Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. Used with permission.

It was the schooner Hesperus,
      That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughtér,
      To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
      Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
      That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm,
      His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
      The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailór,
      Had sailed the Spanish Main,
“I pray thee, put into yonder port,
      for I fear a hurricane.

“Last night the moon had a golden ring,
      And to-night no moon we see!”
The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe,
      And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
      A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
      And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
      The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
      Then leaped her cable’s length.

“Come hither! come hither! my little daughtér,
      And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
      That ever wind did blow.”

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
      Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
      And bound her to the mast.

“O father! I hear the church bells ring,
      O, say, what may it be?”
“ ’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!” —
      And he steered for the open sea.

“O father! I hear the sound of guns;
      O, say, what may it be?”
“Some ship in distress, that cannot live
      In such an angry sea!”

“O father! I see a gleaming light.
      O say, what may it be?”
But the father answered never a word,
      A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
      With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
      On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
      That savéd she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
      On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
      Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
      Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
      A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
      On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
      She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
      Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
      Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
      Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
      With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
      Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
      A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
      Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
      The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
      On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
      In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
      On the reef of Norman’s Woe!

This poem is in the public domain.

I heard the trailing garments of the Night
     Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
     From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
     Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
     As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
     The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,
     Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
     My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
     From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
     What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care
     And they complain no more.

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!
     Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
     The best-beloved Night!

This poem is in the public domain.

Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
   That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!

This poem is in the public domain.

Seagulls beside ferry boat.
They're people-watching. 

From Your Time Has Come by Joshua Beckman, published by Verse Press. Copyright © 2004 by Joshua Beckman. Reprinted by permission of Verse Press. All rights reserved.

Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Townsville,
Belém, Durban, Lima, Xai-Xai planes
with wingspans big as high schools
eight hundred nine hundred tons a piece
gone like pollen, cumulus cirrus
altostratus nimbostratus people getting skinny
just trying to lose weight and the sky
the biggest thing anyone ever thought of
Acceptance, Vancouver, Tehran, Maui
school children balloons light blue nothing
one goes away not forever, in fact
most people, at least if you are flying
Delta, come down in Salt Lake City
Fairbanks, Kobe, Aukland, Anchorage
from Cleveland a hundred Hawaii-bound Germans
are coming in low, not to say too low
just low pull up Amsterdam pull up Miami
historically a very high-strung bunch
smokers eaters tiny planes must circle
we have bigger problems on our hands
New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris
the boy who has been ignoring dinner
throws thirteen paper planes out the window
does it look like this? Tashkent, Nome, Rio,
Hobart, yes yes it looks just like that
now do your homework Capetown Capetown
lots of rain good on one good on two
go three go four go five go six
Mau, Brak, Zella, Ghat, an African parade
good on two good on three
please speak English please speak English
good on five good on six gentlemen:
the world will let us down many times
but it will never run out of coffee
hooray! for Lagos, Accra, Freetown, Dakar
your son is on the telephone the Germans
landed safely Seattle off to Istanbul
tiny planes please circle oh tiny planes
do please please circle

From Something I Expected to be Different by Joshua Beckman, published by Verse Press. Copyright © 2001 by Joshua Beckman. Reprinted by permission of Verse Press. All rights reserved.

Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves 
And Immortality.

We slowly droveHe knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recessin the Ring
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the Setting Sun

Or ratherHe passed us
The Dews drew quivering and chill
For only Gossamer, my Gown
My Tippetonly Tulle

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground
The Roof was scarcely visible
The Cornicein the Ground

Since then’tis Centuriesand yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity

Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl— 
Life's little duties do—precisely— 
As the very least  
Were infinite—to me— 
    
I put new Blossoms in the Glass— 
And throw the old—away— 
I push a petal from my gown  
That anchored there—I weigh  
The time 'twill be till six o'clock  
I have so much to do— 
And yet—Existence—some way back— 
Stopped—struck—my ticking—through— 
We cannot put Ourself away  
As a completed Man  
Or Woman—When the Errand's done  
We came to Flesh—upon— 
There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought— 
Of Action—sicker far— 
To simulate—is stinging work— 
To cover what we are  
From Science—and from Surgery— 
Too Telescopic Eyes  
To bear on us unshaded— 
For their—sake—not for Ours— 
Twould start them— 
We—could tremble— 
But since we got a Bomb— 
And held it in our Bosom— 
Nay—Hold it—it is calm— 
    
Therefore—we do life's labor— 
Though life's Reward—be done— 
With scrupulous exactness— 
To hold our Senses—on—

This poem is in the public domain.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

From The Complete Poems 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

A fairy came out of the woods,
A creature bewitchingly fair;
A dress would have stolen the beauty
Half-hid by the locks of her hair.

