A cop almost fell off
amid the colorful floral skeletal
commemorations of life,
entertaining the children
waiting for the procession to come down
He swerved his vehicle,
almost tipped over.
evil horse energy
in the pits of their eyes, dark stele in the alcoves
of their hearts,
in a vault
oversaturating the memorial
If he had fallen
would the children have gotten up?
Who would have been the first
the perverts of death.
Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Shimoda. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 3, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
What would you like, little bone-star?
Would the suicided person please stand up?
Would they please tell the height of their pain
the very top of the trees of it
where it extends dentricles upward
would we prefer their death or this saying of it?
they would sit with the right person
the right person
and tell their pain.
that person would build a shield around the pain
a thin wooden structure half circle uneven
they would leave it there for three days.
on the third would pick it up
and say their words. What words they have.
This would be the listening & the telling.
Copyright © 2020 by Helen Dimos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 5, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
Glory of plums, femur of Glory.
Glory of ferns
on a dark platter.
Glory of willows, Glory of Stag beetles
Glory of the long obedience
of the kingfisher.
Glory of waterbirds, Glory
Glory of the Latin
of the dead and their grammar
composed entirely of decay.
Glory of the eyes of my father
which, when he died, closed
inside his grave,
and opened even more brightly
Glory of dark horses
inside their own
Copyright © 2020 by Gbenga Adesina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 25, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths
Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can't take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.
My mother will not move.
Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.
From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother's face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.
Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
My brother was a dark-skinned boy
with a sweet tooth, a smart mouth,
and a wicked thirst. At seventeen,
when I left him for America, his voice
was staticked with approaching adulthood,
he ate everything in the house, grew
what felt like an inch a day, and wore
his favorite shirt until mom disappeared it.
Tonight I’m grateful he slaked his thirst
in another country, far from this place
where a black boy’s being calls like crosshairs
to conscienceless men with guns and conviction.
I remember my brother’s ashy knees
and legs, how many errands he ran on them
up and down roads belonging to no one
and every one. And I’m grateful
he was a boy in a country of black boys,
in the time of walks to the store
on Aunty Marge’s corner to buy contraband
sweeties and sweetdrinks with change
snuck from mom’s handbag or dad’s wallet—
how that was a black boy’s biggest transgression,
and so far from fatal it feels an un-American dream.
Tonight, I think of my brother
as a black boy’s lifeless body spins me
into something like prayer—a keening
for the boy who went down the road, then
went down fighting, then went down dead.
My brother was a boy in the time of fistfights
he couldn’t win and that couldn’t stop
him slinging his weapon tongue anyway,
was a boy who went down fighting,
and got back up wearing his black eye
like a trophy. My brother who got up,
who grew up, who got to keep growing.
Tonight I am mourning the black boys
who are not my brother and who are
my brothers. I am mourning the boys
who walk the wrong roads, which is any road
in America. Tonight I am mourning
the death warrant hate has made of their skin—
black and bursting with such ordinary
hungers and thirsts, such abundant frailty,
such constellations of possibility, our boys
who might become men if this world spared them,
if it could see them whole—boys, men, brothers—human.
Copyright © 2020 by Lauren K. Alleyne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 14, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
Again my fancy takes its flight,
And soars away on thoughtful wing,
Again my soul thrills with delight,
And this the fancied theme, I sing,
From Earthly scenes awhile, I find release,
And dwell upon the restful Plains of Peace.
The Plains of Peace are passing fair,
Where naught disturbs and naught can harm,
I find no sorrow, woe or care,
These all are lost in perfect calm,
Bright are the joys, and pleasures never cease,
For those who dwell on the Plains of Peace.
No scorching sun or blighting storm,
No burning sand or desert drear,
No fell disease or wasting form,
To mar the glowing beauty here.
Decay and ruin ever must decrease,
Here on the fertile, healthful Plains of Peace.
What rare companionship I find,
What hours of social joy I spend,
What restfulness pervades my mind,
Communing with congenial friend.
True happiness seems ever to increase,
While dwelling here upon the Plains of Peace.
Ambitions too, are realized,
And that which I have sought on earth,
I find at last idealized,
My longings ripen into worth,
My fondest hopes no longer fear decease,
But bloom forth brightly on the Plains of Peace.
'Tis by my fancy, yet 'tis true,
That somewhere having done with Earth,
We shall another course pursue,
According to our aim or worth,
Our souls from mortal things must find release,
And dwell immortal on the Plains of Peace.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 30, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.