For Peggy Munson

That you must accept
what you cannot prevent.  That fear inverts
the meaning of success.  That you can be fearless

when fear is all you have.
That fear is all you have.
That you aren’t alone in loneliness,

there’s a whole world here,
a pregnant, fascinating glimpse,
all stomach and hips,

of the life-creating love
you’re finally sick enough to feel.
That that glimpse can't stop you from melting

into the futures you fear
you will and will not have.
That you have, you still have,

everything you need to live:
night, ice, plums, a lap and a laptop, a name, a parent,
whipped cream, gossip, steaming plates

of life and death. 
That this is the end of the world.
That you will survive it.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

We interfere with what we know by knowing it.
We interfere with what we do by doing it.
We interfere with what we love by loving it.

I guess you could say we’re the causes of our own loneliness.

We interfere with what we watch by watching it.
We interfere with what we write by writing it.
We interfere with what we think by thinking it.
We interfere with where we go by going there.

We are like Midas, or Medusa.

We interfere with life by living it.

In fact, one definition of perfection is simply
the way things are when we are not around.
Or might have been if I hadn’t said so.

One question, though: is all this actually true?
We interfere with what we ask by asking it.

If there is a God we will
surely ruin him by believing in him.

And yet we must exist, correct?

Don’t answer that!  You
who remain you only by your absence.

From In Someone Else’s House (BkMK Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Christian Barter. Used with the permission of the author.

I take my $, buy a pair of very bright kicks for the game
at the bottom of the hill on Tuesday w / Tone who averages
19.4 points a game, & told me about this spot, & this salesman
w / gold ringed fingers fitting a $100 dollar NBA Air Avenger
over the white part of me–my sock, my heel & sole,
though I tell him Avengers are too flashy & buy blue & white
Air Flights w / the dough I was suppose to use to pay
the light bill & worse, use the change to buy an Ella
Fitzgerald CD at Jerrys, then take them both in a bag
past salesmen & pedestrians to the C where there is a girl
I'd marry if I was Pablo Neruda & after 3, 4 blocks, I spill out
humming "April in Paris" while a lady w / a 12 inch cigar
calls the driver a facist cuz he won't let her smoke on the bus
& skinny Derrick rolls up in a borrowed Pontiac w / room
for me, my kicks & Ella on his way to see The Lost World
alone & though I think the title could mean something else,
I give him some skin & remember the last time I saw him
I was on the B-ball court after dark w / a white girl
who'd borrowed my shorts & the only other person out
was Derrick throwing a Spalding at the crooked rim
no one usually shoots at while I tried not to look his way
& thought how we used to talk about black women
& desire & how I was betraying him then creeping out
after sundown with a girl in my shorts & white skin
that slept around me the 5 or 6 weeks before she got tired
of late night hoop lessons & hiding out in my crib
there at the top of the hill Derrick drove up still talking,
not about black girls, but dinosaurs which if I was listening
could have been talk about loneliness, but I wasn't,
even when he said, "We should go to the movies sometime,"
& stopped.

From Muscular Music by Terrance Hayes, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright © 1999 by Terrance Hayes. Reprinted by permission of Terrance Hayes. All rights reserved.

Of course I don’t know what
happens to us: if we survive in the
hands of love; if Cal, if Simone
and all the trembling answers
those questions entail; whether
by time or by disease or by
an atom bomb right in the eye. Is it
possible death could be thrilling
and fun? And after could there be
something somewhere and what
will we do if we see each other
there? Will the same songs stay stuck
in our heads? Will medicine
succeed in making life so long
we will beg for medicine to end it?
One cannot lock eyes with a bird,
its eyes vacant as ball bearings, but
mustn’t there be some recognition
in everything? Some fury, some
questioning? If one phrase could echo
throughout eternity, would the ear
on the other side return
a word? But what am I asking?
Will I ever see a whale, and will his size
compared to mine be a true
form of knowledge? Loneliness
has depths writing fails to fathom.
I could be clearer, say more, but
it wouldn’t mean as much. Mother
will I ever find you again? Is fear
of spiders fair? Is a power
above minding the scales, be it
science or gods or the weather,
and can they be tipped toward
balance from here? Is beauty more
than another form of pleasure?
What, which, when, how is better?

