On the occasion of the reopening of the Lyric Theatre, 1940s Black dream house, Lexington, Kentucky

On the East End, we shine our
own shoes, dress our own legs,

smooth down willful hair, let all
new trouble float. Done-up.

We promenade and pass, Deweese
(DoAsYouPlease) & 3rd, where

Winkfield & Murphy once hoofed
& flew backwards, black-winged,

on horseback. Under the blazing
marquee we hand our shiny quarter

over, glide toward, then across,
our eight-point star, rose-tile light

of regeneration. In the dark theater,
the salt-cod sweat of work, now left

behind, names hurled our way all day,
now set aside, paychecks that never

match our labor folded away now.
House lights dim: Paul Robeson is

Othello. Miss Ella strikes & swings.
The Duke & Count jazz-juice the night,

royalty speaks to royalty. The Ink Spots
spill all with Sarah Vaughan, Miss Mahalia

orchestrates & moans and moonbeams,
Candy Johnson & his Peppermint Sticks

fill every inch of stage. Marian Anderson
poses her hands in alto-soprano.

Woody Strode, our Black cowboy,
wild-rides the open oat fields & range.

Our dusty eyes drink in Beah Richards,
Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne.

Intermission at the Lyric: Lights up!
Freda Jones tries on a brand-new

hat and no one is arrested. Bernard
Lewis licks his ice cream cone on every

melting side, no one is booked for
licking or loitering. Morgan and

Marvin Smith, the famous picture-
taking twins, take our picture too.

At the Lyric we pose, bright futures
we portray. At the Lyric we fall in love

with our lips: Lucinda kisses Big Tank
clear through the opening act. Julia

can’t see the show for looking at the
ocean of their mouths; open, close.

We cry at the Lyric, laugh out loud at
the Lyric. Whisper Quiet! Here comes

the principal! Miss Lucy Harth Smith
proudly takes her seat. At the Lyric,

William Wells Brown pulls out his
indelible pen to write us down. Isaac

Scott Hathaway shapes our faces in
a mustard-amber clay on new money.

We come to the Lyric to rise, rejuvenate,
see ourselves win, watch ourselves lifted

up in lights, hit the home run, be hero
champion of the world. Only to file

back out live & alive, stroll back across
the rays of the eight-point star, rose-tile

light of return, sink back into the race-
track of the East End with everything

we have now become. Sweet Lyric,
lyceum of dreams, where once we came

to rise into who Mama, not dime-store
magazines, promised us we were.

From Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry (Northwestern University Press, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Nikky Finney. Reprinted with the permission of Northwestern University Press.

                                                        Viewed from space, the world’s
                                                         impersonal.
                                                                              France appears,
                                                         but no Frenchmen.
                                                                                         Then Germany,
                                                         without one German.
                                                                                                   Regardless,
                                                         the richest man on earth
                                                         pays three hundred thousand
                                                         for a ten-minute flight by rocket
                                                         at three thousand miles per hour
                                                         to see everything below
                                                         from sixty-two miles straight up.
                                                         He’s making business plans
                                                         for space, beginning with Mars
                                                         and the moon. 
                                                                                       There’s ample
                                                         precedent to show how profit
                                                         motivates.
                                                                            After we mapped
                                                         the earth as we imagined it,
                                                         we matched what we imagined
                                                         with the world as it would look
                                                         when photographed from space.
                                                         We did the same with rivers,
                                                         lakes and seas.
                                                                                        We kept
                                                         the original names unchanged
                                                         for everything we saw
                                                         as far as we could fly. 
                                                         From seashores to the stratosphere
                                                         the world was seen as property
                                                         that men could bargain for and buy.
                                                         We see it now the same
                                                         while profiteers debate how best 
                                                         to advertise and sell the sky.

Copyright © 2022 by Samuel Hazo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.

 

 

                                              —Translation by William George Aston

This poem is in the public domain.

           with some help from Ahmad

I wanna write lyrical, but all I got is magical.
My book needs a poem talkin bout I remember when
Something more autobiographical

Mi familia wanted to assimilate, nothing radical,
Each month was a struggle to pay our rent
With food stamps, so dust collects on the magical.

Each month it got a little less civil
Isolation is a learned defense
When all you wanna do is write lyrical.

None of us escaped being a criminal
Of the state, institutionalized when
They found out all we had was magical.

White room is white room, it’s all statistical—
Our calendars were divided by Sundays spent
In visiting hours. Cold metal chairs deny the lyrical.

I keep my genes in the sharp light of the celestial.
My history writes itself in sheets across my veins.
My parents believed in prayer, I believed in magical

Well, at least I believed in curses, biblical
Or not, I believed in sharp fists, 
Beat myself into lyrical.

But we were each born into this, anger so cosmical
Or so I thought, I wore ten chokers and a chain
Couldn’t see any significance, anger is magical.
Fists to scissors to drugs to pills to fists again

Did you know a poem can be both mythical and archeological?
I ignore the cataphysical, and I anoint my own clavicle.

Copyright © 2021 by Suzi F. Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

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.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

This poem is in the public domain.

Mountains cover me like rain,
Billows whirl and rise;
Hide me from the stabbing pain
In His reproachful eyes.

This poem is in the public domain. 

When I hear news of a hitchhiker
struck by lightning yet living,
or a child lifting a two-ton sedan
to free his father pinned underneath,
or a camper fighting off a grizzly
with her bare hands until someone,
a hunter perhaps, can shoot it dead,
my thoughts turn to black people—
the hysterical strength we must
possess to survive our very existence,
which I fear many believe is, and
treat as, itself a freak occurrence.

Copyright © 2017 by Nicole Sealey. Originally published in Ordinary Beast (Ecco Press, 2017). Used with permission of the author.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes published by Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage. Copyright © 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. All rights reserved.