She said that not far from the wilds,
Where the rill gives itself to the brook,
She had seen what for years I was searching
In cavern and crevice and nook.

She led me the way to a spring,
Where to drink meant awakening love;
A draught of the cool, magic waters
Brought pleasure untasted above.

Expectant, I closed on her steps,
We came to the brook and the rill,
But the spring was not there nor elsewhere,
And the woodland was silent and still.

Then sternly, not looking, I asked,
“Where, O fairy, is that which I seek?”
There was nothing but silence for answer,
No fairy was there then to speak.

From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc., 1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain. 

I used to watch the sunrise glow
That set aflame the eastern skies,
My lips in songs did freely flow
As thoughts went fleeting with my sighs.

I’ve lived through storms and smiles and tears,
And seen familiar faces die,
Ah, these, my weary youthful years
Are fraught with shades of dreams gone by.

And yet when once again I see
The glory of the purpling hills,
My dying heart revives to be
A spring of loves and lover’s thrills.

My mind in youth did ever roam
Across the mountains and the dales,
And now my heart has found a home
Among the eastern hills and vales.

From Manila: A Collection of Verse (Imp. Paredes, Inc., 1926) by Luis Dato. This poem is in the public domain.

I 

Throughout the afternoon I watched them there, 
Snow-fairies falling, falling from the sky, 
Whirling fantastic in the misty air, 
Contending fierce for space supremacy. 
And they flew down a mightier force at night, 
As though in heaven there was revolt and riot, 
And they, frail things had taken panic flight 
Down to the calm earth seeking peace and quiet. 
I went to bed and rose at early dawn 
To see them huddled together in a heap, 
Each merged into the other upon the lawn, 
Worn out by the sharp struggle, fast asleep. 
The sun shone brightly on them half the day, 
By night they stealthily had stol'n away. 


II 

And suddenly my thoughts then turned to you 
Who came to me upon a winter's night, 
When snow-sprites round my attic window flew, 
Your hair disheveled, eyes aglow with light. 
My heart was like the weather when you came, 
The wanton winds were blowing loud and long; 
But you, with joy and passion all aflame, 
You danced and sang a lilting summer song. 
I made room for you in my little bed, 
Took covers from the closet fresh and warm, 
A downful pillow for your scented head, 
And lay down with you resting in my arm. 
You went with Dawn. You left me ere the day, 
The lonely actor of a dreamy play.

This poem is in the public domain.

When I say Black, what I mean is the curl of my hair is tight enough to snag the teeth of a wide-tooth comb. So, I don’t comb my hair when I’m in the comfort of my home. This comfort is the standard by which I determine who, what, where is home. I rarely feel home in my father’s home.

When I was 21, my father kissed my forehead and this was the first time he ever kissed me. My father’s lips recall a different story. But this is my tale of a boy whose hard head grew tender from his father’s kiss. The words I love you, boy seeped into my newly-softened skull. For just a moment, my father returned my boyhood so he could feel the gratification of kissing his son goodnight. It had to be that way.

The only way to rake my hair into a neat brush of manageable coils is to first wet it thoroughly. Before I leave my home, I sometimes—most times—tame my hair with water to allow it to floss the teeth of the comb, to bear the brunt of its bite. I sometimes long for watered-down brown tresses that know to bow to the comb’s might. I sometimes wish my hair would grow into an impenetrable forest, endless and black as starless nights.

When I say Black, I mean my father’s hardened bosom has left me disheartened—desensitized to all but the snatch of a fine-tooth comb. I’ve been taught a man must be made a boy before he can receive a kiss from another man, and such ancient magic must be sparingly used. Sometimes—most times—I sleep with one eye open and hope to reunite with the strange magician who makes boys of men with forehead kisses. On these nights, I lie in bed and wait for him to cast his spell. As I sleep, my father combs his fingers through my hair and plants his lips on my eager forehead. On these nights, I wake floating above my bed in boyish bliss. On these nights, I feel home.

