Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate . . . I want to die"—
"Wake up!" Machado said the Gospels reduced to
But not now, not until you have what you want—
Any belief in love itself is what I'd have you want—
Look me in the eye with that sort of love that looks
Through me as if grief were so much tissue paper,
With a love that doesn't stop with me or you, that
Doesn't stop when there's no more world to fear
Because there is no need to wheel the bed outside,
Because a hospital melts like a snowflake, because
The walls and windows and even the bed liquify,
Even the things she's seen that aren't there vanish
Because how much energy there is in emptiness,
Take everything away, there's still something there.
From Avenue of Vanishing by William Olsen. Copyright © 2007 by William Olsen. Published 2007 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. Used with permission.
after Reagan Lothes
Because nothing else is on so early
in the morning when he drinks coffee
in an empty house. Because almanacs
are of limited use compared to satellites.
Because spring will have to come somehow
and cold reminds him which bones
he’s broken. Because every flight delayed
or canceled is one he won’t be on. Because
people should stay where they’re from,
except his children, who were right to leave.
Because a flood will take what it can
and move uphill. Because just once
he’d like to see a tornado touch down
in an empty field and go away
hungry. Because his wife nearly died
on an icy road. Because he can’t prepare
for disasters he doesn’t understand.
Because wind keeps him awake. Because
his boots are by the door, but his slicker
is in his truck. Because he can’t change
a damn thing forecast and uncertainty aches
like a tired muscle, an unhealed wound.
Copyright © 2013 Carrie Shipers. Originally published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Volume 30, Number 3-4. Used with permission of the author.
This tree has a small LED display It is glowing and it can show you words and it can show you pictures and it can melt from one choice to another and you are looking at it and it wants you to share the message but it can't see that you are the only one around and that everyone else is hibernating which you love You are so happy and alone with the red and yellow lights It's a nice day to be in nature and to read up on the very bland ideas this tree has about how to live This tree says grow stronger and this tree says fireworks effect This tree is the saddest prophet in history but you don't tell it that You are trying to show it respect which gets tiresome but then it flashes a snake at you It's a kind of LED tree hybrid joke and you could just kiss it for trying For failing But it can't see you and it starts to cry
From What Is Amazing by Heather Christle. Copyright © 2012 by Heather Christle. Reprinted with permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.
I am as far as the deepest sky between clouds and you are as far as the deepest root and wound, and I am as far as a train at evening, as far as a whistle you can't hear or remember. You are as far as an unimagined animal who, frightened by everything, never appears. I am as far as cicadas and locusts and you are as far as the cleanest arrow that has sewn the wind to the light on the birch trees. I am as far as the sleep of rivers that stains the deepest sky between clouds, you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory. You are as far as a red-marbled stream where children cut their feet on the stones and cry out. And I am as far as their happy mothers, bleaching new linen on the grass and singing, "You are as far as another life, as far as another life are you." And I am as far as an infinite alphabet made from yellow stars and ice, and you are as far as the nails of the dead man, as far as a sailor can see at midnight when he's drunk and the moon is an empty cup, and I am as far as invention and you are as far as memory. I am as far as the corners of a room where no one has ever spoken, as far as the four lost corners of the earth. And you are as far as the voices of the dumb, as the broken limbs of saints and soldiers, as the scarlet wing of the suicidal blackbird, I am farther and farther away from you. And you are as far as a horse without a rider can run in six years, two months and five days. I am as far as that rider, who rubs his eyes with his blistered hands, who watches a ghost don his jacket and boots and now stands naked in the road. As far as the space between word and word, as the heavy sleep of the perfectly loved and the sirens of wars no one living can remember, as far as this room, where no words have been spoken, you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory.
From Yellow Stars and Ice by Susan Stewart, published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © 1981 by Susan Stewart. All rights reserved.
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Copyright © 2016 by Craig Santos Perez. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Glacier” originally appeared in Newsletter of the Comparative Literature Association of the Republic of China. Reprinted with permission of the author.
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.