The dead bird, color of a bruise,
and smaller than an eye
is king among omens.
Who can blame the ants for feasting?
Let him cast the first crumb.
We once tended the oracles.
Now we rely on a photograph
a hand we never saw
A man draws a chalk outline
first in his mind
then around the body
of another man.
He does this without thinking.
What can I do about the white room I left
behind? What can I do about the great stones
I walk among now? What can I do
Even a small cut can sing all day.
There are entire nights
I would take back.
Nostalgia is a thin moon,
into a sky like cold,
you were a drowned man, crown
of phosphorescent, seaweed in your hair,
water in your shoes. I woke up desperate
In another dream, I was a field
and you combed through me
searching for something
you only thought you had lost.
What have we left at the altar of sorrow?
What blessed thing will we leave tomorrow?
Copyright © 2016 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 26, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.
“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
I was born among the bodies. I was hurried
forward, and sealed a thin life for myself.
I have shortened my name, and walk with
a limp. I place pebbles in milk and offer
them to my children when there is nothing
else. We can not live on cold blood alone.
In a dream, I am ungendered, and the moon
is just the moon having a thought of itself.
I am a wolf masked in the scent of its prey
and I am driven—hawk like—to the dark
center of things. I have grasped my eager
heart in my own talons. I am made of fire,
and all fire passes through me. I am made
of smoke and all smoke passes through me.
Now the bodies are just calcified gravity,
built up and broken down over the years.
Somewhere there are phantoms having their
own funerals over and over again. The same
scene for centuries. The same moon rolling
down the gutter of the same sky. Somewhere
they place a door at the beginning of a field
and call it property. Somewhere, a tired man
won’t let go of his dead wife’s hand. God
is a performing artist working only with
light and stone. Death is just a child come to
take us by the hand, and lead us gently away.
Fear is the paralyzing agent, the viper that
swallows us living and whole. And the devil,
wears a crooked badge, multiplies everything
by three. You—my dark friend. And me.
Copyright © 2015 by Cecilia Llompart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 30, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
Maybe you’re not the featherweight champ
of all the cutthroat combat sports
(fifteen and pregnant
but you’d convert your ring corner
into a slaughterhouse
before you’d inquire after human kindness.
In the humdrum flare outside the clinic
you wait for a ride, feel the spill at the tipping point
trickle down your inner thigh
as you bask in the post-industrial particulate
on your skin, ash
into a jasmine pot’s bituminous anchorage
so tacky it glows in a habitat that spent your body
long before it finished growing.
Lynn! they lied to you
don’t you know?
Your womb will be the first thing to heal.
What you smell is pleasure, not the rot of the thing
amid the waste.
You will have babies.
You will write poems about flowers that turn on in darkness.
Copyright © 2016 by Lynn Melnick. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 22, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.