Copyright © 2021 by Dāshaun Washington. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 11, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

O, rich young lord, thou ridest by
With looks of high disdain;
It chafes me not thy title high,
Thy blood of oldest strain.
The lady riding at thy side
Is but in name thy promised bride.
       Ride on, young lord, ride on!

Her father wills and she obeys,
The custom of her class;
’Tis Land not Love the trothing sways—
For Land he sells his lass.
Her fair white hand, young lord, is thine,
Her soul, proud fool, her soul is mine,
       Ride on, young lord, ride on!

No title high my father bore;
The tenant of thy farm,
He left me what I value more:
Clean heart, clear brain, strong arm
And love for bird and beast and bee
And song of lark and hymn of sea,
       Ride on, young lord, ride on!

The boundless sky to me belongs,
The paltry acres thine;
The painted beauty sings thy songs,
The lavrock lilts me mine;
The hot-housed orchid blooms for thee,
The gorse and heather bloom for me,
       Ride on, young lord, ride on!

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

One does such work as one will not,
    And well each knows the right;
Though the white storm howls, or the sun is hot,
    The black must serve the white.
And it’s, oh, for the white man’s softening flesh,
    While the black man’s muscles grow!
Well I know which grows the mightier,
    I know; full well I know.

The white man seeks the soft, fat place,
    And he moves and he works by rule.
Ingenious grows the humbler race
    In Oppression’s prodding school.
And it’s, oh, for a white man gone to seed,
    While the Negro struggles so!
And I know which race develops most,
    I know; yes, well I know.

The white man rides in a palace car,
    And the Negro rides “Jim Crow”
To damn the other with bolt and bar,
    One creepeth so low; so low!
And it’s, oh, for a master’s nose in the mire,
    While the humbled hearts o’erflow!
Well I know whose soul grows big at this,
    And whose grows small; I know!

The white man leases out his land,
    And the Negro tills the same.
One works; one loafs and takes command;
    But I know who wins the game!
And it’s, oh, for the white man’s shrinking soil.
    As the black’s rich acres grow!
Well I know how the signs point out at last,
    I know; ah, well I know!

The white man votes for his color’s sake.
    While the black, for his is barred;
(Though “ignorance” is the charge they make),
    But the black man studies hard.
And it’s, oh, for the white man’s sad neglect,
    For the power of his light let go!
So, I know which man must win at last,
    I know! Ah, Friend, I know!

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.

I’m in my room writing
speaking in myself
& I hear you
move down the hallway
to water your plants

I write truth on the page
I strike the word over & over
yet I worry you’ll pour too much water on the plants
& the water will overflow onto the books
ruining them

If I can’t speak out of myself
how can I tell you I don’t care about the plants?
how can I tell you I don’t care if the books get wet?

We’ve been together seven years
& only now do I begin
clearing my throat to speak to you.

“A Poem for My Wife” from DAVID'S COPY: THE SELECTED POEMS OF DAVID MELTZER by David Meltzer, Introduction by Jerome Rothenberg, Edited with a Foreword by Michael Rothenberg, copyright © 2005 by David Meltzer. Used by permission of Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

I have folded my sorrows into the mantle of summer night,
Assigning each brief storm its allotted space in time,
Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes.
And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game,
And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me,
And in the imaginary forest, the shingled hippo becomes the gray unicorn.
No, my traffic is not with addled keepers of yesterday’s disasters,
Seekers of manifest disembowelment on shafts of yesterday’s pains.
Blues come dressed like introspective echoes of a journey.
And yes, I have searched the rooms of the moon on cold summer nights.
And yes, I have refought those unfinished encounters.
      Still, they remain unfinished.
And yes, I have at times wished myself something different.

The tragedies are sung nightly at the funerals of the poet;
The revisited soul is wrapped in the aura of familiarity. 

“I Have Folded My Sorrows,” by Robert Kaufman, from SOLITUDES CROWDED WITH LONELINESS, copyright © 1965 by Bob Kaufman. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 

Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up

From Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara. Copyright © 1964 by Frank O'Hara. Reprinted by permission of City Lights Books. All rights reserved.