From The Trembling Answers. Copyright © 2017 by Craig Morgan Teicher. Used with the permission of BOA Editions.

Your look makes me want to jump off the roof
of the modern art museum. How am I supposed
to tell you about my life? Yesterday I saw a turtle
eat a dandelion flower up close. I cannot say what
this might mean to you. It was on my phone,
which is where I’ve been living lately. I can’t expect
you to understand. I cry openly and you stare at me
with big wet cow-eyes. I tell you what the abyss is like.
I heard breathing. It was my own. I wasn’t terrified.
Loneliness binds me to myself but I use my phone
as a wedge, use it to keep myself from touching who
I am. Nobody wants to grow up, not even children.
They just want to be taller because they hate being
looked down upon. What is it we see when we turn
and look back? Salt? Pepper? I’ll take both. No more
questions. All I want is to sit in this field with you,
little cow, this field I built in my mind. I pet you, make
little noises. You try to move away but I hold on to you,
I throw my arms around your neck. You drop
your dark head, continue chewing what you chew.

Copyright © 2017 Matthew Siegel. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

              1
A moment of pleasure,
    An hour of pain,
A day of sunshine,
    A week of rain,
A fortnight of peace,
  A month of strife,
These taken together
  Make up life. 

              2
One real friend
    To a dozen foes,
Two open gates,
  ’Gainst twenty that’s closed,
Prosperity’s chair,
    Then adversity’s knife;
These my friends
    Make up life.

              3
At daybreak a blossom,
    At noontime a rose,
At twilight ’tis withered,
    At evening ’tis closed.
The din of confusion,
    The strain of the fife,
These with other things
    Make up life.

              4
A smile, then a tear,
    Like a mystic pearl,
A pause, then a rush
    Into the mad whirl,
A kiss, then a stab
  From a traitor’s knife;
I think that you’ll agree with me, 
    That this life.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 31, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

We can not tell what happiness 
We might on earth possess 
If in singleness of heart 
We would strive to act a proper part. 
‘Tis true we see the effects of sin
All without and all within. 
We long may live a life in vain, 
Much good possess, but still complain. 
We may appear to other eyes, 
To be extremely rich and wise; 
But if our hearts are not right, 
Life will not be beautiful and bright. 
Oh! may our life, day by day, 
In love and duty pass away; 
And at last when our bodies die, 
We may live in that world above the sky; 
Where free from sin, death and pain, 
The good will meet and love again. 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on November 16, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moans come double;
                      And that is life!
 
A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us;
And joy seems sweeter when cares come after,
And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter;
                      And that is life!

This poem is in the public domain. 

Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!

This poem is in the public domain.

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its background, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once, I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off       our clothes on   
our tongues from

—2012

Originally published in The Beauty (Knopf, 2015); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Used by permission of the author, all rights reserved.

It’s silly to think
fourteen years ago
I turned thirty.

How I made it that far
I’ll never know.
In this city of hills,

if there was a hill
I was over it. Then.
(In queer years,

years
are more than.)
Soon it will be fifteen

since the day I turned thirty.
It’s so remote.
I didn’t think I’d make it

to fourteen years ago.
Fear lives in the chest
like results.

You say my gray, it makes
me look extinguished;
you make me cringe.

I haven’t cracked
the spines of certain paperbacks,
or learned a sense of direction,

even with a slick device.
But the spleen doesn’t ask twice,
and soon it will be fifteen years

since I turned thirty.
Which may not sound like a lot.
Which sounds like the hinge

of a better life:
It is, and it is not.

Copyright © 2017 by Randall Mann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 17, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

To feed my soul with beauty till I die;
To give my hands a pleasant task to do;
To keep my heart forever filled anew
With dreams and wonders which the days supply;
To love all conscious living, and thereby
Respect the brute who renders up its due,
And know the world as planned is good and true—
And thus —because there chanced to be an I!

This is my life since things are as they are:
One half akin to flowers and the grass:
The rest a law unto the changeless star.
And I believe when I shall come to pass
Within the Door His hand shall hold ajar
I'll leave no echoing whisper of Alas!

This poem is in the public domain.

