It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.
From The Good Thief. Copyright © 1988 by Marie Howe. Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc., New York.
This morning I love everyone,
even Jerome, the neighbor I hate,
and the sun. And the sun
has pre-warmed my bucket seat
for the drive up Arsenal Street
with the hot car effect,
a phenomenon climatologists
use to explain global warming
to senators and kids.
I love the limited edition
Swingline gold stapler
in the oil change lounge
which can, like a poem,
affix anything to anything
on paper. One sheet of paper,
for instance, for that cloud of gnats,
one for this lady’s pit mix
wagging his tail so violently
I fear he’ll hurt his hips.
One sheet for glittered lip balm,
for eye contact, Bitcoin extortion
and the imperfect tense.
Sheets for each unfulfilled wish
I left in a penny in a mall fountain.
Sun spills into the lounge
through the window decal
in geometric Tetris wedges.
I have a sheet for Tetris,
its random sequence of pieces
falling toward me in this well
like color coded aspects of the life
I neglected to live, for the pleasure
of making line after line
disappear. The gold stapler
has twenty-sheet capacity
so I straighten my stack
on the reception counter
and staple the day together
with an echoing chunk.
Copyright © 2020 by Ted Mathys. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Where are you from?
Where are you headed?
What are you doing?
Little brother, we are all grieving
& galaxy & goodbye. Once, I climbed inside
the old clock tower of my hometown
& found a dead bird, bathed in broken light,
like a little christ.
Little christ of our hearts, I know
planets light-years away
are under our tongues. We’ve tasted them.
We’ve climbed the staircases saying, There, there.
Little brother, we are all praying. Every morning,
I read out loud but not loud enough
to alarm anyone. Once, my love said, Please
open the door. I can hear you talk. Open the door.
Little christ of our hearts, tell anyone
you've been talking to god & see
what happens. Every day,
I open the door. I do it by looking
at my daughter on a swing—
eyes closed & crinkled, teeth bare.
I say, Good morning good morning you
little beating thing.
Little brother, we are all humming.
More & more, as I read, I sound
like my father with his book of prayers,
turning pages in his bed—a hymn
for each day of the week, a gift
from his mother, who taught me
the ten of diamonds is a win, left me
her loose prayer clothes. Bismillah.
Little christ of our hearts, forgive me,
for I loved eating the birds with lemon,
& the sound of their tiny bones. But I couldn’t
stomach the eyes of the fried fish.
Little brother, we are always hungry.
Here, this watermelon. Here, some salt
for the tomatoes. Here, this song
for the dead birds in time boxes,
& the living. That day in the clock tower,
I saw the city too, below—
the merchants who call, the blue awnings,
the corn carts, the clotheslines, the heat,
the gears that turn, & the remembering.
Copyright © 2018 by Zeina Hashem Beck. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 3, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Let them be, the battles you fought, in silence.
Bury your shame, the worst you thought, in silence.
At last my Beloved has haggled with death.
'One more day' was the pearl she bought in silence.
At night she heard the blacksmith hammering chains,
at dawn the saw, the fretwork wrought in silence.
'The only wrong I've done is to live too long,'
my Beloved's eyes tell the court in silence.
She's as young as the month of Ordibehesht,
month of my birth, spring's mid-leap caught in silence.
My Beloved, under the shade of a palm,
was the girl, the mother I sought in silence.
Loneliness is innumerate. Days slip by,
suns rise that daylight moons distort in silence.
The bell on her wrist was silent, her fingers
ice cold as the julep she brought in silence.
'Mimijune! Mimijune!' My Beloved's voice
climbs three steep notes for tears to thwart in silence.
Three syllables of equal weight, equal stress,
dropped in a well, keep falling short in silence.
|About this poem:|
"I wrote this poem as an elegy for my mother who died suddenly at the age of 92, after a night and a day in hospital. Living in England, I had been separated from her since childhood, but after the Iranian revolution my mother left Iran and settled in London, where we became very close. This is the first ghazal in which I have tried to observe, along with the requisite rhyme and refrain (qafia and radif), the disjunctive nature of the couplets. The suffix june/jan is commonly used as a term of endearment in Farsi, meaning dear, dearest, darling, but also life or soul."
when you send the rain,
think about it, please,
not get carried away
by the sound of falling water,
the marvelous light
on the falling water.
am beneath that water.
It falls with great force
and the light
me to the light.
From Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin (Beacon Press, 2014). Copyright © 2014 The James Baldwin Estate. Used by permission of Beacon Press.
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.
The monotone of the rain is beautiful,
And the sudden rise and slow relapse
Of the long multitudinous rain.
The sun on the hills is beautiful,
Or a captured sunset sea-flung,
Bannered with fire and gold.
A face I know is beautiful—
With fire and gold of sky and sea,
And the peace of long warm rain.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 12, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
A naked child is running
along the path toward us,
her arms stretched out,
her mouth open,
the world turned to trash
She is running from the smoke
and the soldiers, from the bodies
of her mother and little sister
thrown down into a ditch,
from the blown-up bamboo hut
from the melted pots and pans.
And she is also running from the gods
who have changed the sky to fire
and puddled the earth with skin and blood.
She is running--my god--to us,
10,000 miles away,
reading the caption
beneath her picture
in a weekly magazine.
All over the country
we're feeling sorry for her
and being appalled at the war
being fought in the other world.
She keeps on running, you know,
after the shutter of the camera
clicks. She's running to us.
For how can she know,
her feet beating a path
on another continent?
How can she know
what we really are?
From the distance, we look
so terribly human.
From A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women, edited by Marilyn Arnold, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, and Kristen Tracy, published by the University of Iowa Press. Copyright © 2002 by the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.
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.
You meet someone and inside of them
you know there swells
a small country brimming
with steel and beasts of labor.
You love the country
and so you fear it.
Its flora fascinates you.
You wish to visit, though
you worry you won’t
wear the right clothes, that you'll fail
assure the clerk in the flower
shop you aren’t a thief.
They’re only roses. They remind you
of the one you love.
Even with your eyes closed
in your own mouth you’d know
Copyright © 2018 by David Welch. Used with the permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Quarterly West Issue 94.
The brief sum of life forbids us the hope of enduring long. –Horace
They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
This poem is in the public domain.