for helios, not yet a collapsed star
and an even better
wolf, jawed to a thicket of lonely
lungs trees I mean breathing, comet
come to me, come
a lone light, like the fire
that rips the mountainside’s
dress, I was a good
ununderstood, a wrist
of bent light, undressing
alone an even quieter violence. I am
remembering how to want
my life, how to want to come
even closer to the wolf I was
you wanted this to be about borders
Copyright © 2021 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
Yesterday, the final petal curled its soft lure into bone. The flowerhead shed clean, I gathered up your spine and built you on a dark day. You are still missing some parts. Each morning, I curl red psalms into the shells in your chest. I have buried each slow light: cardinal’s yolk, live seawater, my trenza, a piece of my son’s umbilical cord, and still you don’t return. A failure fragrant as magic. Ascend the spirit into the design. My particular chiron: the record that your perfect feet ever graced this earth. Homing signal adrift among stars, our tender impossible longing. What have I made of your sacrifice. This bone: it is myself.
Copyright © 2018 by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
Something startles me where I thought I was safest,
I withdraw from the still woods I loved,
I will not go now on the pastures to walk,
I will not strip the clothes from my body to meet my lover the sea,
I will not touch my flesh to the earth as to other flesh to renew me.
O how can it be that the ground itself does not sicken?
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health you blood of herbs, roots, orchards, grain?
Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses within you?
Is not every continent work'd over and over with sour dead?
Where have you disposed of their carcasses?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many generations?
Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and meat?
I do not see any of it upon you to-day, or perhaps I am deceiv'd,
I will run a furrow with my plough, I will press my spade through the sod and turn it up underneath,
I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.
Behold this compost! behold it well!
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick person—yet behold!
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the garden,
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the mulberry-tree,
The he-birds carol mornings and evenings while the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatch'd eggs,
The new-born of animals appear, the calf is dropt from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark green leaves,
Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk, the lilacs bloom in the dooryards,
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful above all those strata of sour dead.
That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash of the sea which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums, will
none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of what was once a catching disease.
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.
The grackles plummet down to pierce the lawn
For seeds and fat brown live oak acorns and
Ignore the orange plastic watering cans
My daughters drop in the cold grass, my daughters
Saying, Goodnight grass, as if the blades they’d watered
By hand were their daughters, as if the grass
Were a feeling they’d been feeling, greenly
Reckoning the evening, the ball moss falling from the trees,
The sun circling the crouched shade of the weeping
Persimmon tree as mildly as the knife rounds
The persimmon I bring inside so I can say
Of the pierced skin, Look, this is the color we
Want sunset to be, the color of the plastic
Watering cans shocking the dark that falls
Over the suggestions of footprints in the grass,
The black grackles, and the acorns battering
Our metal roof while I feed my ravenous daughters
A soft dinner that they clutch with grubby hands and gnaw.
Copyright © 2017 by Cecily Parks. “Harvest” originally appeared in The New Republic. Used with permission of the author.
I am come to the age
of pondering my lastness:
buying what seems likely
my final winter coat at Macy’s,
or when a glossy magazine
(so very blithely)
asks me to renew. As for
my heart, that pixilated
tweener, how long
I’ve been required to baby
alarmed and stubborn clock,
refusing to listen even as
the more intrepid tried.
Now, she mostly mutters
to herself, though
some clanging, a tinny sound,
like the radiator in a Southie
triple decker, fractious as
a pair of cowboy boots
in a laundromat’s dryer.
It’s always been
this joke old people know—
in such a state
of nearly doneness,
the world grows sweeter,
as if our later days
are underscored with music
from a concerto’s saddest
oboe hidden in the trees.
while standing in the kitchen,
my son complained nonstop
about his AP Psych class
while wolfing warmed up
bucatini from a crazed,
pink china bowl.
Shiny, kvetching creature.
Even if I could tell him
what he doesn’t want to know,
I wouldn’t. But now,
the pissy storm that’s spent
all afternoon flapping like
a dirty sheet
has wandered off
to spook some other
There’s one barbed weed
pushing up greenly through
my scruffy loropetalum.
And it falls on me, this little
cold rain the day has left.
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
This poem is in the public domain.
I read a Korean poem with the line “Today you are the youngest you will ever be.” Today I am the oldest I have been. Today we drink buckwheat tea. Today I have heat in my apartment. Today I think about the word chada in Korean. It means cold. It means to be filled with. It means to kick. To wear. Today we’re worn. Today you wear the cold. Your chilled skin. My heart kicks on my skin. Someone said winter has broken his windows. The heat inside and the cold outside sent lightning across glass. Today my heart wears you like curtains. Today it fills with you. The window in my room is full of leaves ready to fall. Chada, you say. It’s tea. We drink. It is cold outside.
From A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Emily Jungmin Yoon. Used with the permission of Ecco.
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.
And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.
And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
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.