I am taken with the hot animal
of my skin, grateful to swing my limbs

and have them move as I intend, though
my knee, though my shoulder, though something
is torn or tearing. Today, a dozen squid, dead

on the harbor beach: one mostly buried,
one with skin empty as a shell and hollow

feeling, and, though the tentacles look soft,
I do not touch them. I imagine they
were startled to find themselves in the sun.

I imagine the tide simply went out
without them. I imagine they cannot

feel the black flies charting the raised hills
of their eyes. I write my name in the sand:
Donika Kelly. I watch eighteen seagulls

skim the sandbar and lift low in the sky.
I pick up a pebble that looks like a green egg.

To the ditch lily I say I am in love.
To the Jeep parked haphazardly on the narrow
street I am in love. To the roses, white

petals rimmed brown, to the yellow lined
pavement, to the house trimmed in gold I am

in love. I shout with the rough calculus
of walking. Just let me find my way back,
let me move like a tide come in.

Copyright © 2017 by Donika Kelly. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

                The world is a beautiful place 
                                                           to be born into 
if you don’t mind happiness 
                                             not always being 
                                                                        so very much fun 
       if you don’t mind a touch of hell
                                                       now and then
                just when everything is fine
                                                             because even in heaven
                                they don’t sing 
                                                        all the time

             The world is a beautiful place
                                                           to be born into
       if you don’t mind some people dying
                                                                  all the time
                        or maybe only starving
                                                           some of the time
                 which isn’t half so bad
                                                      if it isn’t you

      Oh the world is a beautiful place
                                                          to be born into
               if you don’t much mind
                                                   a few dead minds
                    in the higher places
                                                    or a bomb or two
                            now and then
                                                  in your upturned faces
         or such other improprieties
                                                    as our Name Brand society
                                  is prey to
                                              with its men of distinction
             and its men of extinction
                                                   and its priests
                         and other patrolmen
                                                         and its various segregations
         and congressional investigations
                                                             and other constipations
                        that our fool flesh
                                                     is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all
                                                           for a lot of such things as
         making the fun scene
                                                and making the love scene
and making the sad scene
                                         and singing low songs of having 
                                                                                      inspirations
and walking around 
                                looking at everything
                                                                  and smelling flowers
and goosing statues
                              and even thinking 
                                                         and kissing people and
     making babies and wearing pants
                                                         and waving hats and
                                     dancing
                                                and going swimming in rivers
                              on picnics
                                       in the middle of the summer
and just generally
                            ‘living it up’

Yes
   but then right in the middle of it
                                                    comes the smiling
                                                                                 mortician

                                           

From A Coney Island of the Mind, copyright ©1955 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

In the beginning
there was the war.

The war said let there be war
and there was war.

The war said let there be peace
and there was war.

The people said music and rain
evaporating against fire in the brush
was a kind of music
and so was the beast.

The beast that roared
or bleated when brought down
was silent when skinned
but loud after the skin
was pulled taut over wood
and the people said music
and the thump thump
thump said drum.
Someone said
war drum. The drum said war
is coming to meet you in the field.
The field said war
tastes like copper,
said give us some more, said look
at the wild flowers our war plants
in a grove and grows
just for us.

 

Outside sheets are pulling
this way and that.

Fields are smoke,
smoke is air.

We wait for fingers to be bent
knuckle to knuckle,

the porch overrun
with rope and shotgun

but the hounds don’t show.
We beat the drum and sing

like there’s nothing outside
but rust-colored clay and fields

of wild flowers growing
farther than we can walk.

Torches may come like fox paws
to steal away what we plant,

but with our bodies bound
by the skin, my arc to his curve,

we are stalks that will bend
and bend and bend…

fire for heat
fire for light
fire for casting figures on a dungeon wall

fire for teaching shadows to writhe
fire for keeping beasts at bay
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for the siege
fire to singe
fire to roast
fire to fuse rubber soles to collapsed crossbeams
fire for Gehenna

fire for Dante
fire for Fallujah
fire for readied aim

fire in the forge that folds steel like a flag
fire to curl worms like cigarette ash
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for ancient reasons: to call down rain
fire to catch it and turn it into steam
fire for churches
fire for a stockpile of books
fire for a bible-black cloak tied to a stake

fire for smoke signals
fire to shape gun muzzle and magazine
fire to leap from the gut of a furnace
fire for Hephaestus
fire for pyres’ sake
fire licking the toes of a quiet brown man
fire for his home
fire for her flag
fire for this sand, to coax it into glass

fire to cure mirrors
fire to cure leeches
Fire to compose a nocturne of cinders

fire for the trash cans illuminating streets
fire for fuel
fire for fields
fire for the field hand’s fourth death

fire to make a cross visible for several yards
fire from the dragon’s mouth
fire for smoking out tangos
fire to stoke like rage and fill the sky with human remains
fire to give them back to the earth
fire to make twine fall from bound wrists
fire to mark them all and bubble black
any flesh it touches as it frees