The American middle class is screwed again but they don’t know it. Politics is a gleaming nowhere. Žižek fantasizes about Capitalism’s inevitable end. Reviewers want these poems to be more hopeful. Love is obvious. She’s a tutu shelter leaning out! Love is miraculous. She’s twirling quite naturally! We dangle our feet in a July swimming pool. Shoots sparkles from our eyes—to quiet to quiet all our little monsters. Street habits rear up. Any fire. Any quell. Who’s made it to well being? The television projects hysterical grief. Brown women wailing fall to knees draped over. We are only who we are supposed to be. No moon tonight, dear one.

Copyright © 2016 by Dawn Lundy Martin. From Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2016). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database

A Man may make a Remark -
In itself - a quiet thing
That may furnish the Fuse unto a Spark
In dormant nature - lain -

Let us divide - with skill -
Let us discourse - with care -
Powder exists in Charcoal -
Before it exists in Fire -

This poem is in the public domain.

An Essay

A friend asks, "What was at stake for you in the Eighties?" She's trying to figure out Bay Area Poetry. There was Reagan's New Morning for America. Garfield dolls stuck to the backs of windshields with suction cups. At the beginning of the Eighties I was married & at the end i was not. The Civil Rights Movement became kind of quiet. Feminism became kind of quiet. An editor told a woman he couldn't read her poems because it said she was a mother in her bio. Many thought about word materials. Environmentalism got kind of quiet. The earth spirits were not quiet. Buildup of arms. Iran-Contra. Savings & Loan scandal. Tax cuts gave way to library closings. The Challenger went down with the first woman astronaut aboard. People read letters to her on TV. Mini-golf places with purple castles opened on Highway 80 in the Eighties. Chernobyl exploded & the media announced it as a setback for nuclear energy. People ate out more because of tax cuts. i fell in love with a poet. Earth dropped its dark clock. A few wrote outside the margins. Mergers & Acquisitions. The Bay continued to shrink. Many got child-support checks. Many came out. Deconstruction found the moving circle. A few read Lacan. Guns 'n Roses Sweet Child o' Mine. Our daughter drew pictures of trucks with colored fur. She had 24 ear infections in one year so why were you not supposed to write mother in your bio. Many wrote the lyric with word materials. The Soviet Union began to free prisoners. America freed fewer prisoners. Superconductivity. Gorbachev became president instead of something else. One son went to college. We cried. There was no e-mail. Art pierced the image. Blue-rimmed clouds hurried past outside & in. Some wrote about childhood; some wrote about states of mind; some wrote word materials instead of about. Symbolist poetry, by then 120 years old, pushed the dream nature of the world. Hypnotherapy. i began the trance method. In the Eighties, Mt. Tam stayed the same. Mt. Diablo stayed almost the same. Many species died & would not return. At stake. One son started a punk band; he had a one-foot-high purple Mohawk. i listened to the tape with another mother trying to make out the words. Oliver North held up his right hand. Reagan turned off his hearing aid. Sentences fell apart but they had always been a part. Yeltsin. Walesa. Wall comes down. Romania. El Salvador. Noriega. Some elderly folk lived on dog-food when their pensions collapsed. People worried about children, lovers, ex-husbands, jobs. Consciousness stayed alive. Interest rates leapt through the vault of the sky. We cried & cried. We made food & quit smoking. We learned the names of wildflowers & forgot them & relearned them. This was only the beginning. There's so much more to be said in answer to your question.

From Practical Water. Copyright © 2010 by Brenda Hillman. Used with permission of Wesleyan University Press.

It is the first day of the year again, this time
in the quiet absence of Portlandia, we have
our own quiet way of entering the spaces
between the seconds of life, where time fades.
 
The fire makes a noise, inside here where ice
and snow make the earth frozen, press us
to guess what weather will do now as weather
becomes a matter of climate with no divination.
 
I listen to your napping, air going inside
to fill you with warmth from the fireplace,
air going out to let your soul teach the world
what it is to make the journey to the heart.
 
So this first poem the day a golden retriever
wallowed in the sunrise over frozen snow,
then sat up to grin the silly grin of its kind,
as if to say, the light is there if you only wait.
 
