Probably you’ll solve gravity, flesh
out our microbiomics, split our God
particles into their constituent bits
of christs and antichrists probably,
probably you’ll find life as we know it
knitted into nooks of the chattering
cosmos, quaint and bountiful as kismet
and gunfights in the movies probably,
probably, probably you have no patience
for the movies there in your eventual
arrondissement where you have more
credible holography, more inspiring
actual events, your ghazals composed
of crow racket, retrorockets, glaciers
breaking, your discotheques wailing
probably, probably, probably, probably
too late a sentient taxi airlifts you
home over a refurbished riverbank,
above the rebuilt cathedral, your head
dozing easy in the crook of your arm,
emptied of any memory of these weeks
we haven’t slept you’ve been erupting
into that hereafter like a hydrant on fire,
like your mother is an air raid, and I am
an air raid, and you’re a born siren
chasing us out of your airspace probably
we’ve caught 46 daybreaks in 39 days,
little emissary arrived to instruct us,
we wake now you shriek us awake,
we sleep now you leave us to sleep.
Copyright © 2019 by Jaswinder Bolina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 10, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.
I was newly naked: aware of myself
as a separate self, distinct from dirt and bone.
I had not hands enough,
and so, finally, uncrossed my arms.
In trying to examine one body part,
I’d lose sight of another. I couldn’t
imagine what I looked like during
the fractured angles of sex.
At the river’s edge, it was impossible
to see all of myself at once.
I began to understand nakedness
as a feeling.
It was a snake, loose and green;
it was the snake skin, coiled and discarded.
The shedding chained itself
like a balloon ribboned to a child’s wrist.
Morning’s birdsong reminded me
of the sloughing off of skin.
The rumored beauty of my husband’s first
wife never bothered me before.
I missed the sensation of being fixed
in amber. Then the hair in the comb,
fingernail clippings, the red mole on my
left breast grown suddenly bigger.
I perceived my likeness in everything:
the lines on my palm as the veins
of a leaf, my mind as a swarm of flies
humming over something sugary or dead,
my vulnerability as the buck
I’d kill then wrap myself inside,
my hair as switchgrass, twine, and nest,
a roving cloud my every limb.
Copyright © 2021 by Ama Codjoe. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 1, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
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Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
From The Poetry of Robert Frost edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright © 1923, 1947, 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, copyright © 1942, 1951 by Robert Frost, copyright © 1970, 1975 by Lesley Frost Ballantine. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
This poem is in the public domain.
’Tis better to be vile than vile esteem’d,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost which is so deem’d
Not by our feeling but by others’ seeing:
For why should others’ false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
Or on my frailties why are frailer spies,
Which in their wills count bad what I think good?
No, I am that I am, and they that level
At my abusers reckon up their own:
I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel;
By their rank thoughts my deeds much not be shown;
Unless this general evil they maintain,
All men are bad, and in their badness reign.
This poem is in the public domain.
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
From Homage to Clio by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1960 W. H. Auden, renewed by the Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.