If you ain’t never watched your parents kiss 
             ain’t neva have them teach you 
‘bout the way lips will       to bend & curve 
against a lover’s affirmation 

If you ain’t never watched the knowing nod 
of sweethearts worn away & soft 
as a speaker box’s blown out hiss 

If you ain’t witnessed the glue 
that connected your mother & father 
—how they fused their single selves 
into the blunt fist of parents 

If you ain’t sure there was a time when 
their eyes held each other like a nexus
breaking the lock to dip dark marbles 
into certain corners of a shot glass 

If you ain’t never known a Saturday night 
slick with shiny promises & clouds 
wrapped wet in a Pendegrass croon 

If you ain’t been taught how 
a man hold you close      so close 
…it look like a crawl 

If you ain’t had the memory 
of your mother & father sliding 
hip to hip         Their feet whisper 
a slow shuffle & shift       Her hand 
on his neck grip the shoulder of 
a man that will pass his daughters 
bad tempers       & hands like bowls

If you ain’t watched a man 
lean into a woman His eyes 
a boat sliding across bronze 
             His hands 
pillared in her auburn hair       Her 
throat              holds     the urge 

to hear how her voice sounds against 
the wind of him 

If your skin can’t fathom the heat 
of something as necessary as this… 

Then you can’t know the hurricane 
of two bodies    how    the bodies
can create the prospect of a sunrise
how that sunrise got a name 
             it sound like: a blues song; 
a woman’s       heart breaking; 
From the record player skipping 
             the sky             almost 


Copyright © 2015 by Mahogany Browne. From Redbone (Willow Books, 2015). Used with permission of the author.

I sniff the blooming tiger lily,
two tongues sprung open
from one mouth.

I poison the river unintentionally.
I walk on the designated paths.

I splice the mountain, its body and mouth gaping.
I collect rainwater in a wheelbarrow.

I line the whale’s belly with gifts until
they rupture its stomach.
I water the strawberries.

Again I fill my gas tank with dead things,
generations spun together until shiny.
I feed the ducks fresh lettuce.

I maneuver the dead squirrel
on the road, mark the moment
when creature becomes meat.

I accept that my love is a
poisonous flower, routinely fatal.

I calculate the force of
loving in each glittering death.

All day on this land, in the
deep forest, the electric greens and
still-wet mud writhe with life.

The pond gurgles and whispers.
Everyone here knows to shudder
when they see me coming.

The mangos arrive unbruised
at the grocery store.
The wolves should start running.

Copyright © 2022 by Nisha Atalie. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

My neighbor has decided to poison the flame tree.
He is right, of course.
The tree is over 20 years old, huge, spreading,
and the termites have worn jagged roads clear to its top.
It’s clearly a danger
tilting toward our house—
some fickle wind
my neighbor says could blow it over. 

Every fañomnåkan, it sends out its bursts of orange blossoms;
it blooms and blooms and blooms relentlessly,
the flares it sends shooting out into space
more stunning than fireworks 
through the window

where my mother
riveted to a bed, doomed by her body to a colorless spot, 
gazes out, her head on a pillow—
might have seemed like forever to her who used to climb green mountain sides—
and watches that tree full of sparrows
flitting here and there
and the outlandish blazing petals
steadfastly singing against the blue sky.

My neighbor, true to his word,
injected a poisonous brew bought at Home Depot into the trunk of the tree,
the toxic river
traveling up up up following the termite trails to the heart 
of the fire.

He is right, of course.

The tree came back the following year,
its clusters unflinchingly parading their bursts of rebellious orange.
But the poison had done its work—
see, where there was a canopy of flames
there are now just a handful here and there,
one spray in particular desperately
reaching out 
like a fist full of beauty 
to the window

where she 
used to watch for its return.

Copyright © 2022 by Evelyn Flores. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

That’s when two stuff 
Touch, yeah? 

Just like when the tides come in 
And touch the shores 
Bringing what it will. 

Fish from the deep 
Limu from the shores 
ʻOpihi from the rocks 
Coconuts on the drift 
Logs from the continent 
People from around the world 
Plastics and ʻopala of all sorts. 

The shore has no choice 
It has to accept 
Whatever the tides bring. 

Here we are 
In this swirling muliwai 
Of ideas and manaʻo 
Philosophies and spiritualities. 

Like the tides 
Ebbing and flowing 
The shore has no choice. 

But we do! 

Copyright © 2022 by Imaikalani Kalahele. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.