 

They took the light from our eyes. Possessive.
Took the moisture from our throats. My arms,
my lips, my sternum, sucked dry, and
lovers of autumn say, Look, here is beauty.
Tallness only made me an obvious target made of
off-kilter limbs. I’d fall either way. I should get a
to-the-death tattoo or metal ribbon of some sort.
War took our prayers like nothing else can,
left us dumber than remote drones. Make
me a loyal soldier and I’ll make you a
lamenting so thick, metallic, so tank-tread-hard.

Now make tomorrow a gate shaped like a man.
I can’t promise, when it’s time, I won’t hesitate,
cannot say I won’t forget to return in fall and
guess the names of the leaves before they change.

 

The war said bring us your dead
and we died. The people said music
and bending flower, so we sang ballads

in the aisles of churches and fruit markets.
The requiem was everywhere: a comet’s tail
disappearing into the atmosphere,

the wide mouths of the bereft men that have sung…
On currents of air, seeds were carried
as the processional carried us

through the streets of a forgetting city,
between the cold iron of gates.
The field said soil is rich wherever we fall.

Aren’t graveyards and battlefields
our most efficient gardens?
Journeys begin there too if the flowers are taken

into account, and shouldn’t we always
take the flowers into account? Bring them to us.
We’ll come back to you. Peace will come to you

as a rosewood-colored road paver
in your grandmother’s town, as a trench
scraped into canvas, as a violin bow, a shovel,

an easel, a brushstroke that covers
burial mounds in grass. And love, you say,
is a constant blade, a trowel that plants

and uproots, and tomorrow
will be a tornado, you say. Then war,
a sick wind, will come to part the air,

straighten your suit,
and place fresh flowers
on all our muddy graves.

Jamaal May, "A Brief History of Hostility" from The Big Book of Exit Strategies. Copyright © 2016 by Jamaal May. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

This poem is in the public domain.

Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn   
    Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.   
    See how Aurora throws her fair   
    Fresh-quilted colours through the air:   
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see          
    The dew bespangling herb and tree!   
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east   
Above an hour since, yet you not drest;   
    Nay! not so much as out of bed?   
    When all the birds have matins said   
    And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin,   
    Nay, profanation, to keep in,   
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day   
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.   
  
Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen   
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,   
    And sweet as Flora. Take no care   
    For jewels for your gown or hair:   
    Fear not; the leaves will strew   
    Gems in abundance upon you:   
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,   
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept.   
    Come, and receive them while the light   
    Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:   
    And Titan on the eastern hill   
    Retires himself, or else stands still   
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying:   
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.   
  
Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark   
How each field turns a street, each street a park,   
    Made green and trimm'd with trees! see how   
    Devotion gives each house a bough   
    Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this,   
    An ark, a tabernacle is,   
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove,   
As if here were those cooler shades of love.   
    Can such delights be in the street   
    And open fields, and we not see 't?   
    Come, we'll abroad: and let 's obey   
    The proclamation made for May,   
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;   
But, my Corinna, come, let 's go a-Maying.   
  
There 's not a budding boy or girl this day   
But is got up and gone to bring in May.   
    A deal of youth ere this is come   
    Back, and with white-thorn laden home.   
    Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream,   
    Before that we have left to dream:   
And some have wept and woo'd, and plighted troth,   
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
    Many a green-gown has been given,   
    Many a kiss, both odd and even:   
    Many a glance, too, has been sent   
    From out the eye, love's firmament:   
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd: yet we're not a-Maying!   
  
Come, let us go, while we are in our prime,   
And take the harmless folly of the time!   
    We shall grow old apace, and die   
    Before we know our liberty.
    Our life is short, and our days run   
    As fast away as does the sun.   
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain,   
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,   
    So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade,   
    All love, all liking, all delight   
    Lies drown'd with us in endless night.   
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying,   
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

This poem is in the public domain.