We wait together for the first man to enter
this house we are leaving for another house,
as you say it is me, I am the man to bless
the heart, its mystery of fire and the light.

Copyright © 2018 by Afaa Michael Weaver. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Above the quiet dock in mid night,
Tangled in the tall mast’s corded height,
Hangs the moon. What seemed so far away
Is but a child’s balloon, forgotten after play.

This poem is in the public domain.

Suddenly, across the road,
A river of strange waters flowed,
And my old friend I ran to see
Stood and only waved at me,
I cried aloud the things we did
So long ago—and the stream slid
More quietly a little while.
I saw him nod and faintly smile,
Remembering… Then all around
The current intervened its sound.

This poem is in the public domain.

Deep inside the quiet deep parting of private seas
to leagues of muscular chants, there is a love
to be lost and broken    rearranged like blocks—
whose name we spell is not the issue—it is us not willing
to pay attention to architecture, its integrity, whether
it will last the shake    we go story after story
thinking the roof will know nothing of the ground.

from A Penny Saved (Willow Books, 2012) by Arisa White. Copyright © 2012 by Arisa White. Used with permission of the author.

Then the golden hour
Will tick its last
And the flame will go down in the flower.

A briefer length of moon
Will mark the sea-line and the yellow dune.

Then we may think of this, yet
There will be something forgotten
And something we should forget.

It will be like all things we know: 
A stone will fail; a rose is sure to go.

It will be quiet then and we may stay
Long at the picket gate,—
But there will be less to say.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 12, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Copyright © 2011 by Robert Pinsky. Reprinted from Selected Poems with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Strew on her roses, roses,   
  And never a spray of yew.   
In quiet she reposes:   
  Ah! would that I did too.   
  
Her mirth the world required:
  She bathed it in smiles of glee.   
But her heart was tired, tired,   
  And now they let her be.   
  
Her life was turning, turning,   
  In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,   
  And now peace laps her round.   
  
Her cabin'd, ample Spirit,   
  It flutter'd and fail'd for breath.   
To-night it doth inherit
  The vasty hall of Death. 

This poem is in the public domain.

one night we slip out
slick as paste and quiet
nighttime stubborn
keep a heat anyhow
sky blurred wit fever
i sweat my kerchief loose

we layin out
we lookin up

we shook wit night wind
we knees up, drift wood.

i say:
what you make a dem stars?
he say:

they just like us.     sizzlin     dead.

From Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems. Copyright © 2018 by Dominique Christina. Reprinted with permission from Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts.

Translated by Florence Ayscough and Amy Lowell

The river makes a bend and encircles the village with its current.
All the long Summer, the affairs and occupations of the river village are quiet and simple.
The swallows who nest in the beams go and come as they please.
The gulls in the middle of the river enjoy one another, they crowd together and touch one another.
My old wife paints a chess-board on paper.
My little sons hammer needles to make fish-hooks.
I have many illnesses, therefore my only necessities are medicines.
Besides these, what more can so humble a man as I ask?

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 7, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

Some springs, apples bloom too soon.
The trees have grown here for a hundred years, and are still quick
to trust that the frost has finished. Some springs,
pink petals turn black. Those summers, the orchards are empty
and quiet. No reason for the bees to come.

Other summers, red apples beat hearty in the trees, golden apples
glow in sheer skin. Their weight breaks branches,
the ground rolls with apples, and you fall in fruit.

You could say, I have been foolish. You could say, I have been fooled.
You could say, Some years, there are apples.

From The Always Broken Plates of Mountains by Rose McLarney. Copyright © 2012 by Rose McLarney. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

There is a man, there is a woman,
and there is a child. 

Their faces too plain,
their mouths too wide.

It's a grim business.  You can feel it piling up
however quiet you refuse to be.

Watch them.

They woke up one morning
and their hands were all rubber.

"How can you hold me?"
they asked.
"How can I feel you?"

They woke up 
and their voices were coming through
on the radio,
saying, "I should've warned you."

It would seem easy enough 
to warn someone.

They are at the window
in the sunlight.

Step back a bit.

Don't forget to thank them
for their time.

Copyright © 2011 by G. C. Waldrep. Reprinted from Your Father on the Train of Ghosts with the permission of BOA Editions.