In my favorite fantasy I am given permission I am prone face toward the light beach queen bathed in body A thought that comes from a coming-from the sweet place where a sunset isn’t indescribable something simply looked at The sun sets I sit sinless in sand I sip only once
Copyright © 2019 by Chase Berggrun. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 9, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Christmas Eve, 2016 Before everyone died – in my family – first definition I learned was – my mother’s maiden name, ULANDAY – which literally means – of the rain – and biology books remind us – the pouring has a pattern – has purpose – namesake means release – for my mother meant, flee – meant leave – know exactly what parts of you – slip away – drained sediment of a body – is how a single mama feels – on the graveyard shift – only god is awake – is where my – family banked itself – a life rooted in rosaries – like nuns in barricade – scream – People Power – one out of five – leave to a new country – the women in my family hone – in my heart – like checkpoints – which is what they know – which is like a halt – not to be confused for – stop – which is what happened to my ma’s breath– when she went home – for the last time – I didn’t get to – hold her hand as she died – I said I tried – just translates to – I couldn’t make it – in time – I tell myself – ocean salt and tear salt – are one and the same – I press my eyes shut – cup ghost howl – cheeks splint wood worn – which is to say – learn to make myself a harbor – anyway – once I saw a pamphlet that said – what to do when your parent is dead – I couldn’t finish reading – but I doubt it informs the audience – what will happen – which is to say – you will pour your face & hands – & smother your mother’s scream on everything – you touch – turn eyelids into oars – go, paddle to find her.
Copyright © 2019 by Kay Ulanday Barrett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Six months ago, the measuring of whiskey left in the jug, urine on the mattress, couch cushions, the crotch of pants in wear. You watch how breath lifts a chest, how a person breathes— sick hobbies of when we must. You watch how you become illiterate at counting. Six or seven broken breathalyzers; a joke formulates in your throat & you choke back your windpipe as punchline. How many sobs in parking lots before sun lugged above horizon? The heart hammers all too familiar songs behind your ribs & these notes cut away at you. You read online how television, internet, starving children in numbers greater than three, polar bears, rain forests, light from an off direction all desensitize the human brain’s ability to empathize. You wonder how you chew the word panic in your jaws, let meaning burrow into molars seep in crevasses between root & bone. How rot tends to the insides. You wonder now with the inpatient tags, the cafeteria visits, the doctors, the psychiatrists, the when do you get to come homes, the hesitation of our bodies sharing space again, the words I have not drunk today & your brain in flinch, how you excavate organs for what’s left, for salvage.
Copyright © 2019 by Felicia Zamora. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
7. Letters arrived in intervals, as with everything else one might come, one might not regardless of whether there’d been a response. We prepared at all times. Bent over. We dreamed things would be different. Every time the door opened we each smiled in a way to make clear we’d never seen our own face. 8. An appendix washed up, pages current-smoothed, leaning funny. We stood and watched the skin stretched and sewn. The so-called imaginary, so-called interior, so-called paradoxical private sphere. 13. Dailiness was the anxiety through which we waited. Buttons undone, like clearance. Not what we wanted but what we didn’t know we had to have. Private acts to attempt in public. Productive relationships to sites of violence. Lace-fronts. A dollar to run to the store. 19. However useful, the language was degrading, incompatible and lacked necessary verbs. The ability to compress, overflow and alter the landscape through a low swollen hum. To smell strongly in the morning, at the grocery or over the phone. 24. There were moments we were incapable of decision. An opening through which to register an image pungent through its own material law. A body pulled inward, door unlocked. Irresponsible to. That this moment would return. Return us. That this, and only this, would be the day.