How love came in I do not know,
Whether by the eye, or ear, or no;
Or whether with the soul it came
(At first) infused with the same;
Whether in part ’tis here or there,
Or, like the soul, whole everywhere,
This troubles me: but I as well
As any other this can tell:
That when from hence she does depart
The outlet then is from the heart.

This poem is in the public domain. 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
   What a beautiful Pussy you are,
            You are,
            You are!
   What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried,
   But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
            His nose,
            His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
            The moon,
            The moon,
   They danced by the light of the moon.

This poem is in the public domain.

The twilight’s inner flame grows blue and deep,
And in my Lesbos, over leagues of sea,
The temples glimmer moonwise in the trees.
Twilight has veiled the little flower face
Here on my heart, but still the night is kind
And leaves her warm sweet weight against my breast.
Am I that Sappho who would run at dusk
Along the surges creeping up the shore
When tides came in to ease the hungry beach,
And running, running, till the night was black,
Would fall forespent upon the chilly sand
And quiver with the winds from off the sea?
Ah, quietly the shingle waits the tides
Whose waves are stinging kisses, but to me
Love brought no peace, nor darkness any rest.
I crept and touched the foam with fevered hands
And cried to Love, from whom the sea is sweet,
From whom the sea is bitterer than death.
Ah, Aphrodite, if I sing no more
To thee, God’s daughter, powerful as God,
It is that thou hast made my life too sweet
To hold the added sweetness of a song.
There is a quiet at the heart of love,
And I have pierced the pain and come to peace.
I hold my peace, my Cleïs, on my heart;
And softer than a little wild bird’s wing
Are kisses that she pours upon my mouth.
Ah, never any more when spring like fire
Will flicker in the newly opened leaves,
Shall I steal forth to seek for solitude
Beyond the lure of light Alcæus’ lyre,
Beyond the sob that stilled Erinna’s voice.
Ah, never with a throat that aches with song,
Beneath the white uncaring sky of spring,
Shall I go forth to hide awhile from Love
The quiver and the crying of my heart.
Still I remember how I strove to flee
The love-note of the birds, and bowed my head
To hurry faster, but upon the ground
I saw two wingèd shadows side by side,
And all the world’s spring passion stifled me.
Ah, Love, there is no fleeing from thy might,
No lonely place where thou hast never trod,
No desert thou hast left uncarpeted
With flowers that spring beneath thy perfect feet.
In many guises didst thou come to me;
I saw thee by the maidens while they danced,
Phaon allured me with a look of thine,
In Anactoria I knew thy grace,
I looked at Cercolas and saw thine eyes;
But never wholly, soul and body mine,
Didst thou bid any love me as I loved.
Now I have found the peace that fled from me;
Close, close, against my heart I hold my world.
Ah, Love that made my life a lyric cry,
Ah, Love that tuned my lips to lyres of thine,
I taught the world thy music, now alone
I sing for one who falls asleep to hear.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

It was deep April, and the morn
          Shakspear was born;
The world was on us, pressing sore;
My Love and I took hands and swore,
   Against the world, to be
Poets and lovers ever more,
To laugh and dream on Lethe’s shore,
To sing to Charon in his boat,
Heartening the timid souls afloat;
Of judgment never to take heed,
But to those fast-locked souls to speed,
Who never from Apollo fled,
Who spent no hour among the dead;
          Continually
          With them to dwell,
Indifferent to heaven and hell.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

some days        you seem
so disappointed, love   but you knew 

what it was.
i am your dread wife. 

you will not throw me out 
of eden            i walk myself to the door. 

o! 
there is no snake          i plant the tree. 

i pluck the apple       i bite.
the pomegranate          the passion fruit

whatever the fuck. 
i am feast unto myself.  

in this wilderness         the feral things name me. 

& i was raised to one day wash 
my husband’s feet at night.

of course i molted        made myself a woman 
who unmakes home. 

refused to be whittled to a fine point              
but you like me piercing.

beloved                        i will not 
only writhe when coming. 

my vow: break through this shell         fully impossible.
your vow: lap every slick of the yolk. 

Copyright © 2023 by Elizabeth Acevedo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.