Copyright © 2019 by Saretta Morgan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 2, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sometimes it pays to go to Bojangles. To drive out of the parking lot, see the red awning: Fish & Duck Skills. A man walks out and it is broad daylight. Back when I was a new adult in Chattanooga I’d dare myself to go to the Adult Book Shop on Market Street in the daytime or to the gasoline station that my parents frequented, the one close to our old house, where pornography was stored in plastic. Back then I only dreamt in violence. & living was an act of deliberate volatility. Likely, I could trace it all back to Vaughn who laughed in my face when I told him I’d been molested that this was the reason having sex with boys was an act of self-hatred, how Vaughn shared not his story of sexual assault, but my story, with any Tyner Junior High teen willing to listen. So much was going on back then: the little race riots between us & Ooltewah, the White gay guy who thought he was Prince and was terrified of being found out that he wasn’t Prince & that he was gay, the boys who would store their guns in our lockers, my girl friends and I pretending we were gay, kissing each other in the hallway, on the lips, in front of the teachers, because designer clothes were expensive and scandal was free. I didn’t bother telling anyone that I was queer and that just about every single day I didn’t wish I was White, I just wished that White people weren’t. But I fished for the Whitest voice and duck tailed my hair knowing that one day no one would remember that I put a gun in my locker, that I kissed Deidre on her lips, that I sang “the freaks go out at night” at the top of my lungs & thrust my hips to “Candy” on my way to the pep rally. No, what people would remember was that I was Black. The end.
Copyright © 2018 by Metta Sáma. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
After the exhibition “La Gravedad de Los Asuntos
(Matters of Gravity)”
The Mexicans and the Russians were always in on it
This is collaboration in zero gravity democracy
—blurry violet lights and no clear answer
This is a nuclear glow in the dark so we can start over
We board planes to Mars and six engines fire
You spin away. It’s candy guts out here—all our voting machines are breaking
You tumble and can’t stop, but
Grab a harness—an adult pigtail
Six plane engines click on and your homie has to
Push you so you can swing at the exploding star
A way of thinking, una estructura doblada
Alguien cortó oropel azul en cuadritos
And stuffed it into the piñata. A yellow paleta
Big as a chicken, floats to the right hand corner and balances
Tipping into the comrade’s hands
What’s a layer of confetti and candy compared to DDT
The kind you sprayed over all our naked bodies
We’re diamonds: hard, shiny, and we
Get processed to go through
We don’t infest, pendejo. We invest
There goes your friend again, diving toward
The paleta, which has to be pineapple flavor
We were always in on it together
Me and my honey watch a video on loop
We gently hold each other like the beach balls we are
The light dims and that constellation swings
Only one Russian cosmonaut will smile at a time
They watch a compa swim away
Don’t make someone else do your work for you
Some of us were grounded
The whole time
Copyright © 2018 by Vickie Vértiz. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 15, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
I’m few deja-vus from repeating my whole life
I need to study the shapes of things before death
Before declaring myself a better failure:
waiting mostly for files to get uploaded or downloaded.
My movements are by the book.
I will remember history, all of it, before uttering the next sentence
And in its silence, I will navigate my headache
“something is not what it is”
And we are lost several worlds over
Exploring the art of other civilizations
After we subjugate them
And leave the trees behind
To carry on the sensitive task
Of clearing the air
Stop and think of the pointlessness of desire
We keep going, wasting days between orgasms
And thousands of poems
To keep the pleasantness of clothes
We are all implicated
In the father’s death,
The mother’s death etc.
Copyright © 2018 by Maged Zaher. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
After Ocean Vuong’s “Prayer for the Newly Damned” Dearest Mother, what becomes of the girl no longer a girl? The stretch marks from my once breasts have migrated to their new tectonic flats. But you can always find hints of what used to be. Trust me, it is more beautiful this way, to look closely at my body and name it things like: Pangea & history & so, so warm. Look at me now and you’ll see how blood faithfully takes the shape of its body, never asking too many questions. Dearest Mother, how many rivers did I run across your belly? Do you love that they will never dry up? Dearest Mother, I’ll make all this water worth it.
Copyright © 2018 by Kayleb Rae Candrilli. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.